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 Carlo Pellegrini, published in Vanity Fair 13 May 1871 -NPG 2626 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Later Victorian Portraits Catalogue Search

Sir John Everett Millais, 1st Bt

by Carlo Pellegrini
Pencil and watercolour and gouache on blue paper, published in Vanity Fair 13 May 1871
12 in. x 7 3/8 in. (306 mm x 186 mm) overall
NPG 2626

Inscriptionback to top

Signed in pencil lower left-hand corner: ‘Ape’.

This portraitback to top

The print after this drawing was published in Vanity Fair on 13 May 1871, [1] at the time of the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition and habitual good reviews of Millais’s work. In the same month his handsome profile could be admired in an oil painting by George Frederic Watts exhibited at the same RA show (172, now NPG 3552).

Carlo Pellegrini (who drew under the name ‘Ape’), chief cartoonist for Vanity Fair, was not among Millais’s admirers. ‘Whistler’s work he adored and Millais’ he detested,’ wrote his colleague Leslie Ward. [2] So in this drawing, Pellegrini seems to have relished spoiling the sitter’s reputation by giving him a scowl and an aged silhouette. The moodiness is even more explicit in the print, drily captioned ‘A converted pre-Raphaelite’. [3] The accompanying biographical sketch (by Thomas Gibson Bowles) is kinder than the caricature; [4] Millais’s reactions are not recorded.

Pellegrini nursed ambitions to be a portrait painter, and Millais’s success represented a challenge. He left Vanity Fair twice in the 1870s in an attempt to change career, but without success. Ward wrote:

His intention was to outshine Millais, whom he found uncongenial as an artist, and whose work he prophesied would not survive a lifetime’s popularity. One of his favourite recreations was to discuss Millais and his success in relation to himself when he had gained fame as a painter. One day, on this subject, after working himself up into his customary excitement, he twisted a piece of paper into a funnel-shaped roll, and said to me:–‘Now Millais ambitions go in like this’ – pointing to the big end, ‘and become this’ – turning up the smaller end. ‘And mine begin small and go on…’ Here he opened his arms as if to embrace the infinite. [5]

The drawing was sold at Christie’s, 7 March 1912 (533), and bought by ‘Larkin’ for £19.19s.6d (19 guineas), a relatively high price at that sale. It was later offered for purchase to the National Portrait Gallery by Mr Charles Newman in June 1933, together with four other drawings for Vanity Fair, for a total of £15.15s, or an asking price of three guineas per drawing. [6]

For other caricatures of Millais, see ‘All known portraits, By other artists, 1852, 1853, publ.1857, 1862, publ.1873, 1883, publ.1889, early 1890s, 1916–17, c.1920’.

Carol Blackett-Ord

Footnotesback to top

1) The drawing is laid on a buff-coloured mount (516 x 355mm) with ruled margins and a label inscribed with the publication date: ‘Mr. J.E. Millais, R.A. / May 13, 1871.’
2) Ward 1915, p.112.
3) Published in reverse; repr. Matthews & Mellini 1982, p.74.
4) ‘Judged by himself he would be popular in any age, judged by his works he will be famous to all time’: Vanity Fair, 13 May 1871, p.187.
5) Ward 1915, p.113.
6) Charles Newman, 14 Helix Gardens, Brixton Hill, London SW2. Earlier in 1923 he sold eight other Vanity Fair drawings to the NPG.

Physical descriptionback to top

Three-quarter-length to left, head in profile, standing at easel (female figure on canvas), holding pipe in right hand and paint brush in left.

Provenanceback to top

Christie’s, 7 March 1912 (533); Larkin; Charles Newman, from whom purchased, June 1933.

Reproductionsback to top

Copies of the print after NPG 2626
Chromolithograph by Vincent Brooks, Day & Son, Vanity Fair, 1871; copies colls NPG 43483; and MEPL, London, 10061882.

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

View all known portraits for Carlo Pellegrini


Our channel

View a wide collection of video content on our YouTube channel from past projects to our latest films.

Sit back and watch

Artist and sitter interviews

Get insights into creating portraiture from BP Portrait Award 2020 artists and their sitters.

Explore behind the scenes

Sleeping Awake

Watch our film created to say ‘goodbye’ to the Gallery before we closed for our major transformation project.

Hear our story