Joseph Wilton

Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

Joseph Wilton

by Sir Joshua Reynolds
30 in. x 23 1/2 in. (762 mm x 597 mm)
NPG 4810

This portraitback to top

Painted in 1752 in Florence, where Wilton was residing in the course of his Italian sojourn. He had been elected to the Florentine Accademia del Disegno on 9 January and was noticed by the British representative, Horace Mann, as an ‘ingenious modest sculptor’ whose work was attracting attention amongst ‘all the professors as well as connoisseurs here’. Reynolds was in Florence between 10 May and 4 July and was himself elected to the Accademia on 3 September (after his departure). [1]
The curiously un-Italian character of the portrait was noticed by Farington:

‘While Reynolds remained at Florence, in 1752, he painted a portrait of [Wilton] which was much admired as it was a brilliant display of those qualities in which he so eminently excelled; but of the peculiar merits of the picture, he did not then appear to be sufficiently sensible. ‘After studying the finest works of the great masters’, he says, ‘a new taste and new perceptions began to dawn upon me, but the notions I had of painting when I left England were not eradicated’. No, nor was it necessary they should be so; his mind had become more enlarged it is true, but the bias of his taste was settled, and the portrait of Mr Wilton bore much more affinity to his early productions than to anything he had seen in the Vatican’. [2]

Footnotesback to top

1) For all these comments, see J. Ingamells, Dictionary of British and Irish Travellers in Italy 1701-1800, compiled from the Brinsley Ford Archive, 1997, pp 809, 1009.
2) J. Farington, Memoirs of the Life of Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1819, pp 35-37.

Referenceback to top

Graves & Cronin 1899-1901
A. Graves & W. V. Cronin, A History of the Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds, III, 1899-1901, pp 1059-60.

Mannings 2000
D. Mannings, Sir Joshua Reynolds, 2 vols., 2000, no.1915.

Waterhouse 1941
E. K. Waterhouse, Reynolds, 1941, p 38.

Physical descriptionback to top

Within a scrolled cartouche; blue-grey eyes,1 reddish hair, wearing a fur-collared brown coat with a gold trim.

1 At the Second special exhibition of National Portraits (William and Mary to MDCCC), South Kensington, 1867 exhibition the sitter was described as having ‘dark sepia’ eyeballs and dark silky sepia hair’ (NPG archive); perhaps it needed cleaning.

Provenanceback to top

The sitter’s daughter, Frances, who married Sir Robert Chambers; by descent to Mrs D. Boyle, from whom purchased 1970.

Exhibitionsback to top

Second special exhibition of National Portraits (William and Mary to MDCCC), South Kensington, 1867 (522) lent G. Wilton Chambers; RA 1884 (51) lent G. W. Chambers; Reynolds, Birmingham, 1961 (9) lent Mrs D. Boyle.

Reproductionsback to top

F. Bromley 1862.

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.

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