Graves described Hamilton as follows: “It may be well here to give the reader such an outline as can be drawn by memory of Hamilton’s personal appearance at this time of his life . He was of middle height, but his breadth of shoulders and amplitude of chest made him appear shorter than he really was. His head, when in social intercourse, he generally carried with an upward inclination, giving to full view his countenance beaming with an expression of ingenuous cheerfulness and receptivity. His features were not either beautiful or handsome, but there was a certain harmony in their combination which indicated strength, and in these early years produced almost the effect of good looks. His eyes were light blue; his hair was a dark silky chestnut: his nose rather broad below, the distance between it and the mouth being somewhat in excess [...]. The mouth itself of moderate size, with upper lip flexible in speaking, and slightly pouting when at rest; the chin well shaped and firm, while the breadth of the skull at its base, and its equable hemispherical development, betokened at first view a certain intellectual grandeur. He was strong and active on his limbs; his hands were soft and fair; his fingers, as has been noted by his friend Professor De Morgan, broad at the ends, and apparently not adapted for nice manipulations. Yet his manuscript, even when very minute, was exceptionally clear; and the drawing of his mathematical diagrams, which were often of great complexity, was remarkable for neatness and accuracy.” [Graves 1882, 166-167].
The first bust shown above was made in 1830 by Thomas Kirk. According to Graves, during a visit to the Dunravens, the parents of his pupil Lord Adare, “Lord Dunraven requested him to sit to Kirk, the Dublin sculptor, for a marble bust. The request was complied with before the end of 1830; and one of Hamilton’s letters intimates the fact that, as part of he preparation for its execution, he had to submit to a cast being taken from his head. The bust may therefore be supposed faithfully to represent his cranial development, and in this respect to possess a permanent value.” Graves then compares the 1830 bust with the 1833 one, “in its representation, however, of the features of the face, it seems to me to be inferior as a likeness to a miniature bust executed in 1833 by Mr. Terence Farrell [...]. I have therefore preferred to prefix as frontispiece to this [first] volume an autotype copy from a cast taken from the model of the latter.” [Graves 1882, 370]. According to a note made by Clement Ingleby, given in his 1867 book ‘Memorabilia and memorials of Sir William Rowan Hamilton : collected in his honour by Clement Mansfield Ingleby’, the first bust was (at that time?) in the possession of Lord Dunraven, the second one in that of Lord Talbot de Malahide.
In his book Ingleby also gave a comment from William Edwin Hamilton, that the portrait of Hamilton and one of his sons, made around 1846, is a part of a daguerreotype of Sir William, Lady Helen and their family, made by the artist Glukman. “From this portrait Messrs Nelson and Mayhall took the glass negative, of which it is a print.” The portrait as shown above is a part of the picture of Hamilton and his son, which itself thus is a part of the family photo. In my AVM I had placed the part showing the son, surmising it was William Edwin, in the third row of the overview of the Hamilton family. The fact that William Edwin does not comment on who the boy in the photo is, underpins the suggestion that it is he, and not Archibald.
The 1855 photo comes from a family album of the O’Regan family, together with the photo of Lady Hamilton. It was given in the book about Dunsink by Patrick Wayman. He also showed the 1864 portrait, with the caption, “The last known photograph of Sir William, taken in 1864 or thereabouts. This photograph, from the records of the O’Regan family, is referred to in an extant letter from Helen Eliza Hamilton, before her marriage, to Ann O’Regan, sister of her future husband, the Venerable John O’Regan, dated 8 March, 1866 (J. O’R.).” I took the liberty of flipping the photo, because of similarities with the one from 1861. Of that photo I do not know anything except that it was used in the online celebration of Schrodinger, but I did take out some of the blots on his face. For what I did see the comparison.
Graves saw the 1859 photograph and the photograph made from the 1867 bust, showing Hamilton seemingly in his fifties, as the best images of Hamilton. “I take the opportunity of expressing my opinion that this representation of his features [the 1859 photograph, given as a frontispiece to the second volume] stands out from all other photographs of him which I have seen (and I believe I have seen almost all that were taken), as alone doing something like justice to the combined intellectual and moral character of the subject. It exhibits, I think, both in conformation and expression, the profound thinker, the reverent benevolent sage. The marble bust in the Library of Trinity College is from the hand of Foley, and a photograph from it supplies the frontispiece to the present [3rd] volume. Our eminent sculptor never had the advantage of seeing Sir W.R. Hamilton, and had to work from small photographs and a cast of the anterior half of the head. The aspect which the photograph presents will, however, be acknowledged by all who knew the living man to be both fine and like.” [Graves 1889, 120].
And since this is my webpage, I would like to add that, compared with what Graves specifically chose as representing Hamilton in the best way, the painting by Sarah Purser is not a good liking, even though I like other paintings by her very much. The problem is that in the painting Hamilton’s facial expression is very different from the eight portraits, and it does not show what they show, precisely that what Graves called the “reverent benevolent sage.” I have often wondered whether I would have believed him enough to write my essay had I only known this painting. It can be seen on the website of the Royal Irish Academy.