John Philip Kemble in a Comic Role thumbnail 1
Not currently on display at the V&A

John Philip Kemble in a Comic Role

ca. 1804 (painted)
Place Of Origin

Portrait of a man, traditionally identified as the actor John Philip Kemble.

object details
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
oil on canvas
Brief Description
Oil painting, 'John Philip Kemble in a comic role', Samuel De Wilde, ca. 1804.
Physical Description
Portrait of a man, traditionally identified as the actor John Philip Kemble.
  • Height: 24.2cm
  • Width: 19cm
Credit line
Bequeathed by Rev. Alexander Dyce
Object history
Bequeathed by Rev. Alexander Dyce, 1869

Bequeathed to the Department of Science and Art, South Kensington Museums in 1859 by the Reverand Alexander Dyce. The painting was bequeathed as part of the Dyce collection of 3347 works of art, including paintings, miniatures, watercolours and prints as well as his library of 14,000 volumes.

Reverend Alexander Dyce (1798-1869), literary scholar and art collector, was the son of a major, later lieutenant general in the Madras infantry of the East India Company. Raised by two maternal aunts in Aberdeen following his parent’s departure for India in 1799, Dyce read classics at Exeter College, Oxford. At his father’s insistence he was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1823, having rejected a career in the East India Company. He developed a career in publishing by translating Greek texts. However he is probably best known for his editions of sixteenth and seventeenth century poetry. Dyce collected many rare books covering English, Italian and Classical literature. His collection of paintings and works on paper is very varied. In his collection of paintings, Dyce indulged his enthusiasm for the theatre, acquiring portraits of leading actors, while his drawings collection focuses on Old Master drawings from European schools. The Dyce bequest was one of the earliest of a collection of fine art given to the museum. It followed the Sheepshanks collection, which was given to the museum two years earlier in 1857. While the Sheepshanks collection was mainly of contemporary Victorian art, Dyce’s collection focused on British eighteenth and early nineteenth art as well as paintings from Italian, Dutch and Flemish Schools. This bequest therefore helped to broaden the collection, which the museum was already beginning to do by purchasing works from British and Continental Schools.

Historical significance: Samuel Wilde, (1751-1832), portrait painter. He was apprenticed to his godfather, Samuel Haworth in1765to train to be a woodcarver, his father's profession. In 1769 he broke from his seven year apprenticeship to train at the Royal Academy. There he encountered the artist Johann Zoffany (1733-1810), whose theatrical portraits would later become a major influence on his own works. Little is known of de Wilde's early work. His earliest work associated with the theatre is a portrait of the actor William Shuttlewood. However de Wilde's career in theatrical portraiture began in 1791 with the start of the publication of the second issue of the British Theatre by John Bell (1745-1831). Each issue consisted of a play with a vignette and full length portrait of a leading actor of the day as one of the characters from the play. By the end of the eighteenth century de Wilde's career was established as a theatrical portraitist.
Subject depicted
Bibliographic Reference
Ashton, Geoffrey. Catalogue of Paintings at the Theatre Museum, London. ed. James Fowler, London : Victoria and Albert Museum, 1992. 224p. ill. ISBN 1851771026
Accession Number

About this object record

Explore the Collections contains over a million catalogue records, and over half a million images. It is a working database that includes information compiled over the life of the museum. Some of our records may contain offensive and discriminatory language, or reflect outdated ideas, practice and analysis. We are committed to addressing these issues, and to review and update our records accordingly.

You can write to us to suggest improvements to the record.

Suggest Feedback

record createdOctober 27, 2003
Record URL