Completed Dress and Textiles, East of England and The Midlands: Artists and Subjects, Portraits: British 18th C 34 Is this a portrait of Waldive Willington, or his son? Is it by Godfrey Kneller?

Topic: Subject or sitter

Tamworth Castle has found that two portraits in its collection, 'Mr Willington' and 'Martha Willington', were painted by Godfrey Kneller, early 18th C. At the time of posting, it is believed that 'Mr Willington' is a portrait of Waldive Willington, husband of Martha.

It is also suggested that this portrait, 'A Member of the Willington Family', and 'Miss Willington' ( depict the children of Martha and Waldive and are by Kneller as well.

It is possible, however, that this portrait depicts Waldive Willington as a younger man. Can anyone confirm the identity of the sitter?

Tamworth Castle provides the following information:

‘It was suggested through the 1736 Inventory of Hurley Hall, that the Miss Willington portrait might be of Susannah, Mary or Katherine, one of the three daughters.

The younger male portrait, with the landscape background, was by repute Thomas, or William, Willington.’

Tamworth Castle is not able to respond to requests for further information, but has asked to be notified of the outcome of this discussion. The collection looks forward to learning more about this painting.

Please note, a related discussion regarding the portrait 'Mr Willington' can be found here:

Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. ‘Unknown artist’ has been updated to ‘British School’ and the title remains ‘A Member of the Willington Family’.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the discussion. To anyone viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all the comments that led to this conclusion.


Simon Gillespie,

This most unlikely to have been painted by Kneller. GK used a loaded square ended brush which left broad strokes which are very visible when viewed close up. One would expect to see this on the high lights of the fingers and nose whereas this painter has mixed the shadows with the highlights giving a rounded appearance.

Edward Stone,

This discussion is now linked to the Dress and Textiles group.

Kieran Owens,

The attached clipping, from the Tamworth Herald of Saturday 03 February 1945, might help with the identification of this painting, although the two portraits mentioned are likely to be the know ones by Kneller.

Also, on the basis of the following list of children born to Waldive Willington and Martha Harvey, their marriage date would most likely have been about 1711 or 1712, eleven or so years before Godfrey Kneller's death.

As will be seen from the records below, that all but the last of Waldive and Martha’s children were baptised in London, might be as a result of the Harvey family being residents there.

Waldive Willington of Hurley Hall was born on the 26th December 1677 and died, aged 56, on the 10th September 1733. He married Martha Harvey, daughter of Richard Harvey of London, and they had the following eight children:

1. Susanna Willington (Baptised on the 19th July 1713 at St. Antholin’s, Budge Row, London). Married Charles Floyer, Esq., of Hints in Staffordshire.

2. Catherine Willington of Wilnecote (Baptised at St. Antholin’s, Budge Row, London, on the 25th June 1716, and died d.s.p. in 1762). She married Richard Jackson of Tarrington, Rector of Shelsley (Born c.1700, died 1782).

3. Mary Willington (Baptised on the 31st May 1717 at St. Antholin’s, Budge Row, London, and died, unmarried, in 1762).

4. Martha Willington (Baptised on the 17th June 1719 at St. Antholin’s, Budge Row, London; buried at St. John the Baptist-on-Wallbrook on the 8th February 1720, aged seven months).

5. Waldive Willington (Baptised on the 7th May 1720 at St. Antholin’s, Budge Row, London; buried at St. John the Baptist-on-Walbrook, on the 4th June 1720, aged one month).

6. William Willington, of Hurley & Wilnecote (Baptised on the 13th January 1722 at St. Antholin’s, Budge Row, London and died, d.s.p., on the 24th March 1752).

Godfrey Kneller dies on the 19th October 1723.

7. Martha Willington (Baptised on the 28th October 1723 at St. Antholin’s, Budge Row, London; buried at St. John the Baptist-on-Wallbrook on the 6th November 1723, aged one month).

8. Richard Willington (Born on the 28th October 1727; baptised on the 31st October 1727 at Kingsbury, Warwick (six miles from Tamworth Castle), and died, aged one year and seven months, on the 16th May 1729).

Kieran Owens,

In addition to the above, the attached clipping, from "Some Ancient English Homes" by Elizabeth Hodges (T. Fisher Unwin, 1895), might help with the confirmation of the identity of the other painting from Tamworth Hall, of the mounted falconer:

As stated therein, this hunting scene features Waldive Willington (1677 - 1733; husband of Martha Harvey) as a young man (and not his grandfather Waydyve Willington, former Parliamentarian Governor of Tamworth Castle (1600 - 1676). Perhaps an updating of the title of the paining might be considered.

Kieran Owens,

Once again, the ArtUk site has not uploaded the attachment. Here is is again......

Kieran Owens,

Hooray!!! My apologies ArtUk, it was my fault all along!!!

This portrait with hunting scene depicts Waldive Willington (1677 - 1733; husband of Martha Harvey) as a young man (and not his grandfather Waydyve Willington, former Parliamentarian Governor of Tamworth Castle (1600 - 1676). It is believed to be early 18th century, artist unidentified. Simon Gillespie comments 'This is most unlikely to have been painted by Kneller'. It is recommended that the title of the work should be updated accordingly and that 'unknown artist' should be replaced with 'Unidentified artist, early 18th century'.

Jacinto Regalado,

I would suggest British School rather than unknown artist, which would be implied. The "unknown" category is exceedingly crowded and needs to be reduced as much as possible for search purposes.

Osmund Bullock,

I haven't paid much attention to either of these discussions, mainly because I found the blunt statement in 2016 that the Collection could not or would not assist us any further in the research they were hoping we would do for them very off-putting, to put it mildly. To know, for example, that they have access to a 1736 inventory, but decline to tell us exactly what's in it, seems absurd. So close to zero research time from me, I'm afraid, and I will limit myself to comments on things already posted by others.

Grant, I am confused. Surely we are not suggesting that both the portraits under discussion are of the same sitter? The men are of roughly the same generation, yes; but the physiognomy of their faces differs hugely in practically every detail, especially the nose and the eye colour. See attached comparison. The other one ( , with its apparent pair ( , may well show Waldyve Willington (b.1677) & his wife Martha; but if so, then this one surely cannot be him as well; and in fact to my eye, if anything the sitter here looks a bit older, not younger than the plump-faced young man in the other portrait.

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Osmund Bullock,

Who he might be is hard even to conjecture: large houses in the C18th commonly had portraits hanging of siblings, siblings-in-law, cousins, godparents, friends, patrons, political allies and sometimes even just people they admired. Without some clue on the back, a traditional identification, or the happy survival of a near-contemporary inventory (1730s, say...), where does one begin? In my opinion there is nothing we can usefully say.

There also seems to be some confusion over the "hunting scene". Although there is a tiny hunting detail in the background here (the hound pursuing a deer), the hunting scene Kieran was referring to is the hawking scene mentioned and illustrated in Elizabeth Hodges' 1895 book ( - that is the one she says shows Waldyve (b.1677) as a young man, not the one we're discussing here. That painting ( may possibly show him as the main, mounted figure, but it could equally just be just a generic hunting scene; the scenery doesn't look very English to me, and if (as the unclear description perhaps implies) it is set into the panelling as an overdoor, something decorative rather than anything more specific seems quite likely.

Jacinto Regalado,

Osmund, as no doubt you noticed, there is also the fact one portrait shows a mole on the chin and the other does not, and one portrait shows a cleft chin and the other does not. It is not plausible based on visual evidence that both portraits are of the same person.

Jacinto Regalado,

Possible artists include Jonathan Richardson the elder and Michael Dahl, but British School will do.

Osmund Bullock,

I did, Jacinto, but thank you. I didn't want to get into a long list of differences as my post was already getting a bit bulky - but I'm rather glad you've mentioned two more significant ones!

Richardson is absolutely the right name to raise here: it seems much closer to him than any other 'name' of the period, but whether or not it warrants an attribution to him and/or studio, I am not qualified to judge. I suspect that it does.

Rather off-topic, but I see now that I misread something in Elizabeth Hodges' 1895 book re the Hawking scene (see my post of 07:16 above): the painting was not an overdoor, it was/is "over the mantelpiece of the dining room". Hodges describes it as on panel, but Art UK says it's on canvas. If this is correct, then it's likely it was set into the panelling - very much like the recumbent Magdalene identified by Jacinto at Turton Tower, in fact, and likely of the same period. See and attached. The point remains the same - that as an integral part of the room's furnishings it is more likely to be a decorative scene than a specific portrait. It certainly cannot be of Waldyve the Governor of Tamworth Castle, as mooted in its Art UK title ( : he would have been such a youth c.1625, which is far too early...unless, of course, it is a posthumous, imagined (and historically ignorant) image of him as a young man. Not impossible, I suppose.

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Jacob Simon,

I agree with Osmund that Richardson is nearer the mark than Dahl but the face is not quite right for him. And the dekightful way the figure is backclothed by the landscape is unusual for the era -- and for Richardson.

Osmund Bullock,

Thanks for that, Jacob. On the subject of the background landscape, could that distant building (or group of them) near the horizon on the left be Tamworth Castle or indeed anywhere else recognisable? I think our image is too small to be sure either way (however much you play with it - see attached); any chance we could see the highest-res possible from the Art UK image of that area, Marion, or do you have to get permission from the Collection?

Oh dear, I feel myself getting sucked in here against my declared intentions...

Tim Williams,

For me it's s closer to John Vanderbank than Richardson.

Tim Williams,

For me it's closer to John Vanderbank than Richardson.

Jacob Simon,

Thinking about Richardson, the depiction of the face in this portrait does not seem close enough to the smoothness which he often brings to his features. Then considering Vanderbank, the treatment of the face and the costume seem to me to lack his trademark sub-Kneller looseness and vivacity of handling. I think we are looking for another hand. It would be worth examining John Smibert. To provide a comparison, there is a portrait of Thomas Hill signed by this artist in the collection of the NT at Attingham, given the date circa 1722. See attachment. Critical to any attribution would be comparing the treatment of the face and hands more closely which is difficult with a small-scale reproduction. To explore this and other ideas further.

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Osmund Bullock,

Jacob, there is a considerably larger (though of course not high-res) image of your Smibert at Attingham available on Art UK here I'm attaching it, too. Though there are similarities in format, Smibert's portrait seems a lot more relaxed and adept in both pose and execution. The sitter is allowed a fractionally cocked head, a hint even of a knowing smile - a man very much at his ease. Ours, by comparison, seems rather stiff and formal, and the artist's brushwork - the face in particular - much tighter and less painterly. And look at the difference in the two pointing hands - Smibert's doesn't wholly convince, but it's streets ahead of our one's clumsy, pudgy-fingered effort.

Belated thanks for those higher-res details, Marion - I'll say something about the background building when I get a moment. Though that was the original point of the close-up, I suspect the enlargement tells us more about the artist's skills than it does about the local topography - as well as the strange hand, the pursuing hound has a distinctly sheep-like head!

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Jacob Simon,

I think Osmund is right in discounting an attribution to Smibert.

Bendor Grosvenor,

Not by Kneller, and I've not a clue who it might be by or even close to! Dare I say we write it off as 'provincial'?

In February Grant recommended concluding this on the basis that it depicts Waldive Willington (1677–1733) as a young man, and not his grandfather Waldyve Willington (1600–1676). The title can be updated with the collection's agreement.

Osmund might have more to add on the background.

Are we sticking with 'unknown artist', having answered at least half of our original question?

Osmund Bullock,

As explained in my post of 28/02/2021 07:11, if the other Tamworth portrait we discussed ( was correctly identified as Waldive Willington (1677–1733), then this one cannot be him too. As Jacinto observed, "It is not plausible based on visual evidence that both portraits are of the same person" - though likely more or less contemporaries, the two men have, quite simply, completely different faces in almost every conceivable way including eye colour. Here is the comparison image I posted before: I might add that I very much doubt the other portrait is by Kneller either.

If Tamworth had been willing to share with us details of the 1736 inventory of Hurley Hall that they have access to, we might have made a suggestion as to who it *might* actually be. As it is, I can only go by their own statement that it is "by repute Thomas or William Willington". I suppose one ought to research the identities of these two men for the Collection; but after re-reading just now their surprising opening comment about not responding to requests for further information from us, I won't be doing so myself.

I did do some work on the background building four months ago, it's true; but I've decided not to add anything more on that either, sorry.

Jacinto Regalado,

I would suggest listing this under British School rather than unknown artist, which is much less useful for search purposes.

Marcie Doran,

The donor, Winifred Madeline Wakefield (née Watts)(9 May 1893 – 13 November 1994), was the only child of James Henry Watts (7 March 1858 – 28 February 1935) and Edith Watts (née Woodhams)(abt. 1868 – 23 August 1927).

Winifred’s husband was William Vivian Wakefield (18 August 1891 – 23 November 1980)(m. 24 April 1918). His grandmother Charlotte Willington (née Taylor) was the daughter of Joshua Taylor and his wife Kitty Taylor (née Willington). Joshua Taylor and his wife were mentioned on page 187 of ‘Some Ancient English Homes’ (see Osmund’s link 28/02/2021 07:16).

Marcie Doran,

According to an article in the ‘Tamworth Herald’ of 4 December 1992, “Tamworth Castle could soon be displaying a collection of early 18th-century oil paintings, given by a 100-year-old woman, Mrs. W.M. Wakefield, in memory of her husband’s family who lived for centuries in nearby Hurley village”.

There is another article about the gift in the ‘Tamworth Herald’ of 22 January 1993 with an image of the portraits ‘Miss Willington’ and ‘Mrs Willington and Daughter’. That article mentions that there were four portraits and that two had “gone on permanent display”. The four portraits would have been 1992.17, 1992.18, 1992.19 and 1992.20.

William Vivian Wakefield’s will doesn’t mention any works of art. I’ve attached two extracts from the will of Winifred Madeline Wakefield dated 1 May 1985 (she also had two later codicils). Clause 5 includes her desired bequests to the Castle Museum. The painting we are discussing would have been the one she called “my oil painting of Thomas Willington”.

Jacob Simon,

This discussion dating back to 2016 asks, "Is this a portrait of Waldive Willington, or his son? Is it by Godfrey Kneller?"

THE ARTIST. Clearly the portrait is not Kneller's work. Nor is it by the other artists considered in the course of this discussion. So as Jacinto suggests (02/07/2021), British School rather than unknown artist.

THE SITTER. Waldive, Thomas and William Willington are names that have come up in the discussion. As to Waldive, Osmund posted (02/07/2021), "As explained in my post of 28/02/2021, if the other Tamworth portrait we discussed ( was correctly identified as Waldive Willington (1677–1733), then this one cannot be him too. So the Collection description, "A Member of the Willington Family" seems appropriate in the circumstances.

I recommend that this discussion be closed with the artist amended to British school and the sitter designation left as it is.