Sir John Everett Millais, 1st Bt
9 of 74 portraits of Sir John Everett Millais, 1st Bt
- Extended catalogue entry
Sir John Everett Millais, 1st Bt
by Carlo Pellegrini
Pencil and watercolour and gouache on blue paper, published in Vanity Fair 13 May 1871
12 in. x 7 3/8 in. (306 mm x 186 mm) overall
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Inscriptionback to top
Signed in pencil lower left-hand corner: ‘Ape’.
This portraitback to top
The print after this drawing was published in Vanity Fair on 13 May 1871,  at the time of the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition and habitual good reviews of Millais’s work. In the same month his handsome profile could be admired in an oil painting by George Frederic Watts exhibited at the same RA show (172, now NPG 3552).
Carlo Pellegrini (who drew under the name ‘Ape’), chief cartoonist for Vanity Fair, was not among Millais’s admirers. ‘Whistler’s work he adored and Millais’ he detested,’ wrote his colleague Leslie Ward.  So in this drawing, Pellegrini seems to have relished spoiling the sitter’s reputation by giving him a scowl and an aged silhouette. The moodiness is even more explicit in the print, drily captioned ‘A converted pre-Raphaelite’.  The accompanying biographical sketch (by Thomas Gibson Bowles) is kinder than the caricature;  Millais’s reactions are not recorded.
Pellegrini nursed ambitions to be a portrait painter, and Millais’s success represented a challenge. He left Vanity Fair twice in the 1870s in an attempt to change career, but without success. Ward wrote:
His intention was to outshine Millais, whom he found uncongenial as an artist, and whose work he prophesied would not survive a lifetime’s popularity. One of his favourite recreations was to discuss Millais and his success in relation to himself when he had gained fame as a painter. One day, on this subject, after working himself up into his customary excitement, he twisted a piece of paper into a funnel-shaped roll, and said to me:–‘Now Millais ambitions go in like this’ – pointing to the big end, ‘and become this’ – turning up the smaller end. ‘And mine begin small and go on…’ Here he opened his arms as if to embrace the infinite. 
The drawing was sold at Christie’s, 7 March 1912 (533), and bought by ‘Larkin’ for £19.19s.6d (19 guineas), a relatively high price at that sale. It was later offered for purchase to the National Portrait Gallery by Mr Charles Newman in June 1933, together with four other drawings for Vanity Fair, for a total of £15.15s, or an asking price of three guineas per drawing. 
For other caricatures of Millais, see ‘All known portraits, By other artists, 1852, 1853, publ.1857, 1862, publ.1873, 1883, publ.1889, early 1890s, 1916–17, c.1920’.
Footnotesback to top
1) The drawing is laid on a buff-coloured mount (516 x 355mm) with ruled margins and a label inscribed with the publication date: ‘Mr. J.E. Millais, R.A. / May 13, 1871.’
2) Ward 1915, p.112.
3) Published in reverse; repr. Matthews & Mellini 1982, p.74.
4) ‘Judged by himself he would be popular in any age, judged by his works he will be famous to all time’: Vanity Fair, 13 May 1871, p.187.
5) Ward 1915, p.113.
6) Charles Newman, 14 Helix Gardens, Brixton Hill, London SW2. Earlier in 1923 he sold eight other Vanity Fair drawings to the NPG.
Physical descriptionback to top
Three-quarter-length to left, head in profile, standing at easel (female figure on canvas), holding pipe in right hand and paint brush in left.
Provenanceback to top
Christie’s, 7 March 1912 (533); Larkin; Charles Newman, from whom purchased, June 1933.
Reproductionsback to top
Copies of the print after NPG 2626
Chromolithograph by Vincent Brooks, Day & Son, Vanity Fair, 1871; copies colls NPG 43483; and MEPL, London, 10061882.