Sir John Everett Millais, 1st Bt
- Extended catalogue entry
Sir John Everett Millais, 1st Bt
by David Wilkie Wynfield
Albumen print , 1860s
8 1/4 in. x 6 3/8 in. (210 mm x 162 mm)
Inscriptionback to top
On mount below print, photographic facsimile of sitter’s autograph.
This portraitback to top
This photograph was created during the 1860s for the series of artists portrayed in historical and contemporary costume by David Wilkie Wynfield, many of which were released for sale from March 1864 under the title The Studio: A Collection of Photographic Portraits of Living Artists, taken in the style of the Old Masters, by an Amateur. It was not, however, included in the group of artists’ portraits registered by Wynfield in December 1863. The sitter is posed as Dante Alighieri (1265–1321). Giotto’s profile of the Italian poet, in a fresco in the Bargello, Florence of c.1300, is the only known contemporary image and it was the basis for many fourteenth- and fifteenth-century versions. But during the nineteenth century it was Botticelli’s profile of c.1495 that became the enduring image,  and it is to this that Wynfield refers in his photograph of Millais.
Although it would have been familiar in the nineteenth century from numerous reproductive images, Botticelli’s painting, or a copy of it, was in England in the 1850s. Alexander Munro borrowed it from an unnamed collector, and Arthur Hughes traced it for his watercolour copy around 1855. Hughes’s drawing was owned by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and now belongs to the National Gallery, London.  In any case Wynfield and his contemporaries knew the type well. What is interesting, in the context of Wynfield’s work, is that the choice of pose adopted for Millais – leading Pre-Raphaelite and not a member of the St John’s Wood Clique – is different from most of the others in the series. Whereas the others are mainly generic, sixteenth- or early seventeenth-century types, Millais has been portrayed as a specific, revered literary personage from an earlier age, albeit with a Botticelli gloss. There is no clear reason to link Millais with Dante – he did not paint or illustrate specifically dantesque subjects. However, he had a famous profile and, with eyes downcast, whiskers tucked under the felted hood and clasping a book, the image was likely to satisfy a range of period cultural prerequisites.
Additional prints of the Millais image are in the National Media Museum, Bradford (2003-5001_2_20164); Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (1978P429); The Royal Academy of Arts, London (03/4255) and another print mounted on card; the Royal Photographic Society, Bath (1999p); the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (125-1945); Tel Aviv Museum of Art (repr. Waggoner 2010, no.53). A Wynfield Millais print was sold at Bonhams, 18/19 June 2002 (695).
See NPG collection P70–P100
Footnotesback to top
Physical descriptionback to top
Head-and-shoulders to right, head in profile with hood and laurel wreath, clasping book in right hand.
Provenanceback to top
Sir Edmund Gosse; purchased from the Gosse family, 1929.
Exhibitionsback to top
Through the Looking Glass: Photography and the Pre-Raphaelite Movement, Manchester City Art Gallery, 1986 (69).
Princes of Victorian Bohemia: Photographs by David Wilkie Wynfield, NPG, London, 2000 (27).
The Pre-Raphaelites, Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, 2009 (12).
Reproductionsback to top
Reproductions of NPG P79
Hacking 2000, p.69, pl.27.
Ahlund 2009, no.12.
Reproduction of another copy of this image
Waggoner et al. 2010, no.53.
Help us conserve a portrait of a female adventurer, poet and medical pioneer