Mary Wilkes; John Wilkes
- Extended Catalogue Entry
© National Portrait Gallery, London
Mary Wilkes; John Wilkes
by Johan Joseph Zoffany
oil on canvas, exhibited 1782
49 3/4 in. x 39 1/2 in. (1264 mm x 1003 mm)
Purchased with help from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund, 1991
Sittersback to top
Artistback to top
- Johan Joseph Zoffany (1733-1810), Painter of portraits and conversation pieces. Artist or producer associated with 46 portraits, Sitter associated with 11 portraits.
This portraitback to top
John Wilkes, the radical politician, was arrested in 1763 under a general warrant against his anti-government newspaper The North Briton, for an attack on the king's speech on peace with France. After his release he fled to France and was expelled from the House of Commons and outlawed for publishing libels. Three times re-elected MP for Middlesex but his elections annulled, he finally took his seat in 1774. Mary Wilkes (or Polly, as she was known), was Wilkes's only child by his estranged wife, Mary Meade. He was deeply attached to his daughter, who never married but inherited her mother's substantial fortune. Horace Walpole viewed this portrait in Zoffany's studio in 1779 and pronounced it to be 'horridly like'. He commented that Wilkes was '...squinting tenderly at his daughter - it is a caricature of the Devil acknowledging Miss Sin...' . The dog, Roma, a white German spitz, belonged to the artist and appears in others of his paintings, including that of The Sharp Family.
Linked publicationsback to top
- Audio Guide
- Smartify image discovery app
- Cooper, John, A Guide to the National Portrait Gallery, 2009, p. 32 Read entry
Horace Walpole commented acidly that the radical politician and journalist Wilkes was ‘squinting tenderly at his daughter – it is a caricature of the Devil acknowledging Miss Sin’.
- Gibson, Robin, The Face in the Corner: Animal Portraits from the Collections of the National Portrait Gallery, 1998, p. 17
- Ingamells, John, National Portrait Gallery: Mid-Georgian Portraits 1760-1790, 2004, p. 484
- Ribeiro, Aileen, The Gallery of Fashion, 2000, p. 133
- Ribeiro, Aileen; Blackman, Cally, A Portrait of Fashion: Six Centuries of Dress at the National Portrait Gallery, 2015, p. 143
- Robin Gibson, Pets in Portraits, 2015, p. 33
- Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 662
Subjects & Themesback to top
Events of 1782back to top
Current affairsFrederick North, 2nd Earl of Guilford resigns as Prime Minister over recent setbacks in America and is succeeded by Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of Rockingham who takes office for the second time. Rockingham dies on 1 July and is succeeded by William Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelburne.
Repeal of Poynings Law and Declaratory Act of 1720 gives virtual legislative autonomy to Ireland.
Art and scienceAfter a poor reception in the mid 1770s, actress Sarah Siddons makes a triumphant return to the Drury Lane Theatre, London in the title role of Isabella, or, The Fatal Marriage. She will become the century's best known tragic actress.
Clergyman and artist William Gilpin publishes Observations on the River Wye; a central text in the formulation of the concept of the picturesque.
InternationalAmerican War of Independence: Siege of Gibraltar reaches a climax in the Grand Assault but French and Spanish forces are unsuccessful. Britain loses Minorca prompting the Prime Minister, Lord Rockingham, to open peace talks with the Americans. Thomas Grenville is sent to Paris to negotiate with Benjamin Franklin.
Paper manufacturer Joseph Montgolfier sends a hot-air balloon 1000 meters into the air, in front of a crowd in the Ardèche in France.
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