John Michael Wright

John Michael Wright

Portrait Painter
Born May 25, 1617

John Michael Wright was a portrait painter in the Baroque style. Described variously as English and Scottish, Wright trained in Edinburgh under the Scots painter George Jamesone, and acquired a considerable reputation as an artist and scholar during a long sojourn in Rome. There he was admitted to the Accademia di San Luca, and was associated with some of the leading artists of his generation.… Read More

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1617 Birth A London birth certainly seems supported by a baptismal record, dated 25 May 1617, for a "Mighell Wryghtt", son of James Wright, described as a tailor and a citizen of London, in St Bride's Church, Fleet Street, London.


1636 19 Years Old What is known is that, on 6 April 1636, the 19-year-old Wright was apprenticed to George Jamesone, an Edinburgh portrait painter of some repute. … Read More


1642 25 Years Old There is evidence to suggest that Wright went to France following his apprenticeship, however his eventual destination was Italy. It is possible that he arrived in Rome as early as 1642 in the entourage of James Alban Gibbes (a scholar of English descent), but he was certainly resident there from 1647.


1648 31 Years Old Although details of his time there are sketchy, his skills and reputation increased so much so that by 1648 he had become a member of the prestigious Accademia di San Luca (where he is recorded as "Michele Rita, pittore inglese"). … Read More
1654 37 Years Old In 1654, after a decade in Rome, Wright travelled to Brussels where his abilities were recognised by Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria then governor of the Spanish Netherlands. … Read More
…  He was engaged by Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria, the governor of the Spanish Netherlands, to acquire artworks in Oliver Cromwell's England in 1655. … Read More
1656 39 Years Old However, after the relocation of his patron to Vienna, Wright again visited London. On 9 April 1656 he passed through Dover, and the register of visitors indicates: Perhaps tactfully, the record glosses Wright's employment in Flanders, (euphemistically referred to as "other parts") as England and the Habsburgs were now at open war, and it fails to mention his membership of the Accademia di San Luca, which would have identified him as a Roman Catholic. … Read More


1658 41 Years Old Indeed, Waterhouse speaks of him engaging in "the most deliberate and unblushing toadying to Cromwell" in his 1658 painting of a small posthumous portrait of Elizabeth Claypole, Oliver Cromwell's daughter (now in the National Portrait Gallery). … Read More
1659 42 Years Old Seemingly, he was also willing to work the other side of the political divide: in 1659 he painted Colonel John Russell who was a player in the "Sealed Knot" conspiracy to restore Charles II to the throne. … Read More
1660 43 Years Old After the restoration of Charles II in 1660, Wright's Roman Catholicism became less of a handicap, due to the King's preference for religious toleration. … Read More
1661 44 Years Old Charles II, who promoted a number of Roman Catholics at court, granted Wright a measure of royal art patronage. In 1661, soon after the coronation, he painted a formalised portrait of the monarch, seated in front of a tapestry representing the Judgement of Solomon, wearing St. Edward's Crown, the robes of the Garter, and carrying the orb and sceptre.


1669 52 Years Old Unlike Lely, who was knighted, Wright never received significant recognition from King Charles. However, at least one admirer thought he did deserve it. In 1669, Wright and the miniaturist Samuel Cooper had met Cosimo III de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany. … Read More
1673 56 Years Old 1 More Event
Wright was also commissioned to paint an allegorical ceiling for the King's bedchamber at Whitehall Palace, and he was further appointed in 1673 to the office of "picture drawer in ordinary", allowing him to exercise his right to sign his pictures "Pictor Regis". … Read More
1676 59 Years Old He painted six family portraits for Sir Walter Bagot of Blithfield in Staffordshire in 1676/7.


1678 61 Years Old In 1678, he removed to Dublin for a number of years, perhaps due to the anti-Catholic hysteria generated by Titus Oates's Popish Plot. … Read More
1685 68 Years Old In 1685, when the openly Roman Catholic James II ascended the throne, Wright was able to return to royal service. … Read More
1686 69 Years Old Wright's knowledge of Rome and of the Italian language may have played a part in this, as Castlemaine was dispatched, in 1686, on an embassy to Pope Innocent XI to demonstrate that England could become a player on the Roman Catholic side in impending European conflicts.
1687 70 Years Old 1 More Event
Wright's role in the embassy was to oversee the production of elaborate coaches, costumes and decorations for the procession, which secured a papal audience in January 1687. … Read More
1688 71 Years Old Wright's career came to an end in 1688 with the expulsion of King James II during the Glorious Revolution. … Read More
1694 77 Years Old 1 More Event
He lived on, in relative poverty, for a further six years until 1694. … Read More
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