In the short story, Reginald on the Academy, Saki writes:

[Reginald]: "To die before being painted by Sargent is to go to Heaven prematurely."

Firstly, does this quote from Reginald imply that he is adverse to being painted by Sargent (John Singer Sargent, 1856-1925), and if so why?

Secondly, how would one reach heaven prematurely, or quicker, than someone painted by Sargent? Is Heaven, in this context, defined not as the christian afterlife but, as Lexico defines it, "a place, state, or experience of supreme bliss."?

3 Answers 3


I believe that this is exactly the artist he is referring to, and the meaning of the phrase is to essentially say that being painted by Sargent is something that should be done in one's lifetime, with the mention of going to heaven being used as an allusion to dying. So if you die before you get your portrait painted by Sargent, you died too early.

Imagine a similar phrase of "If you die before you go to Disney World, you died too early."


Sargent was an extremely popular portraitist (and very good, too, as Reginald is admitting). Max Beerbohm has a caricature of people waiting outside his studio to be painted. http://sargentology.com/uploads/images/outside-john-sargents-studio.jpg


I think it is insignificant who portrays the portrait. The point here is that Reginald hates the posterity commenting on his portrait. And the way out of getting portrayed is either, as Reginald says, to die young for a portrait, or, as the Other suggests, to get too old to endure posing for one.

  • 2
    Welcome to LitSE. This is an interesting interpretation of the quote - it could be improved if you were able to find some evidence from the text to support why you feel Reginald might be averse to being captured for posterity?
    – Matt Thrower
    Sep 26, 2023 at 10:17

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