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

First Previous 8 OF 92 NextLast

James Spedding

8 of 92 portraits by George Frederic Watts

James Spedding, by George Frederic Watts, circa 1853 -NPG 2059 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Early Victorian Portraits Catalogue

James Spedding

by George Frederic Watts
circa 1853
19 3/4 in. x 12 5/8 in. (502 mm x 321 mm)
NPG 2059

Inscriptionback to top

Inscribed on a label formerly on the back of the backboard: To our executors/After our death we have/promised that this drawing/by Watts of James Spedding/shall be given to the National Portrait/Gallery - S F and Isabel Spedding

This portraitback to top

In a letter of 15 July 1908 (NPG archives), Miss Sarah Spedding wrote:

'This one is merely a head - face ¾ profile - it is an admirable likeness and a singularly fine drawing - and its history is as follows. Mr Watts begged my uncle to let him 'have his head or face' for one of the philosophers in the large fresco in Lincolns Inn Hall - where the result can be seen. The drawing which he made as a study for the picture he gave to the late Mrs Charles Hoy Cameron - a common friend - she left it to Sir Henry Taylor expressing a wish that after his death it should be ours. He sent it to me himself not long before his death.'
This letter was prompted by the offer to the NPG of a drawing of Spedding by Watts from the collection of Mrs Catherine Donne; this drawing turned out to be a reproduction of NPG 2059, and is now in the NPG archives. In a second letter of 5 August 1908 (NPG archives), Miss Sarah Spedding promised to leave her drawing to the NPG. The Lincolns Inn fresco was begun in 1853 and completed in 1859.

Referenceback to top

Watts 1912
[Mrs] M. S. Watts, George Frederic Watts (1912), I, 114.

Provenanceback to top

The artist; Mrs Charles Cameron; Sir Henry Taylor; the Misses Sarah and Isabel Spedding (the sitter's nieces), presented by Isabel Spedding, 1924.

Exhibitionsback to top

VE, 1892 (392); Cumbrian Characters, Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal, 1968 (66).


This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: Richard Ormond, Early Victorian Portraits, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1973, 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 James Spedding

View all known portraits for George Frederic Watts