That painting, Portrait of John Keats at Wentworth Place on the day of his composing ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ (1834), is described as the “go-to image of the poet.” The one for sale next month for an estimated £50,000-80,000 ($66,000-106,000) is the painter’s second version; the first is owned by the UK’s National Portrait Gallery.
Particularly interesting to note is a lock of the poet’s hair concealed in its frame. “This is incredibly special,” writes Wiltshire. “Keats died at 25, and left relatively few of his possessions behind. Something so intimate as a lock of his hair is very rare indeed.”
As for the two original death masks, both were lost, but, explains Wiltshire, “somehow the mould was preserved, and at the end of the 19th century a man called Charles Smith created several versions from the original mould.” This mask is from that batch.
According to Biography.com, Keats’ death mask ranks alongside history’s other famous death masks—those of Dante, Mary Queen of Scots, and William Blake.
The 200th anniversary of Keats' death is February 23, 2021.