William & Lucy Wheler

Samuel Cotes


Pairs of miniatures are always a special find especially when, as here, they have come down through a family and so the sitters are named. Painted by Samuel Cotes in 1764, the portraits depict Sir William Wheler 6th Baronet and his wife Lucy.

Born in Leamington Hastings, Warwickshire in 1726, William’s mother was a Welsh heiress, his father a Baronet so he would have enjoyed a privileged upbringing. William married Lucy Knightley in 1752. Lucy was independently wealthy having been the sole heiress of her father Giles Knightley of Woodford who died when she was just eleven years old. Despite their wealth the pair appear down to earth and are sober in their dress. Sir William and Lucy had a large family together but only one son and one daughter survived into adulthood.

Lucy died at Bath having presumably travelled there to benefit from the spa waters in 1791. Sadly their son died a few years later in 1798 so when Sir William died the following year aged 72, his fortune passed to his married daughter and the Baronetcy to his younger brother, the Rev. Charles Wheler. Within months their extensive Warwickshire estates were put up for sale by auction.

Painted by Samuel Cotes, these portraits are early examples of his work and are typical of his use of rich colours and careful attention to detail. Cotes had trained initially as an apothecary under his father but chose instead to follow his older brother’s example by becoming a professional artist. He exhibited miniatures from 1760. Cotes enjoyed a long career and was in his 85th year when he died at his London home in March 1818.

Both portraits are in fine condition with good colours. The male portrait is signed ‘S. Cotes / 1764’. They are housed in gilt metal frames that are enclosed on the reverse.

Item Ref. 7527

Size: framed, 37 x 30mm

Provenance: By Sitwell Family descent