Bath Preservation Trust has acquired the 1844 portrait William Beckford on his Deathbed by Willes Maddox (1813-1853) – which has only been on public display twice since it was painted 178 years ago. It will go on display at Beckford’s Tower and Museum next month.
The portrait was acquired from a private UK collection, thanks to generous support from the Arts Council England/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, Art Fund, individual donations, and museum reserves. The profits from the sale are being used by the executors of the late owner to create a Charitable Foundation.
The portrait, which has been in the same private collection for many years, is a gilt-framed oval picture of William Beckford on his deathbed, surrounded by brass and giltwood decorations that match those used on his coffin. It was made for Beckford’s daughter, Susan, Duchess of Hamilton following her father’s death in May 1844.
Beckford’s Tower is the only museum in the world dedicated to bisexual writer, slave owner and collector William Beckford (1760-1840), Since 1827, William Beckford’s extraordinary tower has been a feature high above the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bath. It was intended to house his library, art collection and be a retreat from the hubbub of Bath.
William Beckford’s family wealth was gained through the ownership of plantations and enslaved people in Jamaica. The museum, in deciding to secure this object, has had to confront the issues of sourcing collections that relate to this history.