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Portrait of Mary Anning (1799-1847)


Pastel portrait of Mary Anning by Benjamin John Merifield Donne, 1850.  (GSL/POR/1)

Provenance: Presented to the Society by William Willoughby Cole, 3rd Earl of Enniskillen, 1875.

One of the two figures in our major portrait collection who was not a Fellow of the Society.

Mary Anning lived in Lyme Regis all her life, earning money by collecting and selling fossils from the local cliffs.  She was well known to many Fellows of the Society and was the discoverer of several fossil reptiles that were described at early Society meetings.

This portrait, which is a copy of an 1842 painting, was drawn when the artist Benjamin Donne was 19 years of age. Donne’s school was close by to Anning’s fossil shop in Lyme Regis and he knew her quite well. 

In the background of the portrait is the Golden Cap headland, the highest point on the South Coast of England. The portrait is not only a memento mori for Anning but for her dog Tray, which is shown sleeping in the foreground.  It was killed in a landslide around 1833.

A selection of archive material showing some of Mary Anning’s finds can be found on our exhibitions pages.