Wynfield, David Wilkie (1837-87; English)
Death of George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham 1871
Oil on canvas, 97.0 x 153.1 cm.
Purchased, 1881
National Gallery of Victoria (p.307.12-1)

In the age before BBC TV dramas, theatrical re-enactments and vivid images helped conjure up famous historical events like this, the murder of the widely-detested courtier of James I and Charles I, in Portsmouth, in August 1628.

Villiers’ assassin, a disaffected army officer named John Felton, became a popular hero, but was hanged nonetheless in November 1628. The story appeared in fictionalized form in Alexandre Dumas’ 1844 novel The Three Musketeers – possibly the direct basis for the present work, shown at the International Exhibition in Melbourne in 1880.

Wynfield, a descendant of David Wilkie (see Jackson (J.) [attrib.] Sir David Wilkie {1878} NGV [PA]), was also a noted photographer of the period, producing portrait photographs of a number of other contemporary artists including Manet, Leighton and Watts. Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79) acknowledged Wynfield’s influence on her portrait photography.


AR 1881, p.53; NGV 1894, p.92 (IV.McArthur Gallery, no.57); NGV 1905, p.95 (III.McArthur Gallery, no.51) [£250] 

For Wynfield, see Bénézit 14, p.1150 (listing the present painting); and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Wilkie_Wynfield, also citing Graham Reynolds, Victorian Painting, 1966, and Juliet Hacking, Princes of Victorian Bohemia: Photographs of David Wilkie Wynfield, National Portrait Gallery, 2000)

For Villiers (1592-1628), who was also a major art patron in Stuart England, see e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Villiers,_1st_Duke_of_Buckingham (a detailed, well-referenced article)