Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue: Wesley
The following text is from the National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Kerslake, Early Georgian Portraits, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1977 (now out of print). For the most up to date research on the Collection, we recommend reading the information provided in the Search the Collection results on this website in parallel with this text. This can be accessed by following the link with each portrait’s title.
In consulting the following, please note that apart from the reformatting which allows the printed catalogue to be made available on-line the text is as published in 1977. Footnotes in the original edition are given within square brackets.
John Wesley (1703-91)
Methodist leader; second surviving son of the Rev. Samuel Wesley, rector of Epworth, the sitter's birthplace; educated at the Charterhouse and Christ Church, Oxford; ordained 1725; returned to Oxford, 1728, and with his brother Charles, James Hervey and George Whitefield (q.v.) became one of the leaders of a religious society nicknamed ‘Methodists'; accompanied General Oglethorpe to Georgia, 1735; visited the Moravians at Herrnhut, 1738; after separating from Whitefield, his followers became known as Wesleyan Methodists; Wesleyan conference held 1744; thereafter he travelled extensively preaching and organising the Wesleyan Society; author of numerous educational works, sermons, tracts, hymns and journals; founded, 1778, The Arminian Magazine,later re-named The Methodist Magazine (ceased publication 1969).
135 By Nathaniel Hone, c.1766
Oil on canvas, 49 ½ x 39 ¼ in. (1258 x 997 mm); dark blue eyes, pouches beneath, brown eyebrows, thin nose slightly hooked, fresh complexion, black hair centre-parted; white bands and shirt, black gown and cassock; standing in front of a tree with green foliage and curved trunk, his right hand raised and in his left a small red book, distant landscape and cloudy sky, background left; lit from the left.
The provenance suggests that NPG 135, apparently the only extant contemporary version, is the prototype. At the time of purchase, 1861, it was, according to the dealer Henry Graves, 'in the same state as left by the painter but almost invisible by the Smoke of nearly a Century'  The cleaner Richard Smart wrote to Graves 14 November that year: 'I consider the Portrait of Wesley to be an undoubted work by Hone and the very picture from which the engraving was taken as the pin holes remain in the margin.'  The mezzotint, reversed, by J. Greenwood giving the sitter's age as 67 when published 1770 and lettered Done from an Original Picture in the Possession of Thos. Wooldridge Esqr of East Florida, indicates a repetition made and sent to America. A line engraving by Bland after Hone, of the same design but with simplified background, is lettered Aetatis 63 which places the date at c.1766. A 50 x 40 in. oil, somewhat dirty when seen at Christie's, anonymous property, 10 December 1965, lot 168, seems likely to be a later copy, as is the portrait presented by Lord Marshall, 1928, to Wesley's Chapel, City Road. 
Condition:small vertical damage in landscape, lower left; cleaned 1972.
Collections:bought, 1861, from Henry Graves & Co, by whom purchased at the sale of 'Miss Wesley'; presumably by descent from the sitter. No such sale is recorded and no portrait is mentioned in Wesley's will, 20 February 1789. A Miss Sarah (Sally) Wesley, the sitter's niece, is known to have died 1828  but she is unlikely to be the owner referred to by Henry Graves (1806-92), sole proprietor of the firm in 1844. A possible identity might be an unmarried descendant of the sitter's nephew Samuel Wesley (1766-1837), the organist, who married, 1793, Charlotte Louisa Martin (d.1845) by whom he had three children; only a son, Charles DD, is mentioned in the DNB. Of the two remaining offspring one might have been a daughter who died c.1860. Alternatively the Miss Wesley in question might be Elizabeth (d.1895), Samuel's daughter by a liaison with Sarah Suter.
Engraved:the type engraved by John Greenwood, 1770 (seeabove).
317 By William Hamilton, 1788
Oil on canvas, 50 3/8 x 40 1/8 in. (1280 x 1020 mm); dark blue eyes, grey eyebrows, long narrow nose, lips parted, flat-topped flaxen wig, fresh complexion; white bands, black cassock and gown; standing at a pulpit decorated with a winged cherub's head, his right hand raised, his left on a large book open on a velvet cushion, a smaller book, right; a pilaster, background left; greyish-green background.
Signed and dated in black, bottom left: Wm. Hamilton / 1788; a label of the 'NPE' 1867 on the top bar of the relining stretcher, also a small MS label 32141.
The date 1788 and J. Fittler's engraving of the same design lettered Aetat 86,published in November of the same year, point to NPG 317 being the portrait begun 22 December 1787 when Wesley wrote: 'I yielded to the importunity of a painter, and sat an hour and a half, in all, for my picture. I think it was the best that ever was taken; but what is the picture of a man above fourscore?' 
Wesley does not mention Hamilton and from the turn of phrase it would seem that it was the artist who persuaded him to sit (see Iconography). The name of James Milbourne, for whom NPG 317 was traditionally painted, does not appear either in the Journals or the Letters.
Condition: varnish discoloured, slight losses at the edges; pin holes at corners.
Collections: given, 1871, by James Milbourne; 'painted from the Life' for his grandfather James Milbourne, a friend of the sitter and a trustee 'for the (then) New Chapel in the City Road'. 
Engraved: by James Fittler, 1788.
Exhibited: 'NPE', 1867 (828).
2366 After a portrait by George Romney of 1789
Oil on canvas, 29 ½ x 24 ¾ in. (749 x 629 mm); dark blue eyes, brown eyebrows slightly furrowed, long curved nose, white wig; white bands, black fur-edged gown over black cassock; brown background, lit from top right.
A MS label, on the centre bar of the relining stretcher, reads: This Portrait is the property / of the Rev. G. Stringer Rowe; also a printed label, top right, partly obscured by sealing paper, with the figures 75.
Wesley sat 'Three-quarters' (30 x 25 in.) to Romney on 29 December 1788 and 5, 12 and 19 January 1789,  the portrait being destined for his friend and admirer Mrs Tighe at whose earnest desire, as he noted in his journal, 5 January 1789: ‘. . . I once more sat for my picture. Mr Romney is a painter indeed. He struck off an exact likeness at once, and did more in an hour than Sir Joshua did in ten.' The following month, 7 February, he wrote to Mrs Tighe that the picture was finished and that 'It is thought to be a good likeness, and many of my friends have desired I would have an engraving taken from it . . . if you have no objection, then I will employ an engraver that will do it justice . . .’.  On 30 March J. Spilsbury, the engraver, paid £30 for the portrait and frame, presumably on behalf of Mrs Tighe, and it was then sent to Appleyard's of Wimpole Street for dispatch to Ireland on 19 July, as confirmed by the Rev. John Romney, the son and early biographer of the painter: 'The Reverend John Westley,  the celebrated preacher: three-quarters; for Mrs Tyghe and sent to Ireland.’ The picture was sold for £40 from Mrs Tighe's home 'Rossana' by her executors about 1815. The purchaser was said to be a Wesleyan. 
Although NPG 2366 was believed by the donor's family to be by Romney and was apparently so accepted by Ward and Roberts,  the handling suggests it is more likely to be a good early copy. The artist records only one portrait, surely the oil painted for Mrs Tighe showing the sitter in plain gown as engraved by Spilsbury 1789, now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Its provenance goes back to the J.H. Butterworth sale,  Christie's, 1 March 1873, lot 65, bought Cassels, presumably the W.R. Cassels (d.1907) who lent it to the Romney exhibition, Grafton Gallery, 1900 (74). The subsequent owner was McFadden but no sale or dealer is known.  A version was acquired, 1892, by Christ Church, Oxford, source unstated,  and a copy by Mrs Webber, Mrs Tighe's granddaughter, belonged c.1904 to T.W. Webber of Kellyvale.  An engraving by W. Ward, 1825, with vignette of Epworth Church shows the fur-trimmed gown as in NPG 2366 and the Christ Church versions. It is lettered G. Romney 1789 but with no indication of source.
Condition:pin holes and some losses at corners; surface cleaned, blisters laid and revarnished, 1931.
Collections:bequeathed, 1929, by Miss Mary Stringer Rowe, by descent from the Rev. G. Stringer Rowe, principal of Headingley College, Leeds, who bought it from a London dealer c.1842. 
Engraved:the type engraved by John Spilsbury, 1789 (CS 37) and W. Ward, 1825.
Exhibited:’NPE', 1868 (870); 'Bi-Centenary of the Founding of Methodism', Lincoln, 1938 (20).
271 By an unknown sculptor
White marble, 20 in. (512 mm) high, including socle; eyes not incised, strongly marked eyebrows, protruding lower lip, angular jaw, own hair, or wig, centre-parted, curled at ends; elderly appearance; bands and gown.
NPG 271 is not incised or dated and, apart from the plaster copy taken at the Victoria and Albert Museum, 1925, for Lincoln College, Oxford, no other versions are known. The portrait has been associated with the popular bust of 1781 by Wood (seeIconography) which shows a scar on the forehead and although earlier, makes the sitter look as old as in NPG 271, due perhaps to Wesley's premature ageing. No scar is seen in NPG 271 and the two rows of curls, a distinctive feature in portraits from life, have here merged in an indecisive line. This seems to indicate there was no sitting. An attribution to Roubiliac proposed by the vendor Henry Graves is no longer tenable. Mrs Esdaile, in 1928, advanced the hypothesis that it was the 'Bust of the Rev. Mr. Westley—Silvester' in the RA exhibition of 1788 (609).  Mr Silvester (d.1791) and Mrs Silvester (or Sylvester, fl.1780-94) were modellers in wax of Irish origin.  An artist by the name of Silvester exhibited six wax models at the Free Society, 1782 (223-26, 235-36). 
Catalogue descriptions at this date are not rigorous. The word bust without qualification seems generally to indicate a plaster as for example 'Bust of Dr. Herschell' by Lochée, also in the 1788 exhibition (654), in all probability, the plaster or a version of it, now NPG 4055. Two marble busts by Mrs Damer (599, 607) exhibited in 1788, were described: 'Head of a child in the character of Paris (marble)' and 'Head of a boy, in the character of Bacchus (marble)'; also by her (652) 'a dog terra cotta'. In addition to no.609, Silvester exhibited three heads in the 'Room of Sculpture and Drawing' in 1788: 'Bust of Lord Hood' (596), 'His Royal Highness the Duke of York' (655) and 'Bust of Lord Rodney' (656). York, without qualifying description, might conceivably have been no more than a drawing although there are references, in the press of 1785 and 1787, to waxes of him.  The other two busts by Silvester are untraced. Mrs Esdaile in the same article, 1928, drew attention to a marble bust of Rodney formerly in the Royal United Service Museum  which, on comparison with NPG 271, appeared to be by the same hand. There is, however, no known portrait of Wesley by Silvester, nor is there any firm evidence equating NPG 271 with the bust exhibited in 1788. The handling suggests that it may well be posthumous, perhaps early 19th century.
Condition:a small flaw or mark in the marble in line with the sitter's left eye; cleaned 1896, 1899.
Collections:purchased, 1868, from Henry Graves.
Literature:Rev. J. Romney, Memoirs of the Life and Works of George Romney,1830; Notes and Queries,3rd series, VII, 1865; G.C. Williamson, John Russell, R.A.,1894; Proceedings of the Wesley Historical Society (WHS); H. Ward and W. Roberts, Romney,1904; C.S. Sargisson, 'John Wesley Busts in Staffordshire Pottery', Connoisseur, XIX,1907; The Journal of the Rev. John Wesley, A.M.,ed. N. Curnock, 1909-16; F. Falkner, The Wood Family of Burslem,1912; J. Telford, Sayings and Portraits of Wesley,1924.
Wesley was a popular, busy figure both in Britain and America and the large number of portraits, contemporary and posthumous, differing widely in quality and iconographic value, are found in domestic ware, teapots, jugs and the like, as well as the usual media. The subject is considerable with Telford's handbook, although not invariably reliable, still a useful source. O'Donoghue's list, not exhaustive, records thirty-three engravings published during the sitter's lifetime or within two years of his death. A detailed critical survey of the portraiture is overdue. A number of items are preserved in the Chapel and in Wesley's home, as well as in the Methodist archives, in City Road; the latter is particularly rich in pottery busts.
Although Wesley probably had little time, there is firm evidence that he sat to Vertue, Hunter, Russell, Wood, Romney, almost certainly to Horsley, mentioned in the diary, 5 June 1784, and to Hamilton, probably the painter referred to in December 1787 (seeNPG 317 above). References to 'the Painter', presumably more than one, also occur on 14 April 1783,  8 April 1786,  25 February 1788,  13, 22, 25 February and 13 March 1790.  The entry, 22 February 1790, stating ‘I submitted to importunity, and once again sat for my picture, I could scarce believe myself—the picture of one in his eighty-seventh year' has been associated with a miniature by Arnold, at one time owned by T. Marriott.  It is, however, more likely to have been the portrait by John Barry (below).
Vertue, in 1736, engraved a portrait 'Dr Wesley sitting. ad vivum del GV'  (O'D 19). An oil by J.M. Williams (1710-c.1780) stated to be of 1742  is at Didsbury College; a copy of 1745 at the Methodist Publishing House, City Road, is by J. Harley and a version or replica is at Lincoln College, Oxford.  The type was engraved by Faber junior by 1743 (CS 116), by John Downes in 1744,  and by Vertue in 1746. A rather crude portrait engraved and published by John Tinney, although apparently younger, is also near the type. A 'Mr. Westley' is mentioned in Reynolds' sitter book for 1755 on 8, 11, 13 and 15 March, on 30 June and 7 July  but no oil is now known. The sitter's own journals for March of that year are missing but his comment that Romney ‘. . . did more in an hour than Sir Joshua did in ten' (seeNPG 2366 above) certainly suggests a sitting. On 30 June Wesley was on his way to Norwich  and on 7 July, having returned to London, recorded: 'Monday the 7th was our first day of solemn thanksgiving for the numberless spiritual blessings we have received. And I believe it was a day which will not soon be forgotten.’  Reynolds' sitter books for 1756, 1763, 1774-76, 1783 and 1785 are missing.  Wesley might possibly have sat in any one of these years.
A crude oil said to be by Zoffany c.1760 was reproduced by Telford when in the collection of the Rev. M. Riggall.  A drawing by S. Harding showing more of the figure was engraved by W.N. Gardiner and published 10 March 1788. It is lettered Aged 85. On 31 July 1765 Wesley sat to Robert Hunter 'from about ten o'clock to half an hour after one; and in that time he began and ended, the face, and with a most striking likeness'.  The portrait was presented to Wesley's Chapel, City Road by a descendant of Mr Buttress  for whom it had been painted. There follow the portraits by Hone of 1766 (NPG 1351 above) and by John Russell  of 1773, a rough engraving of which appeared 20 March that year bearing the names of Faden, the artist's father-in-law, and Jefferyes. A better and equally rare engraving by Bland was published in July.  The original is now lost; the picture at Kingswood School is regarded as a copy. 
In 1781 Wesley sat to the young Enoch Wood (1759-1840) of the Burslem family of potters.  Many years later, in a long letter dated 2 October 1830 à propos a posthumous statue being carved by Samuel Manning for the Methodist Conference, the veteran Wesleyan Dr Adam Clarke wrote to Wood  recalling the particulars and asking for advice. Mr Manning, it appeared, 'had endeavoured scientifically to arrange and harmonize . . . various paintings and engravings of Mr Wesley . . . yet could attain only an incongruous whole, having a resemblance without much likeness . . . I then spoke of the bust executed by you,the model of which you kindly presented to me when once on a visit to Burslem . . . I . . . have mentioned your work as the only one that could fairly pretend to be compared with the original,but I may be wrong in the date or any other article'. Dr Clarke then asks 'for your [Wood's] correction and any item of information which might embellish my description . . .', which reads: 'Mr Enoch Wood of Burslem in 1781 made a model of Mr Wesley in busto which was the most happily executed of all that hitherto had been done. Mr Wesley himself was so well satisfied that . . . though pressed by various duties and straitened for time he cheerfully sat five times to this Artist till he was convinced that he had given a very faithful copy of nature. Several correct copies were taken from this model and were dispersed . . . among . . . Mr Wesley's intimate friends, but the original model became afterwards recopied by mere mechanical men till the likeness, the expression and even the attitude . . . were lost and the thing became a caricature. Fortunately, the original model was kindly presented to me by the Artist himself. This to preserve for ever I got cast in brass  and under the eye of that eminent master, John Jackson, Esq., R.A., it was chased up to the original. The model itself I lent to Mr. Manning when I found that he meditated a whole length marble statue of this super-eminent man. . . ‘. Wood replied 6 October, that the bust presented to Clarke was 'taken out of the original mould cast upon the clay model', i.e. not the original model itself as Clarke supposed. 'Your bust of Mr. Wesley', Wood further explains, 'was taken by me in the year 1781 with the greatest care and attention, I was then capable of, in the 22nd year of my age, having practiced the art from a very early age . . .'. Wood also relates that at the sitter's request he remedied the 'melancholy expression' and that Wesley's servant Joseph Bradford 'was so much pleased at the growing likeness of his master that . . . he threw all impediments which he could . . . in the way of Mr Wesley's rising . . . to give me a full opportunity of perfecting the resemblance'.  Subsequent correspondence established that Wood did not complete the details of the drapery at the earlier sittings when Wesley's gown, worn by Bradford, appeared crushed and short of two buttons. In January 1831 he sent Clarke one of the editions of the bust made at Burslem from c.1791 (the so-called Class B ) showing the more finished treatment of the drapery and button. 
This account assumes a clay model, c.1781, Clarke's cast from it, the brass Clarke had taken from that, and a modified version, taking account of changes in the dress, c.1791. A modern cast from a mould once in the Wood factory was taken c.1900 for the manufacturer Hammersley, while what was said to be Clarke's cast was last heard of c.1930.  A similar cream biscuit ware bust, unglazed, has been stated to be at Wesley's house or at the Methodist archives in City Road.  This proves likely to be an unglazed plaster after-mould.
With the assistance of Mr J.V.G. Mallet the large collection of busts there has recently been examined in detail. This has led to modification of some of the views expressed by Falkner and to the conclusion that no ad vivum work has as yet been identified. The collection has upwards of twenty busts from the Wood factory between c.1781 and c.1820, besides a considerable number of versions from other workshops. It includes one unglazed buff stoneware piece, partially painted in oil colour, a black basaltes version, and a number of glazed pottery pieces. The two former were of the so-called type A;  the latter include types A and B, a modern classification devised to distinguish the changes in the drapery described above. This division is, however, rather superficial, for the differences in the busts affect only the length of the body, and cannot be shown to coincide with the changes described above. In B,  the longer type, a sash is added, and the figure is a little higher than the 22.5 cm of class A. Inall however, the head, approximately 8.5 cm from chin to crown, is of the same type, and even the sharpest examples at City Road have a triangular mould mark visible on the wig.
Inthe years 1782-90 when he is known to have visited Bath and the family of the miniaturist Lewis Vaslet (d.1808), Wesley may well have sat for the portrait engraved by J. Jones (O'D 18) published, 1791, three months after the sitter's death.  An oil by Thomas Horsley of Sunderland, said to have been a pupil of Romney, is stated to be of 1790  but is more likely to relate to Wesley's visit to that city in 1784 and to the diary entry for Saturday afternoon, 5 June: ‘3 on business, picture!'  The portrait painted from life for Robert Hutton of Bishops Wearmouth, was presented, 1863, by his grandson Charles Hutton Potts to Richmond College (formerly the Methodist Institution), Surrey.  At least five versions are known, including one painted for Mr Lipton, Hutton's father-in-law, and another, now at Sans Street Chapel, Sunderland, which, according to the artist's son, was a replica. 
A wax profile by S. Percy, incised and dated 1788, was stated to have been in the Burdett-Coutts collection, 1922.  At the end of 1788 and the beginning of 1789, Wesley sat to Romney (seeNPG 2366, above). In the following year a 'Portrait of a clergyman' was exhibited by John Barry at the RA, 1790 (336).  This is believed to be the miniature known from the engraving by J. Fittler, 1791, very likely that seen by Scharf, 1872. It was last at Christie's, 2 May 1901, lot 124, when a paper on the back was read: original miniature of the Revd J. Wesley / A.M. by J. Barry. / became the property of the Revd C. / Girdlestone, 1840, whose wife was a niece of the widow of Rev" Dr. Barry vicar of St. Mary's Reading. A number of portraits apparently based on this design include one inscribed B W.1789 incorrectly attributed to Benjamin West, a miniature on ivory ascribed to Arnold, the 'Hitt' portrait and even perhaps the portrait by John Renton, engraved by W.T. Fry, 1824.  A crude oil of the type was published by A.H. Carr, 1930. A sketch of Wesley lying in his coffin by an unknown artist was engraved by W. Ridley and published 1791 (O'D 27). A life-size black Coade ware bust, 1793, was presented to the Wesley Historical Society c.1961by Miss Mooring Aldridge. In profile it much resembles the engraving by Ridley although there is a not fully substantiated tradition that it was made for an ancestor with whom Wesley had stayed in Wiltshire.
1. His letter, 18 November 1861, NPG archives.
2. Letter, NPG archives.
3. Daily Telegraph, 13 April 1928.
4. The Journal . . ., VIII, pp.342-44.
5. Ibid, VI, p.328, note 5.
6. Ibid, VII, p.349.
7. His letter, 21 July 1870, NPG archives.
8. Ward and Roberts, I, p.117.
9. Ibid, II, p.169: The Journal . . ., VII, p.461.
10. The original spelling of the family name, DNB, XX, p.1225.
11. Memoirs . . . of George Romney, p.200.
12. Ward and Roberts, II, p.169.
14. Ibid, there described, the Rev J.H.H. Butterworth.
15. C.R.L. Fletcher, Historical Portraits, III, 1919, reproduced opposite p.160, and correspondence Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1972.
16. Poole, III (188). No further information available—correspondence, 1972, with J.F. Gordon Christian.
17. Ward and Roberts, II, p.169.
19. Esdaile, The Times (article), 5 March 1928.
20. E.J. Pyke, A Biographical Dictionary of Wax Modellers,1973, pp.143-44.
21. A. Graves, The Society of Artists and The Free Society, 1760-1791,1907, p.234.
22. V & A library, press cutting books.
23. Now called the Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies, contents dispersed 1963.
24. The Journal. . ., VI, p.404.
25. Ibid,VII, p.154.
27. Ibid, VIII, pp.42-44, 48.
28. Ibid,p.44, note 1. The size of the miniature given as 4 ¼ x 3 ¼ in.
29. MS list of his engravings, f.19, W.S. Lewis collection, photostat in NPG archives.
30. Telford, pp.66-67.
31. Poole, II (21).
32. The Journal . . .,4 November 1774, VI, p.46; reproduced p.47.
33. Waterhouse, 1968, p.162.
34. The Journal . . ., IV, p.123.
35. Ibid, p.124.
36. Waterhouse, 1941, p.36.
37. Telford, p.86.
38. The Journal . . ., V, p.139.
39. According to paper on back of canvas, NPG archives.
40. The first Methodist RA, converted by the sitter's brother Charles; Telford, p.98.
41. Williamson, p.22.
42. Telford, p.98.
43. Thieme-Becker, XXXVI, p.240.
44. Falkner, pp.47-48, quoted here.
45. Sargisson, probably pl.vii, p.14; The Journal . . .,VI, p.309, note 4.
46. Falkner, pp 48-49.
47. Ibid,p.54 (illustration no.118), citing Rev. R. Green, 'Enoch Wood's Busts of Wesley', WHS,June 1907.
48. Ibid,p.51, letter January 1831, Wood to Clarke.
49. Ibid,illustration no.119, opposite p.56; Sargisson, p.17, pl.xii.
50. The Journal . . .,VI, reproduced opposite p.488.
51. Reproduced Falkner, illustration nos 116, 117, opposite p.52.
52. Ibid, illustration no.118, opposite p.56.
53. Telford, pp.170-71.
54. Notes and Queries, 3rd series, VII, p.256; ibid, pp.142-43.
55. The Journal . . ., VI, p.513.
56. Notes and Queries, 3rd series, VII, p.256.
57. F.F. Bretherton, WHS, XXIII, part 2, 1941, pp.31-32.
58. Telford, pp.134-35 as by C.E. Percy; the only portrait of Wesley in the objets sale, Christie's, 9 May 1922, was lot 420, an enamel by Grimaldi, 1830.
59. A. Graves, The Royal Academy of Arts, I, p.133; Long, pp.16-17.
60. NPG archives.
61. Telford, pp.130-31, 138-39, 182-83, 186-87.