Sarah Biffin. Watercolour by Sarah Biffin, 1812.

  • Biffin, Sarah, 1784-1850
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About this work


Sarah Biffin was born in 1784 in East Quantoxhead, Somerset. The baptismal register records that she was 'born without arms or legs'. She grew to be 37 inches tall. Between 1797 and 1813 she was exhibited at fairs by Emmanuel Dukes, a travelling showman, demonstrating her abilities in writing, miniature painting, needlework etc. Supported by the Earl of Morton she received lessons in painting from William Marshall Craig, and became an independent miniature painter in London, Brighton, Cheltenham and elsewhere. She received commissions from royal patrons in Brussels and England, and exhibited at the Royal Academy, London, in 1831 and 1832. In 1847 the Liverpool philanthropist Richard Rathbone raised funds for an annuity for her. She died in Liverpool aged 65 on 2 October 1850. Her surname is also spelled as Beffin,her forename is given as Elizabeth, and she was also known under her married name as Mrs Wright (Oxford dictionary of national biography)

Sarah Biffin's earliest known self-portrait, painted for William Stevenson as a thank-offering for his having lent her two miniatures to copy (Rutherford and Smith, loc. cit.)



Physical description

1 painting : watercolour and gouache on ivory ; sight 9 x 7.5 cm


Miss Biffin. Born without arms or legs. This portrait (which is very accurate) was drawn and painted by herself & presented to Wm. Stevenson.

References note

Emma Rutherford and Ellie Smith (editors), "Without hands": the art of Sarah Biffin, London: Philip Mould & Company, 2022, p. 78, no. 1

Exhibitions note

Exhibited in "Without Hands" The Art of Sarah Biffin" at Philip Mould & Company, London, 1 November - 21 December 2022
Exhibited in "Sarah Biffin", The Holburne Museum, Bath, 29 September 2023 - 14 January 2024


Wellcome Collection 47336i


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