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

Richard Wilson

Richard Wilson, by Edward Penny; Anton Raphael Mengs, 1752-1779, based on a work of 1752 -NPG 1803 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

Richard Wilson

by Edward Penny, after Anton Raphael Mengs
1752-1779, based on a work of 1752
29 1/2 in. x 24 1/2 in. (749 mm x 622 mm)
NPG 1803

This portraitback to top

A close version of the portrait painted in Rome in 1752 by Mengs, with a number of minor differences: easel, canvas, alcove and chairback are obscured, his right arm and hand are hidden behind a balustrade, the colours on the palette are differently arranged, the lozenge-shaped pattern on the turban is more pronounced and the lighting on the face and background wall is more intense. The attribution of NPG 1803 varied between Wilson and Mengs until 1948, when Cooper convincingly equated it with an entry in Benjamin Booth’s MSS as ‘a [portrait] Of Wilson by his old Friend Penny’. [1]
Perhaps NPG 1803 was made when Wilson sold the original Mengs to Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn (from whose direct descendants it was acquired by Cardiff in 1947); Penny also painted Booth’s daughter-in-law, Jane Salwey, Mrs Booth, in 1774.[2] A bust-length drawing in the British Museum (1881.6.11.201), almost a replica of NPG 1803 and on the same scale, once thought to be by Mengs, is now attributed to Penny as a preparatory study for NPG 1803. [3]

Footnotesback to top

1) Ford MS c.1790-1800 (private collection), quoted by D. Cooper, 'The Iconography of Richard Wilson', Burl. Mag., XC, 1948, p 109.
2) Wal. Soc., LX, II, 1998, p 379 and fig.206.
3) Mengs, Kenwood, 1993, under no.18; S. Roettgen, Mengs, 1999, no.236 (WK1); illus. D. Cooper, 'The Iconography of Richard Wilson', Burl. Mag., XC, 1948, p 111 as by Mengs.

Referenceback to top

Constable 1953
W. G. Constable, Richard Wilson, 1953, p 68.

Cooper 1948
D. Cooper, Burl. Mag., XC, 1948, pp 109, 111, 113-14 (as Penny).

Ford 1998
Ford, Wal. Soc., LX, I, 1998, p 50.

Mengs, Kenwood, 1993, under no.18.

Roettgen 1999
S. Roettgen, Mengs, 1999, no.236 (WK2).

Waagen 1854
G. F. Waagen, Treasures of Art in Great Britain, II, 1854, p 226 (as a Wilson self portrait).

Physical descriptionback to top

Clear blue-grey eyes, wearing a dark brown turban with yellow strapping, a flowered silk deep red coat; his palette displays turquoise, reds, yellow, white and deep green; a landscape painting on his easel and a stone ledge across the foreground.

Provenanceback to top

Given by the sitter to Benjamin Booth;1 his daughter Elizabeth Mary Booth; her sister Marianne, who married Sir Richard Ford (d. 1821), thence by descent to his great-grandson John Ford, by whom bequeathed 1917.2

1 An ink label, formerly verso, in the hand of Sir Richard Ford: Portrait of Richard Wilson R.A. attributed by tradition in my family to himself: it was given by the artist to my grandfather Benjamin Booth who was his early patron: it [was always considered] to be more likely to [be by Mengs] Richd. Ford.
2 Presented by Richard Ford as executor for his brother, John, a Trustee of the NPG 1915-17. For John Ford, see Wal. Soc., LX, I, 1998, pp 48-50.

Exhibitionsback to top

British Institution 1814 (141) lent Miss Booth; Third and concluding exhibition of National Portraits (fortieth year of the reign of George the third to MDCCCLXVII), South Kensington, 1868 (834) lent F. Clare Ford; British Art, Grosvenor Gallery, 1888 (128) lent Sir F. Clare Ford.

This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Ingamells, National Portrait Gallery: Mid-Georgian Portraits 1760-1790, National Portrait Gallery, 2004, 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 Richard Wilson


Make a donation

Support our Make History appeal and help us transform the Gallery.

Help us make history

Online shop

A unique range of books, accessories and gifts. Every purchase supports the Gallery’s work.

Shop now

Bring a familiar face home

Refresh your home gallery with a huge selection of custom art prints .

Buy a print