Oliver Cromwell, warts and all

An original (or a very early 17 c. copy) of Oliver Cromwell’s plaster death mask is up for auction at Wallis and Wallis auction house East Sussex.

There is no chain of ownership record for the piece (ahem, shadyyyy!), so nobody’s sure if it’s one of the original 6 masks made from Cromwell’s post-mortem mug, or if it’s a copy made very early on from one of the original 6.

Cromwell is credited for coining the phrase “warts and all” when talking to the artist Lely about his portrait of him.

His actual words were: “Mr Lely, I desire you would use all your skill to paint your picture truly like me, and not flatter me at all; but remark all these roughness, pimples, warts, and everything as you see me. Otherwise, I will never pay a farthing for it.”

Ah, Puritan reverse vanity, bless its warty heart.

Of course, we don’t really know that Cromwell said that. The quote comes from Horace Walpole’s Anecdotes of Painting in England published in 1764, over a century after Cromwell’s death in 1658, and it’s a third-hand story of a conversation between the Duke of Buckingham and the Captain William Winde, the architect who designed Buckingham House, now known as Buckingham Palace.

The quote is as related by Winde to the Duke then reported by Walpole, so it could be a complete fiction. It’s certainly plausible, though. Cromwell was one lumpy sumbitch.