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Sir John Everett Millais, 1st Bt

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Sir John Everett Millais, 1st Bt

by David Wilkie Wynfield
albumen print, 1860s
8 1/4 in. x 6 3/8 in. (210 mm x 162 mm)
Purchased, 1929
Primary Collection

Sitterback to top

  • Sir John Everett Millais, 1st Bt (1829-1896), Painter and President of the Royal Academy; ex-officio Trustee of the National Portrait Gallery. Sitter in 76 portraits, Artist associated with 41 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • David Wilkie Wynfield (1837-1887), Painter and photographer. Artist associated with 34 portraits, Sitter in 2 portraits.

This portraitback to top

Alongside his immediate colleagues, Wynfield photographed key members of the wider artistic community, including the leading Pre-Raphaelite artists, Millais and Holman Hunt. His portrait of Millais in the role of Dante, seen here, was particularly convincing. Yet, in the words of the contemporary critic Tom Taylor, in time, the 'masquerade character' of the works created unease about their documentary worth, which obscured their serious agenda. However, a recent reassessment of Wynfield's body of photographs has rediscovered their ideological purpose. This new appraisal indicates how together they communicate a sense of bohemian solidarity, while celebrating in literal terms a shared artistic ethos that proclaims the Victorian artists' empathy with their historical forebears.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Hacking, Juliet, Princes of Victorian Bohemia: Photographs by David Wilkie Wynfield, 2000 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 28 February to 14 May 2000), p. 69
  • Marsh, Jan, The Pre-Raphaelite Circle, 2013, p. 34 Read entry

    When Wynfield persuaded leading painters of the day to pose in period costume for his sequence 'Living Artists, Taken in the Style of the Old Masters', he chose to photograph Millais in the character of Dante - an allusion to the inspiration of the PRB and the sharp profiles of early Italian portraiture.

  • Marsh, Jan, Insights: The Pre-Raphaelite Circle, 2005, p. 34
  • Rogers, Malcolm, Camera Portraits, 1989 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 20 October 1989 - 21 January 1990), p. 67 Read entry

    One of the original members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (1848), Millais' artistic career is a classic example of the young revolutionary who turns with artistic recognition and material success into a pillar of the establishment. This photograph was taken about the year of his election to the Royal Academy, when the hostility aroused by his early works such as Christ in the Carpenter's Shop (1849-50, Tate Gallery, London) was long forgotten.

    David Wilkie Wynfield, nephew of the painter Sir David Wilkie, was himself a painter, and one of the founders of the St John's Wood Clique, a group of young artists devoted to preserving the tradition of genre painting. He took up photography in the early 1860s, and photographed many of his artist friends, usually in fancy dress evocative of the Renaissance period, and appropriate to the character of the sitter. Millais is presented in a way which recalls the poet Dante, in profile, wearing a laurel wreath, and clutching a book to his breast. Wynfield gave at least one lesson in photography to Julia Margaret Cameron, who wrote of his influence on her: 'To my feeling about his beautiful Photography I owed all my attempts and indeed consequently all my success'.

    This print is one of more than thirty photographs by Wynfield owned by the Gallery. It once belonged to the writer Sir Edmund Gosse.

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 430

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1860back to top

Current affairs

An early feminist movement, The Society for Promoting the Employment of Women is founded by Adelaide Anne Proctor, Emily Faithfull, Helen Blackburn, Bessie Parks, Emily Davies, Barbara Bodichon, and Jessie Boucherett.
The Florence Nightingale Training School for Nurses opens at St Thomas's Hospital, in London, funded from the testimonial fund collected for Nightingale following her war services, and helping to establish nursing as a profession.

Art and science

William Morris and new wife Jane Burden move into the Red House, near Bexleyheath, Kent. The house, designed by Philip Webb, represents Morris's principle in interior design, that no object should be in a house that is not beautiful.
Ford Madox Brown paints The Last of England, showing a boat of emigrants leaving England under desperate circumstances, inspired by the emigration of the Pre-Raphaelite Thomas Woolner to Australia in 1852.


Italian unification continues as the Treaty of Turin brings much of Northern Italy under nationalist leader Cavour's control, who cedes Savoy and Nice to France. Garibaldi siezes the opportunity to invade Marsala in Sicily with his army of 1,000 redshirts, proclaiming himself dictator in the name of Victor Emmanuel II.
Republican Abraham Lincoln becomes President of the US, with only 39% of the popular vote.

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