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Mary Wilkes; John Wilkes

20 of 26 portraits on display in Room 14 at the National Portrait Gallery

Mary Wilkes; John Wilkes, by Johann Joseph Zoffany, exhibited 1782 - NPG 6133 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Mary Wilkes; John Wilkes

by Johann Joseph Zoffany
oil on canvas, exhibited 1782
49 3/4 in. x 39 1/2 in. (1264 mm x 1003 mm)
Purchased with help from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and The Art Fund, 1991
Primary Collection
NPG 6133


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Sittersback to top

  • John Wilkes (1725-1797), Politician; MP and agitator. Sitter associated with 47 portraits, Artist associated with 1 portrait.
  • Mary Wilkes (1750-1802), Daughter of John Wilkes. Sitter in 1 portrait.

Artistback to top

  • Johann Joseph Zoffany (1733-1810), Painter of portraits and conversation pieces. Artist associated with 46 portraits, Sitter associated with 11 portraits.

This portraitback to top

John Wilkes, the radical politician, was arrested in 1763 under a general warrant against his anti-government newspaper The North Briton, for an attack on the king's speech on peace with France. After his release he fled to France and was expelled from the House of Commons and outlawed for publishing libels. Three times re-elected MP for Middlesex but his elections annulled, he finally took his seat in 1774. Mary Wilkes (or Polly, as she was known), was Wilkes's only child by his estranged wife, Mary Meade. He was deeply attached to his daughter, who never married but inherited her mother's substantial fortune. Horace Walpole viewed this portrait in Zoffany's studio in 1779 and pronounced it to be 'horridly like'. He commented that Wilkes was '...squinting tenderly at his daughter - it is a caricature of the Devil acknowledging Miss Sin...' . The dog, Roma, a white German spitz, belonged to the artist and appears in others of his paintings, including that of The Sharp Family.

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