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Later Stuart Portraits Catalogue

Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723), Architect and scientist

c.1673
Marble bust by Edward Pearce. Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, given to the University 1737 by the sitter’s son who described it as made c.1673 - when Wren was appointed architect to the new St Paul’s and knighted (Mrs R. L. Poole, Catalogue of Portraits in the possession of the University, Colleges, City and County of Oxford, I, p 90, no.224; N. Penny, Catalogue of European Sculpture in the Ashmolean Museum …, III, 1992, pp 144-45. Whinney (M. Whinney, Sculpture in Britain 1530 to 1830, 1964, p 255) described it as ‘probably the best piece of sculpture made by an Englishman in the Century’, but such quality, otherwise unmatched in Pearce’s work, led Penny (loc. cit.) to question whether it might not have been copied from a lost French work (possibly by Coysevox and perhaps in terracotta). Pearce was described as ‘a great assistant of’ Wren, ‘much employd by [him] in his Carvings and designs’ (G. Vertue, Notebooks, Wal. Soc., XVIII, 1930, p 69; Wal. Soc., XXVI, 1938, p 9).
Two 18th-century copies, one in marble, the other in plaster, in the RIBA. Casts at All Souls College, Oxford (Mrs R. L. Poole, Catalogue of Portraits in the possession of the University, Colleges, City and County of Oxford, II, p 188, no.26), exhibited Age of Charles II, RA, 1960, no.85, and Sir Christopher Wren, Whitechapel Art Gallery, 1982, no.I:2, and Trinity College, Oxford (Mrs R. L. Poole, Catalogue of Portraits in the possession of the University, Colleges, City and County of Oxford, III, p 130, no.36); a third taken c.1830 was formerly at the Athenaeum (H. Tait & R. Walker, The Athenaeum Collection, 2000, no.940).

c.1690?
Boxwood relief attributed to Grinling Gibbons, bust-length. RIBA (illus. D. Green, Grinling Gibbons, 1964, fig.17). Exhibited Sir Christopher Wren, Whitechapel Art Gallery, 1982, no.I:6.

c.1695
Painting by John Closterman, three-quarter-length standing, in his right hand a diagram of the rectification of the cycloid (the curve produced by a point on a rolling circle), with a view of the incomplete St Paul’s beyond. Royal Society, presented by the sitter’s grandson 1750 (N. H. Robinson, The Royal Society Catalogue of Portraits, 1980, pp 332-33, illus.; M. Rogers, ‘John and John Baptist Closterman: a catalogue of their works’, Wal. Soc., XLIX, 1983, no.108, pl.40). Exhibited Age of Charles II, RA, 1960, no.215 and Sir Christopher Wren, Whitechapel Art Gallery, 1982, no.I:3. Engraved posthumously E. Kirkall as a bust-length oval surrounded by symbolic figures and architectural details (illus. Wren Soc., I, 1924, pl.1); the design of the plate based on a drawing by Henry Cooke (Boymans Museum, Rotterdam; illus. J. D. Stewart, Godfrey Kneller, 1983, pl.115g, D107 as a rejected Kneller attribution). A copy by Alfred Edmund Dyer c.1930 from the Government Art Collection is at the Chelsea Royal Hospital. A watercolour copy by G. P. Harding was sold Christie’s, 18 October 1977, lot 9.

c.1702-20
Painting by Antonio Verrio, completed by Godfrey Kneller and James Thornhill, whole-length seated, a plan of St Paul’s in his left hand, pointing to a globe with his right; beyond, a view across the Thames to the City of London, inscribed: HANC TABULAM INVENIT & INCIPIT ANTON:VERRIO, PERFECERUNT GOTHOFREDUS KNELLER & JAC: THORNHILL EQUITES. Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford (Mrs R. L. Poole, Catalogue of Portraits in the possession of the University, Colleges, City and County of Oxford, I, pp 133-34, no.333). Exhibited Sir Christopher Wren, Whitechapel Art Gallery, 1982, no.I:5. A reduced copy by Joseph Smith 1828 at Wadham College, Oxford (R. L. Poole, Catalogue of Portraits in the possession of the University, Colleges, City and County of Oxford, III, pp 221-22, no.40; illus. L. Weaver, Sir Christopher Wren, 1923, pl.xiii); another sold Christie’s South Kensington, 18 September 1984, lot 10.

1711
Painting by Godfrey Kneller, see NPG 113.

1713
Engraving by J. Smith 1713 (J. Chaloner Smith, British Mezzotinto Portraits, 283), bust-length oval. Closely derived from NPG 113, reversed, showing coat buttons.

c.1720
Ivory medallion by David Le Marchand, see NPG 4500.

1723
Death mask at All Souls College, Oxford (R. L. Poole, Catalogue of Portraits in the possession of the University, Colleges, City and County of Oxford, II, p 188, no.27).

Colley Cibber owned an unspecified portrait of Wren (G. Vertue, Notebooks, Wal. Soc., XXIV, 1936 p 165) and William Stukeley drew his profile (Surtees Soc., LXXX, 1885, iii, p 485).

Posthumous
The many posthumous images include:
c.1756
Plaster bust by John Cheere. All Souls College, Oxford (R. L. Poole, Catalogue of Portraits in the possession of the University, Colleges, City and County of Oxford, II, pp 204-05, no.87; T. Friedman & T. Clifford, The Man at Hyde Park Corner, exhibition catalogue, Temple Newsam, Leeds, and Marble Hill, Twickenham, 1974, p 21 and appendix B), commissioned as one of a set for the Codrington Library in 1750.

c.1775-80
Wax by John Flaxman. Trinity College, Cambridge (E. J. Pyke, A Biographical Dictionary of Wax Modellers, 1973, p 48). A second wax by Samuel Percy was sold Christie’s, 31 January 1800 (E. J. Pyke, A Biographical Dictionary of Wax Modellers, 1973, p 104).

Farington, 30 June 1804, mentioned a monument to Wren to be erected in St Paul’s ‘at the expense of the Architects’, but nothing resulted.

Nineteenth-century busts of Wren include those by Paul Nixon 1823 (Academy of Arts, Carlisle) and the medallion by W. Wilson and B. Wyon 1846 for the Art Union Medal (L. Brown, A Catalogue of British Historical Medals 1760-1960, The Accession of George III to the Death of William IV, 1980, no.2232; an example NPG D2934); Wilson exhibited an impression, RA 1845, no.1311.

Nineteenth- and twentieth-century statues of Wren include those by J. B. Philip c.1866-72 in the frieze of the podium of the Albert Memorial; by Edward Stephens 1873 on the façade of Burlington House; by Oliver Wheatley 1909 on the south façade of the Victoria and Albert Museum, and a bronze statuette by Henry Poole 1925 (exhibited RA 1925, no.1333).

Wren appears in Great Artists of Chelsea painted by Frank Salisbury 1910-13 in Chelsea Town Hall (a sketch for which was sold Christie’s, 4 November 1994, lot 78).

Doubtful Portraits
Unattributed painting, small whole-length figure, not at all resembling Wren but surrounded with emblems of his career: an elevation of St Paul’s in his left hand; a bust of Charles II on an inscribed pedestal to the right; to the left a mask of Medusa and a distant view of the fire of London. Welbeck, Harley Foundation (R. W. Goulding, Catalogue of Pictures belonging to … the Duke of Portland …, C. K. Adams ed., 1936, no.473; illus. L. Weaver, Sir Christopher Wren, 1923, pl.iv; Wren Soc., II, 1925, front.). The monochrome coat of arms on the right, party per pale, shows in the right segment a chevron betw. three lion’s heads erased (cf. NPG 4500).

An unattributed painting three-quarter-length standing, right elbow on ledge, left hand on hip, sold Christie’s, 10 June 1960, lot 58; previously offered to the NPG in 1859 bearing Kneller’s signature (Sir George Scharf’s Trustees’ Sketch Books, 2:91).

Another unattributed, three-quarter-length, seated, a folded document in his left hand, right hand on hip, sold Christie’s, 12 July 1991, lot 150 (illus.Connoisseur, XXXI, 1911, p 201).

Unattributed painting, three-quarter-length standing, right elbow resting on ledge. See Talman c.1700.



This extended catalogue entry is from the National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Ingamells, National Portrait Gallery: Later Stuart Portraits 1685-1714, National Portrait Gallery, 2009, 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.