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John Wesley

John Wesley, by Nathaniel Hone, circa 1766 -NPG 135 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue

John Wesley

by Nathaniel Hone
circa 1766
49 1/2 in. x 39 1/4 in. (1257 mm x 997 mm)
NPG 135

This portraitback to top

The provenance suggests that NPG 135, apparently the only extant contemporary version, is the prototype. At the time of purchase, 1861, it was, according to the dealer Henry Graves, 'in the same state as left by the painter but almost invisible by the Smoke of nearly a Century' [1] The cleaner Richard Smart wrote to Graves 14 November that year: 'I consider the Portrait of Wesley to be an undoubted work by Hone and the very picture from which the engraving was taken as the pin holes remain in the margin.' [2] The mezzotint, reversed, by J. Greenwood giving the sitter's age as 67 when published 1770 and lettered Done from an Original Picture in the Possession of Thos. Wooldridge Esqr of East Florida, indicates a repetition made and sent to America. A line engraving by Bland after Hone, of the same design but with simplified background, is lettered Aetatis 63 which places the date at c.1766. A 50 x 40 in. oil, somewhat dirty when seen at Christie's, anonymous property, 10 December 1965, lot 168, seems likely to be a later copy, as is the portrait presented by Lord Marshall, 1928, to Wesley's Chapel, City Road. [3]

Footnotesback to top

1) His letter, 18 November 1861, NPG archives.
2) Letter, NPG archives.
3) Daily Telegraph, 13 April 1928.

Physical descriptionback to top

Dark blue eyes, pouches beneath, brown eyebrows, thin nose slightly hooked, fresh complexion, black hair centre-parted; white bands and shirt, black gown and cassock; standing in front of a tree with green foliage and curved trunk, his right hand raised and in his left a small red book, distant landscape and cloudy sky, background left; lit from the left.

Conservationback to top

Small vertical damage in landscape, lower left; cleaned 1972.

Provenanceback to top

Bought, 1861, from Henry Graves & Co, by whom purchased at the sale of 'Miss Wesley'; presumably by descent from the sitter. No such sale is recorded and no portrait is mentioned in Wesley's will, 20 February 1789. [1] A Miss Sarah (Sally) Wesley, the sitter's niece, is known to have died 1828 [2] but she is unlikely to be the owner referred to by Henry Graves (1806-92), sole proprietor of the firm in 1844. A possible identity might be an unmarried descendant of the sitter's nephew Samuel Wesley (1766-1837), the organist, who married, 1793, Charlotte Louisa Martin (d. 1845) by whom he had three children; only a son, Charles DD, is mentioned in the Dictionary of National Biography. Of the two remaining offspring one might have been a daughter who died c.1860. Alternatively the Miss Wesley in question might be Elizabeth (d. 1895), Samuel's daughter by a liaison with Sarah Suter.

1) The Journal of the Rev. John Wesley, A.M., ed. N. Curnock, 1909-16, VIII, pp 342-44.
2) Ibid, VI, p 328, note 5.

Reproductionsback to top

The type engraved by John Greenwood, 1770.


This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Kerslake, Early Georgian Portraits, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1977, 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.

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