- Museum number
Portrait of Humphrey Wanley (1672-1726), body turned slightly to r., eyes looking full, his l. hand resting on his knee, his r. on a sculptured head; wearing dark green coat, puce waistcoat and breeches.
- Production date
Height: 143 centimetres
Width: 114.40 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- Wanley has been described (ODNB) as “the greatest Anglo-Saxonist of his generation, and one of the greatest palaeographers and librarians of his age”. Apprenticed as a draper, he left that trade for scholarship. He worked for the Museum’s founder Sir Hans Sloane from 1701 to around 1703, cataloguing his books and manuscripts in a neat hand. His greatest achievement was as librarian to Robert and Edward Harley, Earls of Oxford and Mortimer, from 1708. The manuscripts from the Harleian library were one of the foundation collections of the British Museum. The portrait was painted by Thomas Hill who was a long-standing friend. It is the last of three portraits and is described (ONDB) as “the finest and most fully characterized of all his [Hill’s] works”. The sitter’s hand is held over a brass head of the emperor, then the latest antiquity to enter the Harleian collection.
The painting, in the 2nd Compartment of the Eastern Zoological Gallery is described in the List of Portraits .... (1842, 1879) as 'Humphrey Wanley, Librarian to the Earl of Oxford. Presented b y Herbert Westfaling, Esq.,'.
Another portrait of Humphrey Wanley by Thomas Hill (1717) was presented to the BM by the Earl of Leicester (later Marquess of Townshend) in 1795. This was transferred to the National Portrait Gallery in 1879 (NPG 579).
The painting was published in Connoisseur, CXLVII, No. 592, March 1961, p. 117.
- Exhibition history
Eastern Zoological Gallery (1842, 1879)
Department of Manuscripts Students Room.
- Examined 2.iv.63. In need of cleaning, but in sound condition.
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Trustees’ Standing Committee Minutes Vol III p. 692, 9 June 1761: “Mr Herbert Westfaling of Rudhale in Herefordshire having presented to the Museum an original picture of Mr Wanley ... [thanks ordered].” Book of Presents: 9 June 1761. There is no correspondence relating to the gift in Original Papers. The donor of the portrait is most probably Herbert Westfaling of Rudhale, Herefordshire (c. 1699-1773), a descendant of Herbert Rudhale, Bishop of Hereford (1585-1602). An MP like his father and grandfather, his own brief Parliamentary career made little impact. The portrait is mentioned in Wanley’s letter 26 May 1722 to Schumacher (P L Heyworth, ed, The Letters of Humfrey Wanley (1966) pp.444-5.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number