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John Baskerville

John Baskerville, by James Millar, based on a work of 1774 -NPG 1394 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue

John Baskerville

after James Millar
based on a work of 1774
28 3/4 in. x 23 1/2 in. (730 mm x 597 mm)
NPG 1394

This portraitback to top

NPG 1394 is a version of the one known portrait of Baskerville by James Millar of Birmingham (fl. 1771-90), and although no references are known in the sitter's lifetime, the pedigree of the original can be traced to his family. The type was engraved as Baskerville by Rothwell, probably T. Rothwell of Birmingham (d. 1807), and is one of four known versions.
The first is the Millar portrait signed and dated 1774 presented, 1940, to Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery [1] by the Rev. A. H. Caldicott, a descendant of Knott's successor on the Birmingham Gazette. It had been bought by Knott at the sale of the sitter's step­daughter Mrs Ruston some time before 1825. [2] A copy by Raven, engraved by Lee and Craig for Hansard, c.1825, [3] is possibly the signed miniature by Samuel Raven (1775-1847) on the lid of a japanned papier-maché box transferred from the Midland Institute to Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery c.1958 [4]. The box itself is known as the work of Henry Clay (d. 1812). A further copy 'passed into the possession of Mr Joseph Parkes', [5] formerly of Birmingham, some years before 1861 [6] but is not mentioned in the sale of his pictures, Christie's, 8 May 1858. It may be either NPG 1394 or the copy that appeared at Christie's, 30 July 1965, lot 338, as Garrick by Gainsborough. The last version, clearly a copy when compared with the Ruston portrait of 1744, belonged to the publishers Longman's by 1852 [7] when ascribed to Gainsborough or 'Exteth, pupil of Hogarth'. [8] In 1855 it was in the care of Bennet Woodcroft, clerk to the commissioners of patents, and transferred from the Patent Office to the Science Museum in 1883.
R. Straus, after seeing the Ruston portrait, suggested that NPG 1394 was possibly a copy by Raven [9] but this artist is not known to have painted life size.

Footnotesback to top

1) Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery, Catalogue of Paintings, 1960, p 102; exhibited 'Bicentenary of the Lunar Society', Birmingham, 1966 (4).
2) T. C. Hansard, Typographia, 1825, pp xii-xiii.
3) T. C. Hansard, Typographia, 1825, reproduced opposite p 310.
4) 'John Baskerville, Printer', Birmingham University Library, 1955 (35).
5) Probably John Parkes, advocate of radical reform (1796-1865).
6) Notes and Queries, 2nd series, XII, 1861, p 304.
7) Ibid, 1st series, V, 1852, p 355.
8) Ibid, 2nd series, III, 1857, p 19.
9) Letter to Milner, 24 February 1907, NPG archives.

Physical descriptionback to top

Pale blue eyes, protruding lower lip, double chin, fresh complexion, short grey wig with two rows of curls; plain white neck-cloth and wrist ruffles, dark brown collarless velvet coat, unbuttoned, edged with lighter brown; his hands, right over left, rest on the head of a black stick; red velvet chair; dark greyish-brown background lit from top left.

Conservationback to top

Considerable retouchings in the face, especially on the right of his chin.

Provenanceback to top

Bought, 1905, from W. Gilbert of London; previous history unknown but possibly the copy once owned by Joseph Parkes.

Reproductionsback to top

Engraved by Rothwell, without sitter's name; the plate for the engraving was apparently 'bought at Richardson's in London in 1813'. [1]

1) Notes and Queries, 2nd series, XII, p 304.


This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Kerslake, Early Georgian Portraits, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1977, 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.

View all known portraits for John Baskerville

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