Owen Jones (1809-1874), Architect and Designer (design for a mosaic in the Museum) thumbnail 1
Not currently on display at the V&A

Owen Jones (1809-1874), Architect and Designer (design for a mosaic in the Museum)

1874 (painted)
Place of origin

Profile portrait of Owen Jones in a dark suit.

Object details

Object type
TitleOwen Jones (1809-1874), Architect and Designer (design for a mosaic in the Museum)
Materials and techniques
Oil on canvas
Brief description
Reuben Townroe, design for mosaic portrait of Owen Jones in V&A Oriental Courts. 1874. Oil painting.
Physical description
Profile portrait of Owen Jones in a dark suit.
  • Estimate height: 104.5in
  • Estimate width: 34.5in
Dimensions taken from Summary catalogue of British Paintings, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973
Object history
This is a preparatory study for a mosaic portrait commissioned in 1874 for the east cloister of the South Kensington Museum as a memorial to Jones.

Historical significance: Reuben Townroe (1835-1911) was one of Godfrey Sykes's principal assistants in the decoration of the South Kensington Museum. After Sykes's early death in 1866, Townroe and James Gamble were appointed to succeed him in planning and executing further decorative schemes.

Owen Jones (1809-1874)was one of the most influential design theorists of the 19th century. He had provided the colour scheme for the interior of the Great Exhibition building. His book The Grammar of Ornament (1856), lavishly illustrated with colour lithographs, became a standard work. In 1863 Jones was asked by Henry Cole to devise the decorative scheme for the series of galleries known as the Oriental Courts, which comprised two galleries: an Indian Court and a Chinese and Japanese Court.

After Jones's death, a mosaic portrait was commissioned as a memorial, which was placed on the south wall of the east cloister which Jones had decorated. The mosaic, designed by Townroe, was subsequently removed and has now disappeared; the current work is the full-scale preparatory oil study for it. In its shape and general conception it alluded to the 'Kensington Valhalla' portrait mosaic sequence of the great representatives of Western art from antiquity onwards, which had been commissioned in the 1860s for the South Court of the museum. As such it represented a great honour for Jones.

Townroe's portrait of Jones is copied from an oil painting by Henry Wyndham Phillips (1820-1868), now in the RIBA collection, which was commissioned in 1857 to commemorate Jones receiving the RIBA Royal Gold Medal. It shows Jones standing in front of Alhambra-type tile decoration, of the kind he introduced to England.
Subject depicted
Bibliographic references
  • John Physick, The Victoria and Albert Museum: the history of its building, London: V&A Publications (1982) p.83
  • Victoria & Albert Museum Department of Engraving, Illustration and Design & Department of Paintings Accessions 1934 London: Published under the Authority of the Board of Education, 1935
Accession number

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Record createdFebruary 13, 2007
Record URL
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