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John Ward

1 portrait of John Ward

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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John Ward

by Joseph Samuel Webster
oil on canvas, circa 1755-1758
23 1/2 in. x 18 3/4 in. (597 mm x 476 mm)
Transferred from British Museum (originally given by Thomas Hollis), 1879
Primary Collection
NPG 590

Sitterback to top

  • John Ward (1679?-1758), Biographer and antiquary. Sitter in 1 portrait.

Artistback to top

  • Joseph Samuel Webster (1774-1796), Artist. Artist or producer associated with 14 portraits, Sitter in 4 portraits.

This portraitback to top

This portrait of John Ward was pre­sented to the British Museum by Thomas Hollis, Ward's friend and pupil, a few months after his death. Hollis mentions Joseph Webster, the little-known artist of this portrait, in his memoirs. The portrait retains its original frame and original tablet identifying the sitter. More detailed information on this portrait is available in a National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue, John Kerslake's Early Georgian Portraits (1977, out of print).

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Kerslake, John, Early Georgian Portraits, 1977, p. 293
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 642
  • Simon, Jacob, The Art of the Picture Frame: Artists, Patrons and the Framing of Portraits in Britain, 1997 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 8 November 1996 - 9 February 1997), p. 163 Read entry

    Carved and gilt pine, mitred and keyed. 3 3⁄ 4 inches wide.

    The frame and tablet are the originals made for the picture. Underneath the beautifully shaped tablet, which retains it original gilding and lettering, the curved moulding out of which the gadrooned sight edge was cut has been deliberately left untouched. In style, the frame, with its distinctive cabochon top edge, is not unlike some eighteenth-century Italian patterns of the Salvator Rosa or Maratta kind.1

    As the tablet proclaims, John Ward was a Doctor of Law, Professor of Rhetoric at Gresham College, Fellow of the Royal Society and of the Society of Antiquaries and Trustee of the British Museum. The portrait was given to the British Museum on 5 January 1759, less than three months after Ward's death, by his friend and pupil, the 'republican', Thomas Hollis.2

    As to the maker of the frame, his name is not known unless it be the obscure carver and gilder, Robert Tull, who made 'two frames carvd and Gilt in oile 4 book 21 leaves each' for a Mr Hollis at a cost of £5.5s in July 1756.3 Tull did subcontract work for Gosset, Jean Antoine Cuenot and Paul Petit and so is likely to have been a skilled carver. The portrait of Ward has recently been revealed to be by Joseph Webster, an artist almost as obscure as Robert Tull is a carver.4

    1 See, for example, Paul Mitchell, 'Italian Picture Frames 1500-1825: A Brief Survey', Furniture History, vol.XX, 1984, pl.28b. Similar frames can be found on George Stubbs's four scenes of Gentlemen Shooting of 1767-70 at the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven.

    2 British Museum, Committee Minutes, 1759.

    3 Robert Tull's account book, 1753-8, collection of the Hon. Christopher Lennox-Boyd.

    4 Memoirs of Thomas Hollis, Esq, 1780, vol.I, p 5.

Subjects & Themesback to top

Events of 1755back to top

Current affairs

George Grenville resigns as Treasurer of the Navy and Henry Bilson Legge as Chancellor of the Exchequer in protest over payments made to Russia to protect Hanover. William Pitt the Elder is dismissed from the position of Paymaster of the Forces.

Art and science

Samuel Johnson publishes his monumental Dictionary; the first authoritative dictionary of the English language.
Methodist preacher John Wesley publishes Notes on a New Testament.


An earthquake nearly completely destroys Lisbon, Portugal. The event is widely discussed by European Enlightenment thinkers, inspiring Voltaire's Candide. Its intensive study leads to the birth of modern seismology and earthquake engineering.
Edward Braddock fights French and Indian troops in the Ohio valley. His army are ambushed at Fort Duquesne and he is killed; one of several encounters prior to the declaration of the Seven Years War.

Tell us more back to top

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