Poet To Be Removed From Banknote/Keats’ Auction – Poetry News Roundup November 13th

Our final news round-up of the week takes a look at the poet who may be removed from the South Korean Banknote, and the Keats items going up for auction.

Pro-colonial Artists Work to be Removed from South Korea Currency

South Korea is currently working to replace the designs in its frequently used 100-won coins. This is because the portraits included in the design were drawn by a pro-Japanese artist.

The face of Admiral Yi Sun-sin will either be redrawn or removed completely from the currency. Other portraits that will also be removed include those of Yukgok Yi I an artist and the poet Shin Saimdang who features on the current 50,000-won note.

The Bank of Korea has announced that it is looking at alternative designs should the government decide to remove the portraits completely rather than have them redrawn. The government have confirmed that they have not yet received any petitions regarding the proposed changes.

200th Anniversary of Keats’ Death

2021 will mark the 200th anniversary of the death of the poet John Keats. On 9th December, albeit a little early, Christie’s will be marking the occasion with the sale of a posthumous painting of the poet that was created by Joseph Severn, who went travelling with Keats and took care of him when he was dying. They will be also auctioning a death mask of the poet as well.

The portrait, Ode to a Nightingale, is an oil on canvas and was painted in 1834. The frame around the painting is a little unusual in that it contains a look of Keats’ hair. The portrait has been given an estimated guide price of between £50,000 and £80,000. Severn painted two portraits of Keats at the same time and the other can be seen in the National Portrait Gallery where it is currently on display.

This particular image of Keats was painted by Severn of a memory he had of the poet when he visited him at home and is said to capture him on the day of one of his biggest creative achievements. It is often used as the best image of the poet.

The death mask, which Christie’s will be auctioning was made not long after the poet’s death. A cast-maker was sent for by Severn and impressions were taken of his hand, foot, and face. Both the foot and the hand disappeared but 2 copies of the face cast didn’t.


It is not known when the mask was made. Christie’s have dated it to between 1898 and 1905, It is a plaster cast and shows a patina that is light brown in shade. The inscription C. Smith London No 231 can be seen at the crown and on the back, there is a hanging hook. It has a pale grey paint on a shellac base which is a little rubbed. No estimated price has been put on the mask.

Of the 2 original casts that were made Severn kept one and the other was sent to Keats, publisher – both are now lost. Charles Smith made numerous copies with the original mould. However, it is believed only 9 still exist, 5 in the hands of public collectors, one at the Keats – Shelley house which is in Rome, one in the London Metropolitan Archives, one in Hampstead at Keats House and this one.

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