This display presents a selection of portraits of leading opera singers by the fashionable nineteenth-century artist Alfred Chalon. Born in Geneva and trained at the Royal Academy Schools in London, Chalon specialised in small and exquisite watercolour portraits and was renowned for his ability to depict the contrasting textures of silk, fur and velvet. In 1837 he was appointed as Queen Victoria's official painter in watercolour, and a detail of his portrait of the queen featured on British colonial postage stamps from 1851.
Chalon was fascinated by the theatre, opera and ballet. This display is drawn from a significant collection of portraits and caricatures of actors, singers and dancers by Chalon held at the National Portrait Gallery. It also features prints reproduced from Chalon's portraits by leading lithographers. Often depicting his sitters in character, these portraits offer a fascinating insight into the popular operas and theatrical costume of the early nineteenth century.