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George Whitefield

George Whitefield, by John Wollaston, circa 1742 -NPG 131 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue

George Whitefield

by John Wollaston
circa 1742
32 5/8 in. x 26 in. (829 mm x 660 mm)
NPG 131

Inscriptionback to top

On the back of the relining canvas, the auctioneer's chalk marks: July 1961/158 p. in the top right hand corner of the stretcher a torn printed label 14; Scharf noted at Christie's, 16 May 1861, [1] a paper formerly on the back of the stretcher: Whitefield holding forth to his congregation. Hogarth but this label had disappeared by the time the picture was acquired.

1) Sir George Scharf's Trustees' Sketchbook, V, p 81.

This portraitback to top

According to Christie's catalogue, 27 April 1861, the woman in the congregation is supposed to represent Mrs James, of Abergavenny, whom the sitter married in 1741; the village attorney and the blacksmith are also said to be depicted. No portraits of Mrs Whitefield appear to be known for comparison.
The Dictionary of National Biography gives no authority for its statement that NPG 131 was painted about 1737. [1]
Faber's engraving is lettered quite specifically John Wollaston Jnr. Pinxt. 1742. In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, it is to be preferred as a contemporary source. It should also be noted that although Vertue [2] seems to indicate only one Wollaston, Walpole, his source itself one of the sons, mentioned a son who followed his father's profession. He attributed the portrait of Britton, NPG 523, to the father. [3] Britton [4] and Whitefield are on a different scale, which makes comparison difficult, but could well be by separate hands. Walpole does not mention Whitefield.

Footnotesback to top

1) XXI, p 92.
2) G. Vertue, Vertue Note Books (edited by The Earl of Ilchester), Walpole Society, II, p 67; V, pp 95-96.
3) H. Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford, Anecdotes of Painting in England ... collected by ... George Vertue; digested ... by Horace Walpole, edited J. Dalloway and R. N. Wornum, 1862, pp 620-21.
4) D. T. Piper, Catalogue of Seventeenth-Century Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery, 1625-1714, 1963, pp 34-35.

Physical descriptionback to top

Dark grey eyes, with squint, white wig; white bands, black gown; five members of the congregation below, foremost a lady in pale yellow frock and yellow straw hat with blue ribbon; plain brown background; lit from the right.

Conservationback to top

Worn; a stretcher mark along the top; discoloured repaints and varnish; pin-holes at corners; an x-ray revealed no change of design under the apparent pentiment to the left of the lady.

Provenanceback to top

Bought, 1861, at Christie's, 19 July, lot 158; previously lot 133, Christie's, 27 April 1861, as by Hogarth, from the Charles Salt collection, Haldon House, Christie's catalogue stating that it had been purchased at the sale of Lady Miles, Arlingham Court, Gloucester; sketched by Scharf at the Salt sale.

Exhibitionsback to top

Second Exhibition of National Portraits, South Kensington, 1867 (403); 'American processional 1492-1900', Washington, Corcoran Art Gallery, 1950.

Reproductionsback to top

Engraved John Faber (F. O'Donoghue and Sir Henry M. Hake, Catalogue of Engraved British Portraits ... in the British Museum, 1908-25, 12).

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 George Whitefield


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