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Tall tales but true, the hero behind the portrait

James Jacques Tissot’s 1870 portrait of dashing hero … one of the paintings in the “Shakespeare to Winehouse” exhibition.

WAS Frederick Burnaby the model for fictional Victorian hero Sir Harry Paget Flashman VC, KCB, KCIE?

Clive Williams.

I had not heard of Frederick Gustavus Burnaby (1842-1885) before I went to the “Shakespeare to Winehouse” exhibition at the Canberra National Portrait Gallery (showing until July 17). 

The exhibition of more than 80 portraits is on loan from the British National Portrait Gallery. The London gallery is currently undergoing renovations, which has allowed part of its priceless collection to travel to Australia. 

One of the portraits loaned to Canberra was by James Jacques Tissot (1870). It shows Frederick Burnaby relaxing in the splendid uniform of a captain in the Royal Horse Guards. But Burnaby was not just the military equivalent of that infamous social dilettante, Bertie Wooster.

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