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

John Wesley

John Wesley, by William Hamilton, 1788 -NPG 317 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue

John Wesley

by William Hamilton
50 3/8 in. x 40 1/8 in. (1280 mm x 1019 mm)
NPG 317

Inscriptionback to top

Signed and dated in black, bottom left: Wm. Hamilton/1788; a label of the Second Exhibition of National Portraits, South Kensington, 1867 on the top bar of the relining stretcher, also a small MS label 32141.

This portraitback to top

The date 1788 and J. Fittler's engraving of the same design lettered Aetat 86, published in November of the same year, point to NPG 317 being the portrait begun 22 December 1787 when Wesley wrote: 'I yielded to the importunity of a painter, and sat an hour and a half, in all, for my picture. I think it was the best that ever was taken; but what is the picture of a man above fourscore?' [1]
Wesley does not mention Hamilton and from the turn of phrase it would seem that it was the artist who persuaded him to sit (see All Known Portraits). The name of James Milbourne, for whom NPG 317 was traditionally painted, does not appear either in the Journals or the Letters.

Footnotesback to top

1) The Journal of the Rev. John Wesley, A.M., ed. N. Curnock, 1909-16, VIII, p 349.

Physical descriptionback to top

Dark blue eyes, grey eyebrows, long narrow nose, lips parted, flat-topped flaxen wig, fresh complexion; white bands, black cassock and gown; standing at a pulpit decorated with a winged cherub's head, his right hand raised, his left on a large book open on a velvet cushion, a smaller book, right; a pilaster, background left; greyish-green background.

Conservationback to top

Varnish discoloured, slight losses at the edges; pin holes at corners.

Provenanceback to top

Given, 1871, by James Milbourne; 'painted from the Life' for his grandfather James Milbourne, a friend of the sitter and a trustee 'for the (then) New Chapel in the City Road'. [1]

1) His letter, 21 July 1870, NPG archives.

Exhibitionsback to top

Second Exhibition of National Portraits, South Kensington, 1867 (828).

Reproductionsback to top

Engraved by James Fittler, 1788.

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.

View all known portraits for William Hamilton

View all known portraits for John Wesley