|Painting in the BMAG collection. Original painting is hung in the|
Best Drawing Room at Aston Hall.
When BMAG (Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery) received this painting in 1979 they had no idea who it was of or whom it was by. After some research it was thought that it could be by the Birmingham based artist James Millar, and the sitter being the surveyor, William Westley the younger, due to the portfolio with the image of St. Philip's church conveniently protruding from the leaves. BMAG would love to find any evidence that this is indeed William Westley, or to prove any different conclusion, so if anyone has any information, please let me know.
There are a few problems with this portrait being both of William Westley and by James Millar, as although Westley was alive when Millar was painting, he would have been an elderly man. Westley was born in about 1700, and Millar (born in about 1735) began his painting career in about 1763. The sitter does not seem to be a man in his 60s or 70s, which would cast some doubt on the pairing. But perhaps the painting was commissioned after Westley's death, possibly based on an earlier portrait, to show Westley in his youth.
A historian of fashion would serve well in dating the dress of the young man which would help in discovering if the painting was painted in Millar's time. James Millar painted many portraits of Birmingham's inhabitants, including John Baskerville, John Freeth and Francis Eginton, but perhaps we may never know who is sitting in the painting staring back at us, with their connection to what is now our little cathedral.