© 1999-2016 Corbould family

Henry Corbould  b. 1787  d. 1844   

To view a copy of Henry Corbould's will of 30 September 1832: (a) As written (b) Transcribed to plain font

Henry Corbould's main long term interest was in making illustrations of ancient marbles, and for three decades he made drawings for a book, which was published posthumously. Much of the thirty years was spent at the British Museum in London. Henry also specialised in wash drawing with ink details, and was an important illustrator who contributed to many books of poetry and various illustrated magazines.

There exists a collection of about 80 drawings in a variety of media - pencil, ink, and watercolour of works by Henry Corbould. The collection originally also contained a design for an early postage stamp by Henry's son Edward Henry Corbould. The collection was auctioned in small lots in London on 11 July 1919.

The collection originally contained four portraits of Queen Victoria prepared by Henry Corbould in 1837. Popular history incorrectly says that these portraits formed the basis of the image of the queen on the Penny Black postage stamp, which was first issued in 1840. The originals of the four portraits are displayed in the National Postal Museum in London. Each portrait is an exquisitely-executed pencil and wash illustration of Queen Victoria, who in 1837 was just 18 years old and had just ascended to the throne.

It is probable that Henry Corbould’s portraits were based on the medal (see left) designed by William Wyon to commemorate Queen Victoria’s first visit to the City of London after her ascension to the throne in 1837. William Wyon had modelled the Princess when she was 15, in 1834. The image on that medal is almost exactly replicated on the Penny Black stamp.

One of the Henry Corbould portraits in the National Postal Museum is on a quarto-sized piece of paper which had originally been folded into a letter, sealed with wax, and sent by post by Henry to Messrs Perkins Bacon, Fleet Street. The letter is postmarked 18 October 1837. Since none of Henry’s portraits is the one used on the Penny Black stamp, then it can be assumed that Henry’s portraits were used by Perkins Bacon for bank notes or other stamps - see examples of Henry's works and see below.

Putting aside the issue of whose portrait was used, it is probable that Henry Corbould designed the stamp as a whole. There was a stamp design competition conducted by the Treasury in August 1839, and 2,600 entries were received. Four entrants were each awarded 100 pounds, but none of the four designs was fully suitable, and all were put aside. It is said that the final stamp design was prepared by Rowland Hill himself from a sketch by Henry Corbould.

The work in the collection by Edward Henry Corbould (auction lot 813) was purchased shortly after the auction by King George V's agent for the king's philatelic collection. The king sought the illustration since it was the basis of the first Mauritius stamps. The design appears in Sir John Wilson's 1952 book The Royal Philatelic Collection.

Remaining in the collection is a drawing (part of Lot 817) showing a design for a coat of arms for the Australian Agricultural Company (Australia's second oldest company). The design is dated 1824. The coat of arms was used for many years by that company; in later years it was stylised and simplified, but it still followed the basic design prepared by Henry Corbould. The company is listed on the Australian Stock Exchange. As of 2008, the company had completely abandoned the coats of arms based on Henry Corbould's design, and instead adopted a modern logo.

Remaining in the collection is a design showing a seated woman which was used for the ten pound note issued by the Bicester and Oxfordshire Bank. That bank note also used one of the four Henry Corbould designs of Queen Victoria described above.

The Union Bank of Australia of Australia Limited issued a five pound note c.1850 bearing in the lower right corner a Henry Corbould design depicting Britannia, a kangaroo and, in the background, a sailing ship. The original of this design also remains in the collection. The same design appears in the upper centre of the one pound note issued by that bank.

Lot 814 was a design showing Queen Victoria on a throne. The location of the original of this design is unknown at this stage. All that exists at present is a photocopy of the 1919 auction catalogue picture showing the design. Interestingly, this design was also the basis of another postage stamp – the 1856-58 Colony of Victoria (later part of Australia) sixpence stamp. Furthermore, the design was also used on the Union Bank of Australia one pound note. It is not known whether this design of Queen Victoria on the throne was prepared by Henry or Edward Henry, although based on the photocopy, and the appearance of Queen Victoria’s facial features, the design looks mostly like the work of Edward Henry, not Henry.

Apart from the Mauritius design and four plus one Queen Victoria designs described above, the collection of Henry Corbould's equisite illustrations is intact in private hands.

Shown below left is a portrait of Henry Corbould as displayed in the National Postal Museum, based on a plaque at the Etchingham Church in Sussex England were Henry is buried. The plaque in turn was based on a bas-relief by Henry's son Edward Henry Corbould. At right is a self portrait of Henry Corbould, drawn in brown pencil in the same style that Henry Corbould used for drawing the Greek and other marbles in the British Museum (drawing in private collection).

Henry Corbould NPM.jpg           Henry Corbould self portrait marble.jpg

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