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Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue

William Stukeley (1687-1765), Antiquary and physician

A list of portraits including some rather inaccessible drawings is given by Piggott [1] but the fuller source is the Family Memoirs, a selection from the sitter's diary and papers edited by Lukis. The first reference, possibly to a portrait, is in the diary 25 April 1720: 'I presented my profile to Mr. Wood', Mr. Wood being however, not the painter Isaac Whood (or Wood), but an apothecary with whom Stukeley had bought South Sea Company stock on 11 April. [2] The sitter's list of 'My Pictures, 1726.' included 'My profile by Collins', [3] possibly Richard Collins (d. 1732), who worked for the Spalding Society [4] in which Stukeley was interested. [5] The only work hitherto known to be attributed to him is a small portrait of Charlotte Pochin as a child, in a private collection, 1962.

On 30 May 1720 Stukeley writes 'Mr Bird took off my face in plaister of Paris.' [6] No life mask is known; a plaster cast was in Stukeley's sale, Patersons, 15 May 1766. 'Mr Bird' must be the sculptor Francis Bird (1667-1731). [7]

The earliest dated oil, and a copy of it, are recorded in Stukeley's papers. On 7 June 1720, he wrote in his diary: 'I sat to Sr. Godfrey Kneller for my picture.' [8] and refers in his list of 'My Pictures, 1726.' to 'My own, by Sr. Godfrey Kneller, 1720.' and to 'A copy of my picture, from Kneller, by Dellow.' [9] Dellow, noted by Vertue as completing some of Kneller's pictures after his death, must be the R[ichard] Dellow known by signed and dated work until 1749. [10] The type is likely to be the three-quarter face mezzotinted in 1721 by J. Smith with the lettering G. Kneller Baronets pinx. 1721, the date perhaps representing completion. A slight self-portrait drawing, dated by Piggott to 1726-30, is surely a copy of the type. [11] In 1882 the original was stated to be in the collection of H. F. St John, a descendant of the sitter's eldest daughter Frances. [12] A painting with D. Minlore 1935, not in good condition, was stated then to be signed and dated 1720. Neither date nor signature were subsequently read at the NPG and the features did not altogether agree with the Smith engraving. The picture was apparently at Hartland Abbey in 1950. [13]

No more portraits are mentioned in the diary until 11 July 1722 when Stukeley writes: 'I sat to Mr. Marchand cutting my Profile in basso relievo in Ivory.' Le Marchand's ivory was last recorded in the possession of H. F. St John, 1882. [14] A pen-and-wash drawing of Stukeley asleep, 1722, inscribed Aliquando bonus dormitat Homerus., by Gerard Van der Gucht (1696-1776) is in the Bodleian, [15] an undated drawing by him was in vol.xvi of Stukeley's diaries. [16] The next dated work is the profile drawing of 1725 by Isaac Whood recently given to the Society of Antiquaries and discussed under NPG 4266. A pen-and-ink self-portrait drawing inscribed W. S. [at] Grantham. July 1726., is in the Bodleian. [17] More important, the sitter refers in the 1726 list to 'My whole length picture, & my wifes, by Collins'. [18] These are not at present identified. An undated whole length drawing by Stukeley of himself and his wife are in the Keiller MS. [19] Stukeley follows the design of the whole length painting of him in civil dress in the Society of Antiquaries, which may be the picture by Collins. [20] Hitherto unattributed, this was purchased from a source not now known for £5 by order of their council, 7 July 1829. [21] Harding however lists an anonymous whole length there c.1804, [22] and it is tempting to suppose that the purchase in 1829 may have been of a portrait already on loan. This is the only whole length painting known; the style and costume is compatible with a date of c.1726 and what we know of Collins, but if there was a companion portrait of Frances Stukeley, it had evidently become separated from it. Also a reference by the sitter to his wife in 1726 requires explanation; his first marriage was on 19 December 1727; clearly Stukeley added to the list after 1726.

Stukeley concludes the list with 'My picture in clerical habit, by Wills'. He did not take orders until 1729. The portrait is missing and 'Wills' remains unidentified. The only artist of that name is James Wills, described by Vertue as a promising young painter in 1743. [23] A portrait at Lydiard Tregoze, given by Colonel G. St John, [24] is inscribed with the sitter's name, bottom right, and might be the portrait 'in clerical habit, by Wills'. It is near the hand of James Wills, but the wig can hardly be earlier than 1740. Two drawings were taken in 1727: a self-portrait in the Ashmolean (Hope collection), [25] similar to the one dated 1726 in the Bodleian, and one by Isaac Whood in the Bodleian. [26] An oil by Whood is not now known, though one was probably painted by 1738 when a copy was projected for the library of Trinity College, Cambridge. [27] A medal by Gaab was struck in 1765. [28] Undated material includes the profile drawing in the British Museum inscribed Dr. Stukely. by himself [29] and a miniature in vol.XVI of the diaries [30] In Stukeley's sale there was in addition to the plaster cast, a bronze bust, lot 31, 'A fine busto in bronze of K. Hen. VIII. - ditto of Dr. Stukeley', while in the sale of a 'Mr. Dixon, mason', 13 Dec. 1766, i.e. John Dixon (fl. 1754-66), a bust of Dr Stukeley was one of a set of four marbles by 'Steff. Domine-Ceti'. [31] Oils stated to be of Stukeley, but without further description, were recorded at Madingley House, Cambridge in the collection of Sir Charles Hinde Cotton in 1801 as 'By Walter', [32] and at St George's Square, Bloomsbury, [33] the latter a head and shoulders.

1) Appendix B, pp 202-03. Numbers cited below are from this list.
2) Family Memoirs of William Stukeley, ed. W. C. Lukis, I, pp 59, 537.
3) Ibid, p 121.
4) U. Thieme and F. Becker, Allgemeines Lexikon der Bildenden Künstler, 1907-50, VII, p 237.
5) Rather than the bird painter Charles Collins (d. 1744) mentioned by G. Vertue, Vertue Note Books (edited by The Earl of Ilchester), Walpole Society, III, pp 89, 122.
6) Family Memoirs of William Stukeley, ed. W. C. Lukis, I, p 59.
7) R. Gunnis, Dictionary of British Sculptors 1660-1851, 1953, pp 53-54, the only possible candidate at this date.
8) Family Memoirs of William Stukeley, ed. W. C. Lukis, I, p 60.
9) Ibid, pp 121-22.
10) NPG photographic library.
11) S. Piggott, William Stukeley, 1950 (6).
12) Family Memoirs of William Stukeley, ed. W. C. Lukis, I, pp 121, note 10.
13) Reproduced, S. Piggott, William Stukeley, 1950, frontispiece, collection Sir Hugh Stucley, Bart.
14) Family Memoirs of William Stukeley, ed. W. C. Lukis, I, pp 67, 131 and note 26; with Michael Hall Fine Arts, New York, 1976.
15) S. Piggott, William Stukeley, 1950 (2).
16) Family Memoirs of William Stukeley, ed. W. C. Lukis, III, p 492 (84).
17) S. Piggott, William Stukeley, 1950 (3).
18) Family Memoirs of William Stukeley, ed. W. C. Lukis, I, p 122.
19) Reproduced, Antiquity, IX, 1935 opposite p 22.
20) S. Piggott, William Stukeley, 1950 (7).
21) G. Scharf, A Catalogue of the Pictures Belonging to the Society of Antiquaries, 1865, pp 45-46. A new catalogue raisonné of their pictures is being undertaken by Dr Tudor-Craig, who also arrived at this attribution. The correspondence for 1829 is apparently missing.
22) II, p 186. The date of c.1804 provisionally given to the Harding MS has been queried by J. W. Goodison.
23) III, p 117.
24) Lydiard Park and Church, illustrated guide, c.1969, pp 30-31, (I). There is also a copy (37).
25) S. Piggott, William Stukeley, 1950 (4).
26) S. Piggott, William Stukeley, 1950 (5).
27) Family Memoirs of William Stukeley, ed. W. C. Lukis, I, p 305.
28) Dictionary of National Biography, XIX, p 129.
29) L. Binyon, Catalogue of drawings by British artists ... in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum, 1898-1907, IV, p 169.
30) Family Memoirs of William Stukeley, ed. W. C. Lukis, III, p 484.
31) R. Gunnis, Dictionary of British Sculptors 1660-1851, 1953, p 131.
32) Beauties, II, 1801.
33) S. Piggott, William Stukeley, 1950 (10).


This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Kerslake, Early Georgian Portraits, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1977, and is as published then. For the most up-to-date details on individual Collection works, we recommend reading the information provided in the Search the Collection results on this website in parallel with this text.