In 1865 the Great Hall was enlarged by the architect David Bryce, who ordered the roundel portraits from George MacCallum. MacCallum was paid four pounds per profile, a total of £60 for the set of 15 ‘Heads with wreaths’.

The portraits appear along the frieze in the Great Hall. Each of the figures in the roundel portraits is surrounded by a laurel wreath which is both an aesthetic, decorative feature, and a classical symbol which emphasises the importance of the figure depicted in the portrait.

This portrait arguably offers a less flattering depiction of Sydenham than the portraits of him which were painted by Mary Beale, John Jackson and John Wollaston. However, this contrast is, at least in part, due to the difference in the mediums and the greater control which the medium of painting allows over depictions of light and detail.

Thomas Sydenham (1624 – 1689)

By 1658 Sydenham, who had fought on the parliamentary side during the English Civil War, was living in the eastern end of the new neighbourhood of Pall Mall. Despite only holding a BM he identified himself as a physician. In 1663 he became a licentiate of the College of Physicians and therefore continued to practice, although he did not obtain his MD until 1676.

Sydenham was a talented clinician and he was particularly noted for his ability to make fine distinctions between diseases. Sydenham’s most important work was his Observationes medicae (1676) which focused on epidemic diseases and their origins. Overall, Sydenham’s work was significant in encouraging the growth of nosology.