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James Wolfe

James Wolfe, by John Stone Clifford Schaack (Shaak), circa 1767 -NPG 48 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue

James Wolfe

attributed to John Stone Clifford Schaack (Shaak)
circa 1767
20 3/4 in. x 17 in. (527 mm x 432 mm)
NPG 48

This portraitback to top

Attribution rests on the head and shoulders engraving in oval frame by R. Houston lettered J.S.C. Schaak Pinxt. (J. Chaloner Smith, British Mezzotinto Portraits, 1878-83, 128). Published not later than 1767, [1] it shows the sitter hatless, at slightly greater length than in NPG 48 and with crêpe on his left sleeve. [2] Schaak's connection with Wolfe is more firmly established, however, by the small whole length portraits, one of which was presumably the 'small whole length of General Wolfe' exhibited at the Free Society of Artists, 1762 (13). This type, also engraved by Houston (J. Chaloner Smith, British Mezzotinto Portraits, 1878-83, 127), is lettered in the first state Hery Smith Esqr Delin. I.S.C.Schaak Pinx. but in the second state Hery-Pinx has been erased and replaced by From an Original picture in the Possession of Hery. Smith Esqr. [3] A portrait of the type formerly in the Duke of Richmond's collection at Goodwood [4] was signed and dated 1766, and another, of the same size as the engraving and perhaps related to it, was at Sotheby's as by 'Phillips', 23 March 1966, lot 55, from the Fletcher of Saltoun collection. On the back a manuscript note reading Gen. Wolfe presented by himself to Gen. Henry Fletcher [5] has been accepted as evidence that it was painted in Canada. There is no proof, however, that Schaak was ever there.
A stylistic comparison of NPG 48 with Schaak's portrait of Charles Churchill (q.v.) is convincing. An x-radiograph [6] reveals that the artist abandoned a three-quarter face to the left, probably of the same sitter, with the direction of the eye altered in favour of the profile. The earlier design shows a coat with pointed lapels.

Footnotesback to top

1) J. F. Kerslake, 'The Likeness of Wolfe', Wolfe, Portraiture & Genealogy, Quebec House, 1959, pl.18.
2) In mourning for his father, died 27 March 1759.
3) i.e. Hervey Smyth, see discussion under NPG 713A; also J. Chaloner Smith, British Mezzotinto Portraits, 1878-83, pp 693-94.
4) Reproduced Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, 1936, p 1.
5) Promoted general in 1793.
6) Carried out at the suggestion of C. K. Adams, 1965.

Physical descriptionback to top

Blue eye, receding chin, own light brown hair tied in queue; black tricorne hat with rosette, white shirt and ruffle, black neck-tie, yellow-lined scarlet jacket, plain silver buttons, aigrette (?) running from his right shoulder through top buttonhole of right lapel; background of blue and brown sky.

Conservationback to top

Two small repairs in the background above his left shoulder; cleaned 1895.

Provenanceback to top

Presented, 1858, by Leopold I, King of the Belgians, possibly from the collection of his first wife, [1] Princess Charlotte (1796-1817); earlier history unknown.

1) O. Millar, correspondence 1959, NPG archives.

Exhibitionsback to top

'Some Portraits of General Wolfe 1727-1759', NPG, 1959 (8).


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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