For many years, any suggestions of same-sex attractions or relationships were usually minimised in official documentation such as RCP biographies of its fellows. But that doesn’t mean those loves and relationships weren’t there.
The RCP has a long history of commissioning portraits of its presidents. For today’s sitters, it’s likely to be the first time that they have sat for a painted portrait. It is an opportunity to shape how they are viewed in the future.
Entries in the Lives of the fellows – the RCP’s series of obituaries of fellows, commonly known as ‘Munk’s Roll’ – reveals the medical establishment’s slowly changing attitudes to homosexuality throughout the 20th century.
The two vainest presidents of the RCP, Sir William Browne (1692–1774) and Sir Henry Halford (1766–1844), currently find themselves sharing wall space in the Lasdun Hall. Installing Henry Glindoni’s painting in the exhibition ‘Scholar, courtier, magician: the lost library of John Dee’ has displaced the portraits that normally hang on the wall outside the Osler Room, resulting in some unusual pairings.