Portrait of Algernon Moses Marsden

Portrait of Algernon Moses Marsden by Jacques Joseph (James) Tissot, 1877. Image © The National Gallery, London.

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Depicting Marsden in a luxurious interior, the picture had earlier this year been barred from export to give an institution the chance to raise the £2.43m (plus VAT of £72,900) needed to buy it from its then owner (reported in ATG No: 2549).

The family of Marsden came forward and supplied the funds for the museums to acquire the picture.

Sir Martyn Arbib, great grandson of Algernon Marsden, said: ‘My children and I felt very strongly that the painting of our close relative, Algernon Marsden by James Tissot, should be saved for the nation.”

Marsden is an infamous figure in the Victorian art world who later became known for his appearances in bankruptcy courts.

The painting became known as an ‘icon’ of the Aesthetic movement, despite having never been displayed during Tissot’s lifetime.

Marsden’s family were Jewish entrepreneurs who had risen from poverty in the East End of London through a fortune made in the ready-made clothing business. Rather than join the family business, Marsden established himself as an art dealer in London in the early 1870s.

He made friends in artistic circles including Tissot, who had fled Paris following the Commune seizing power.

Tissot’s work caught the attention of a new class of industrialists and entrepreneurs, including Marsden who bought and sold Tissot’s work.


In 1877 Marsden commissioned him to paint his portrait. The painting shows Marsden at his most successful, surrounded by objects that indicate his wealth. However just four years later he would file for the first in a string of bankruptcies. 

When the picture was commissioned Marsden paid £50 and it remained with the family until it was sold at Sotheby’s in 1971 for £2000.

It was then sold again at Christie’s in 1983 for £45,000 when it was bought by art dealer Agnews. In 2019/20 it was loaned to an exhibition in San Francisco via Wiltshire art gallery Grant Ford but its ownership record is not publicly available.

The portrait will now be displayed in Room 44 of the National Gallery and then will move to the newly named and renovated Blavatnik Wing when the National Portrait Gallery reopens in 2023.