The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. Search over 215,000 works, 150,000 of which are illustrated from the 16th Century to the present day.

Advanced Collection search

Sir John Everett Millais, 1st Bt

Sir John Everett Millais, 1st Bt, by Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm, 1st Bt, 1863 -NPG 1516 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Later Victorian Portraits Catalogue Search

Sir John Everett Millais, 1st Bt

by Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm, 1st Bt
Plaster cast of statuette, 1863
21 1/16 in. 535 mm overall
NPG 1516

Inscriptionback to top

Signed on plaster base, by left foot: ‘… [illegible] … Boehm’;
inscr. front of plaster base: ‘John Everett Millais’.

This portraitback to top

‘In 1863 Sir Edgar Boehm, R.A. modelled the statuette which is regarded in some measure as a companion to that which he wrought of Thackeray,’ wrote M.H. Spielmann in 1898 in his memoir of John Everett Millais. [1] He was referring to the terracotta statuette which, together with its pendant of Effie Millais, and an independent one of John Leech, was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1863. [2] NPG 1516 is a plaster cast of the exhibited version.

W.M. Thackeray and John Leech were key figures in the commission. Both had begun sitting to Boehm in 1862, the year of his arrival in England. The influential Thackeray statuette (completed in 1864 with encouragement from Millais), [3] and the Leech statuette (1862–3), [4] together with Boehm’s reputation as an innovator working in the continental tradition, were contributing factors to the Millais commission. He continued to sit to Boehm, and there were busts made in 1871 and 1882. [5] In 1877 he also commissioned a marble fountain in the form of a seal from the sculptor, for his new house in Palace Gate. [6] The four statuettes, of Thackeray, Leech and the Millais couple, were in terracotta, Boehm’s favoured medium, and all of a height, about 20–21 inches. Leech, Millais’s close friend in the 1850s, had introduced him to field sports and Boehm was an excellent modeller of horses.

The Hungarian Joseph Edgar Boehm was born in Vienna and studied in Italy and Paris. He became sculptor-in-ordinary to Queen Victoria in 1880 and was created a baronet in 1889. Referring to the terracotta, Millais’s son confused the Hungarian with another famous sculptor, Carlo Marochetti, stating that ‘in 1863 appeared the fine statuette by Marochetti, along with one of my mother, modelled by him at the same time’. [7]

The plaster statuette was given to the National Portrait Gallery by the Assistant Keeper, James Milner, in November 1908. [8] Its earlier history is unknown. The original terracotta is untraced; a bronze version (with its pendant of Effie Millais) was at Sotheby’s in November 1977. [9] A pair of bronze statuettes is still in the Millais family collection. [10]

Carol Blackett-Ord

Footnotesback to top

1) Spielmann 1898, pp.47–8.
2) Exh. RA 1863 (1102); untraced.
3) For a plaster cast of Boehm’s statuette of Thackeray, see NPG 1282
4) Stocker 1986; and Stocker 1988, pp.12, 56.
5) Terracotta bust, 1871, V&A, London, 1774-1892; and another version in the possession of the Millais family. A plaster version of the 1882 bust, V&A, London, 1773-1892.
6) Stocker 1988, p.312.
7) Millais 1899, vol.2, p.218. In fact Marochetti did sculpt a bust of Effie Millais, c.1860; see Stocker 1988, ill. no.32. And his London studio was inherited by Boehm.
8) James Donald Milner joined the NPG in 1893, was appointed Clerk 1895, Acting Assistant Keeper 1896 and Director 1916–27.
9) Sotheby’s, Belgravia, 16 Nov. 1977 (43, 44), from the collection of Sir Ralph Regnault Millais.
10) Stocker 1988, p.397. The statuettes were cast in an edition of four only.

Physical descriptionback to top

Whole-length, head to right, right hand on pedestal, left hand in pocket.

Conservationback to top

Conserved, 1995.

Provenanceback to top

Given by James Donald Milner, 1908.

View all known portraits for Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm, 1st Bt

View all known portraits for Sir John Everett Millais, 1st Bt


Scientific techniques

Watch our playlist exploring scientific techniques used by the Gallery to unlock the secrets behind our Tudor portraits.

Watch now

Subjects and themes

Search the collection by themes - from pets to weddings!

Discover the Collection

Black History Month

Take a tour exploring our Collection created by Alayo Akinkugbe for Black History Month in 2020.

Take the tour

A Picture of Health

Learn about pioneers in medicine, health and social reform from 1840 to 1920.

Explore the timeline