Portrait of John or Charles Wesley

Five facts about the Portrait

1) John Michael Williams was a British portrait painter active between 1743 and 1780. As well as painting the portrait of John Wesley, he is credited with painting an actor, singer, architect, writer and even a Jacobite sympathiser!

2) A mezzotint is a print made using a copper plate. The surface is then worked over using a semi-circular tool so the whole surface is roughened.

3) The Italian word ‘Mezzotint’ means ‘half-tone’.

4) In 1780 John Wesley published 426 of his brother’s hymns in ‘A Collection of Hymns for the People called Methodists’. Within 10 years tens of thousands of copies were circulating the country.

5) Charles and Sally’s marriage was a happy one. Charles’ daughter Sally remarked that her family home was a place of ‘hospitality and peace’.

About the Portrait

One of the curiosities within the museum is a portrait of John Wesley which is misidentified as Charles Wesley. This print is from an original painting by John Michael Williams. It is an amusing feature and one which warrants explanation within the context of our theme of trading fairly. The answer is found in exploring the unique and sometimes strained relationship between these two brothers.

John Wesley used to take out anything overly sentimental in Charles’ hymns, and after editing them he would ask for his name to be credited to the work believing it would sell more copies. The rivalry and religious devotion of these two brothers extended to their marital relationships. Only upon receiving a significant annual income from book sales would it be permissible by Sally’s family for Charles to marry her. A damaging blow to John Wesley who felt their mission to evangelise demanded the full attention of his brother rather than the pursuit of a settled family life. It is therefore amusing to see John Wesley’s face taking pride of place above a portrait that bears the name of Charles Wesley.

"Really excellent - I will be recommending it to friends" - Museum visitor

How to find this item

in corridor before common room

General Admission
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Carer of disabled visitor Free
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2 adults and up to 3 children £15
Additional children - £2 per child

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