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Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

Joseph Priestley (1733-1804), Theologian and scientist

‘Priestley’s likeness was being incessantly reproduced. In the houses of Dissenters it was a conspicuous ornament, and after he had given to the world his discovery of oxygen the resemblance of this great man, either as a full-size medallion, or as a bust, was largely bought by continental savants’ (E. Meteyard, Wedgwood, 1865, II p 451).

1762
Silhouette, bust (J. Yates, Memorials of Dr Priestley from the Christian Reformer, 1860, front., no.6 as 1762; illus. Proc. of the Leeds Philosophical Soc., II, XII, 1934, f.p.555).

c.1763-65
Unattributed painting, half length ‘The Leeds Portrait’). Royal Society (J. Yates, Memorials of Dr Priestley from the Christian Reformer, 1860, no.4; illus. N. H. Robinson, Royal Society Catalogue of Portraits, 1980, p 244; J. McLachlan, Joseph Priestley: iconography of a great Yorkshireman, 1983, p 16). Probably showing Priestley as tutor at the Warrington Academy. A version belongs to the Municipal Library, Warrington (illus. A. R. Orange, Priestley, 1976, p 11).

c.1779
Medallion by Giuseppe Ceracchi, with neckcloth, produced for the Wedgwood factory. Example Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pa. (illus. J. Yates, Memorials of Dr Priestley from the Christian Reformer, 1983, p 47; V. A. Livington, 'Joseph Priestley in the Public Eye: Reconstructing the Man through Portraits and Caricatures', Joseph Priestley in America 1794-1804, exhibition catalogue, Susquehanna and Carlisle, Pa., 1994, p 34). Manufactured in two sizes (cf. illus. R. Reilly and G. Savage, Wedgwood the Portrait Medallions,1973, p 283; Hermitage, English Art, 1979, no.246; V. A. Livington, 'Joseph Priestley in the Public Eye: Reconstructing the Man through Portraits and Caricatures', Joseph Priestley in America 1794-1804, exhibition catalogue, Susquehanna and Carlisle, Pa., 1994, p 35). A pink plaster medallion by Bemi in Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery relates closely.

The Wedgwood bust was the ultimate source of several essentially indifferent engravings, including those in the Westminster Mag. 1782, by W. Angus in the Literary Mag. 1792, G. Murray 1794, P. A. Tardieu (after 1804) and E. Mackenzie 1805.

Wedgwood medallion, remodelled from Ceracchi’s bust, probably by William Hackwood, showing an unbuttoned shirt collar. Used for larger medallions, as in the Brooklyn Museum of Art (illus. R. Reilly and G. Savage, Wedgwood the Portrait Medallions, 1973, p 284; R. Reilly, Wedgwood, 1989, p 123) and the source of an engraving by W. Bromley 1791 (illus. J. Yates, Memorials of Dr Priestley from the Christian Reformer, 1983, p 39).

c.1780-91
Plaster bust by P. Bemi. Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pa. (illus. V. A. Livington, 'Joseph Priestley in the Public Eye: Reconstructing the Man through Portraits and Caricatures', Joseph Priestley in America 1794-1804, exhibition catalogue, Susquehanna and Carlisle, Pa., 1994, p 34). Bemi at one time was Thomas Halliday’s assistant, and has been credited with the design of Halliday’s bust of Priestley, see NPG 175b.

1783
Painting by J. H. Fuseli, three-quarter length seated. Dr Williams’s Library, London (G. Schiff, Joseph Heinrich Füssli, ouevre kataloge, 1973, no.761). Engraved C. Turner 1836. A half-length pencil copy by Moses Haughton is in the British Museum (1888.12.11.5).

Medal by J. G. Hancock, bewigged bust with unbuttoned shirt collar (L. Brown, A Catalogue of British Historical Medals 1760-1960: The Accession of George III to the Death of William IV, 1980, no.251). A white metal example is in the NPG reference collection (D7057). A comparable bust recurs on a medal inscribed PRIESTLEY CITIZEN OF THE WORLD with on the reverse emblems of liberty (illus. V. A. Livington, 'Joseph Priestley in the Public Eye: Reconstructing the Man through Portraits and Caricatures', Joseph Priestley in America 1794-1804, exhibition catalogue, Susquehanna and Carlisle, Pa., 1994, p 42).

c.1783
Painting by John Opie, half length. Manchester College, Oxford. Engraved J. Caldwall 1801. Said to have been painted in the house of the publisher Joseph Johnson (J. Yates, Memorials of Dr Priestley from the Christian Reformer, 1860, no.12; H. C. Bolton, 'The Likenesses of Priestley in oil, ink, marble and metal', in Scientific Correspondence of Joseph Priestley, 1892, p 174). A bust-length copy in the Brompton Hospital, London.

1789
Miniature by John Hazlitt, engraved W. Nutter 1789 (J. Yates, Memorials of Dr Priestley from the Christian Reformer, 1860, no.14; illus. J. Yates, Memorials of Dr Priestley from the Christian Reformer, 1983, p45).

Painting by James Millar, half length. Royal Society (illus. N. H. Robinson, Royal Society Catalogue of Portraits, 1980, p 247; J. Yates, Memorials of Dr Priestley from the Christian Reformer, 1983, p 25). Exhibited RA 1790 (172). Version by Millar, with his right hand tucked into his waistcoat, Manchester College, Oxford (illus. Illustrated Catalogue of Portraits of English historical personages who died between 1714 and 1837, exhibited in the Examination Schools, Oxford, 1906, f.p.74).

1794
Medal by William Phipson, see NPG 175a.

Painting by William Artaud, half-length seated. Dr Williams’s Library, London (J. Yates, Memorials of Dr Priestley from the Christian Reformer, 1860, no.15; illus. J. Yates, Memorials of Dr Priestley from the Christian Reformer, 1983, p 27). Presumably the portrait exhibited RA 1794 (315). Engraved T. Holloway 1795. A small copy with the Royal Society (illus. N. H. Robinson, Royal Society Catalogue of Portraits, 1980, p 247). A drawing by Peter Holland, similar but inferior to the Artaud portrait, was with Thomas Thornely, Liverpool, in 1860 (H. C. Bolton, 'The Likenesses of Priestley in oil, ink, marble and metal', in Scientific Correspondence of Joseph Priestley, 1892, p 177).

In America
c.1797
Pastel by James Sharples, oval half-length profile. Sotheby’s, 22 April 1982, lot 97. Engraved anon. 1804 (for Priestley’s Notes on Scripture), anon. 1805 (oval). J. Yates, Memorials of Dr Priestley from the Christian Reformer, 1860, no.18 described a ‘profile of Priestley in crayons, belonging to his sister, and in a letter to Miss Eaton (James Taylor's step-sister, 13 December 1860; NPG archive) said it had belonged to his father and was probably bought by James Taylor.

Pastels by James and Ellen Sharples, see NPG 175 and NPG 2904.

c.1800
Painting by Gilbert Stuart, half length. Private collection, Portugal (illus. Retratos ingleses em Portugal, II, Lisbon, 1969, no.22; J. Yates, Memorials of Dr Priestley from the Christian Reformer, 1983, p 32). Commissioned by the American Philosophical Society, Pa., but sold by the artist to T. B. Barclay, a Liverpool merchant, and said to have been completed in England by William Artaud (J. Yates, Memorials of Dr Priestley from the Christian Reformer, 1860, no.20; H. C. Bolton, 'The Likenesses of Priestley in oil, ink, marble and metal', in Scientific Correspondence of Joseph Priestley, 1892, pp 177-80; L. Park, Gilbert Stuart, 1926, II, no.680), who made several copies. Engraved J. Partridge 1806 and 1815, W. Holl 1835 (when in Barclay’s collection), C. Cook 1859, A. Rosenthal 1921 (illus. V. A. Livington, 'Joseph Priestley in the Public Eye: Reconstructing the Man through Portraits and Caricatures', Joseph Priestley in America 1794-1804, exhibition catalogue, Susquehanna and Carlisle, Pa., 1994, p 33). Reduced copies include those in Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (732’40), Warrington Museum & Art Gallery, and Yale University Art Gallery. A miniature, evidently based on the Stuart portrait, belongs to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museums Commissions (illus. V. A. Livington, 'Joseph Priestley in the Public Eye: Reconstructing the Man through Portraits and Caricatures', Joseph Priestley in America 1794-1804, exhibition catalogue, Susquehanna and Carlisle, Pa., 1994, p 32). Yates 1860 lists two copies by Artaud and two other 'small copies' (nos.21-24).

c.1801
Painting by Rembrandt Peale, half-length painted oval. New-York Historical Society (illus. L. B. Miller, In Pursuit of fame: Rembrandt Peale, exhibition catalogue, NPG Washington, 1992, p 49). Replicas with American Philosophical Society, Pa., and Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pa. (illus. V. A. Livington, 'Joseph Priestley in the Public Eye: Reconstructing the Man through Portraits and Caricatures', Joseph Priestley in America 1794-1804, exhibition catalogue, Susquehanna and Carlisle, Pa., 1994, p 32). Engraved J. Reich before 1892. In 1804 C. W. Peale’s Philadelphia Museum contained a portrait of Priestley among the ‘two rows of Portraits of distinguished Personages, painted from the life, by C. W. Peale and his Son Rembrandt’ (Charles Willson Peale, Selected papers, II, 2, 1988, p 763).

Posthumous
1804
Memorial medals by William Phipson and Thomas Halliday, see NPG 175a & 175b.

Medallion by Peter Rouw for the Priestley memorial tablet. Five Ways, Edgbaston, Birmingham (J. Yates, Memorials of Dr Priestley from the Christian Reformer, 1860, no.49; illus. J. Yates, Memorials of Dr Priestley from the Christian Reformer, 1983, p 50). Based on Ceracchi’s Wedgwood medallion of c.1779. Plaster versions in Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery and Dr Williams’s Library, London.

1807
Miniature by Ellen Sharples, exhibited RA 1807 (920), see NPG 175.

1849
Imitation cameo by Mary Anne Nichols, exhibited Royal Society if British Artists 1849 (553).

1867
Medallion by William Waite, exhibited Birmingham Midland Institute, April 1867 (H. C. Bolton, 'The Likenesses of Priestley in oil, ink, marble and metal', in Scientific Correspondence of Joseph Priestley, 1892, p 192).

1888
Medal, centenary of the church of the Messiah Sunday schools, with draped busts of Priestley (based on Hancock’s medal of 1783) and Dr Henry Crosskey (L. Brown, A Catalogue of British Historical Medals 1760-1960: The Reign of Queen Victoria, 1987, no.3362).

Later statues include those by E. B. Stephens 1860 (Oxford Museum History of Science); F. J. Williamson 1874 (Chamberlain Square, Birmingham; a small plaster replica with the Institute of Chemistry, London, and a plaster modello in Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery); by Alfred Drury 1899 (City Square, Leeds; a reduced bronze version in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford); by Frances Darlington 1912 (Market Place, Birstall, Yorkshire; a model in Huddersfield Art Gallery and a plaster belongs to Warrington Corporation); by Gilbert Bayes 1915 (Institute of Chemistry, London). A stone head by W.B. Fagan 1928 is on the ICI Building, Millbank, London.

Priestley appears in the Warrington stained glass window of 1896 at Manchester College, Oxford.

Doubtful Portraits
A silhouette called the Priestley Family, sold Phillips, 18 April 1978, lot 55. Drawing by H. D. Hamilton, half length oval wearing a bonnet, Huntington Art Collections, San Marino, Calif. (63.52.94).



This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Ingamells, National Portrait Gallery: Mid-Georgian Portraits 1760-1790, National Portrait Gallery, 2004, 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.