An Exact Likeness

The Portraits of John Wesley

By Richard P. Heitzenrater Published
Hardback image ISBN: 9781501816604 $39.99 Buy
eBook image ISBN: 9781501816611 $39.99 Buy
A unique pictorial art history book that describes John Wesley’s legacy through the many portraits and sculptures that attempt his exact likeness, in life and in death.Faces are more than a montage of organs that see, breathe, speak, hear, eat, sing, smell, and yell. As Josephine Tey points out in her mystery novel, The Daughter of Time, the slant of an eyebrow, the set of a mouth, the look of the eye, the firmness of a chin, often can provide evidence of character that is as telling as a report card or a police blotter. Those features depicted on portraits of individuals can be equally telling of the person’s inner nature or perhaps of what the artist thinks (or wants the viewer to think) about the person being portrayed. Sometimes a portrait might be even more useful than a biography.

While examining these portraits, the author considers three questions: what was Wesley’s attitude toward the portrait (if any), how did the public respond to these portrayals, and what was the artist attempting to convey? This book focuses on the main portraits and their derivatives, looking at them within the three main categories that developed over the years: Oxford don, Methodist preacher, and notable person. Although these types seemed to arise in chronological order, there is some overlap between categories, especially toward the end of Wesley’s life and beyond.


“Richard Heitzenrater has devoted his scholarly career to casting new light on the ‘elusive’ John Wesley. He is particularly known for probing (and when necessary, decoding) an abundance of Wesley’s manuscript and print materials. But the author’s personal artistic bent and pursuit of the ‘whole Wesley’ also sustained across the decades a remarkably broad-ranging and insightful exploration of the physical renderings of Wesley—in portraits, etchings, ceramic busts, and beyond. This volume gathers the rich fruit of this lifetime of exploration. It will be deeply appreciated by all who care about Wesley and ‘the people called Methodists.’”
–Randy L. Maddox, William Kellon Quick Professor of Wesleyan and Methodist Studies, Duke Divinity School, Durham, NC, and General Editor of the
Bicentennial Edition of The Works of John Wesley

About the Author

Richard P. Heitzenrater

Richard P. Heitzenrater is William Kellon Quick Professor Emeritus of Church History and Wesley Studies at The Divinity School, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina; and General Editor of the Bicentennial Edition of the Works of John Wesley. He is also a member of the board of Kingswood Books. He lives in Durham, North Carolina.