Sir John Everett Millais, 1st Bt
3 of 33 portraits by Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm, 1st Bt
- Extended catalogue entry
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
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.  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.  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),  and the Leech statuette (1862–3),  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.  In 1877 he also commissioned a marble fountain in the form of a seal from the sculptor, for his new house in Palace Gate.  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’. 
The plaster statuette was given to the National Portrait Gallery by the Assistant Keeper, James Milner, in November 1908.  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.  A pair of bronze statuettes is still in the Millais family collection. 
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