Thomas Worlidge

Last updated

Thomas Worlidge (1700−1766) was an English painter and etcher.



He was born in Peterborough of Roman Catholic parents, and studied art in London as a pupil of the Genoese refugee Alessandro Maria Grimaldi (1659−1732). He painted portraits of his master Grimaldi and his master's wife about 1720. He married Grimaldi's daughter, and remained on close terms with Alexander Grimaldi, his master's son. Subsequently he received instruction from Louis Peter Boitard. About 1736 Worlidge and the younger Grimaldi are said to have visited Birmingham, where Worlidge reintroduced the art of painting on glass. For a time, too, he seems to have practised portrait painting at Bath, Somerset.

Peterborough City and unitary authority in England

Peterborough is a cathedral city in Cambridgeshire, England, with a population of 196,640 in 2015. Historically part of Northamptonshire, it is 76 miles (122 km) north of London, on the River Nene which flows into the North Sea 30 miles (48 km) to the north-east. The railway station is an important stop on the East Coast Main Line between London and Edinburgh. The city is also 70 miles (110 km) east of Birmingham, 38 miles (61 km) east of Leicester, 81 miles (130 km) south of Kingston upon Hull and 65 miles (105 km) west of Norwich.

Louis Peter Boitard was a French engraver and designer, who worked in London.

Birmingham Major city in the English Midlands, 2nd highest population of UK cities

Birmingham is a major city in the West Midlands, England and is the second-largest city and metropolitan area in England and the United Kingdom), with roughly 1.1 million inhabitants within the city area and 3.8 million inhabitants within the metropolitan area as of their most recent estimates, which also makes Birmingham the 17th largest city and 8th largest metropolitan area in the European Union. Birmingham is commonly referred to as the nation's "second city".

About 1740 Worlidge settled in London in the neighbourhood of Covent Garden, where he remained for the rest of his life. At one time Worlidge's address was ‘at the Piazza, Covent Garden.’ He afterwards resided in Bedford Street and King Street in the same neighbourhood.

Covent Garden district in London, England

Covent Garden is a district in London, on the eastern fringes of the West End, between St Martin's Lane and Drury Lane. It is associated with the former fruit-and-vegetable market in the central square, now a popular shopping and tourist site, and with the Royal Opera House, which itself may be referred to as "Covent Garden". The district is divided by the main thoroughfare of Long Acre, north of which is given over to independent shops centred on Neal's Yard and Seven Dials, while the south contains the central square with its street performers and most of the historical buildings, theatres and entertainment facilities, including the London Transport Museum and the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.

In 1763 he settled in Great Queen Street in a large house built by Inigo Jones, adjoining the later site of the Freemasons' Tavern. Worlidge became obese and a drinker in later life, and suffered from gout. In his last years he spent much of his leisure in a country house situated in Messrs. Kennedy & Leigh's nursery-ground at Hammersmith. There he died on 23 September 1766, and was buried in Hammersmith church. A plain marble slab, inscribed with verses by William Kenrick, was placed on the wall of the church; it is now at the east end of the south aisle.

Great Queen Street street in the West End of central London in England

Great Queen Street is a street in the West End of central London in England. It is a continuation of Long Acre from Drury Lane to Kingsway. It runs from 1 to 44 along the north side, east to west, and 45 to about 80 along the south side, west to east. The street straddles and connects the Covent Garden and Holborn districts and is in the London Borough of Camden. It is numbered B402.

Inigo Jones 16th/17th-century English architect

Inigo Jones was the first significant English architect in the early modern period, and the first to employ Vitruvian rules of proportion and symmetry in his buildings. As the most notable architect in England, Jones was the first person to introduce the classical architecture of Rome and the Italian Renaissance to Britain. He left his mark on London by his design of single buildings, such as the Queen's House which is the first building in England designed in a pure classical style, and the Banqueting House, Whitehall, as well as the layout for Covent Garden square which became a model for future developments in the West End. He made major contributions to stage design by his work as theatrical designer for several dozen masques, most by royal command and many in collaboration with Ben Jonson.

Freemasons Tavern

The Freemasons' Tavern was established in 1775 at 61-65 Great Queen Street in the West End of London. It served as a meeting place for a variety of notable organisations from the eighteenth century until it was demolished to make way for the Connaught Hotel in 1909.


His portraits in oil and pastel enjoyed some vogue, his first reputation was made by his miniature portraits. In middle life his most popular work consisted of heads in blacklead pencil, for which he charged two guineas; leaders of fashionable society employed him to make these drawing. Later he concentrated his energies on etching in the style of Rembrandt, using a dry-needle with triangular point. He copied some of Rembrandt's prints, among them the artist's portrait of himself and the hundred-guelder plate. An etching after Rembrandt's portrait of Sir John Astley was described by Horace Walpole as Worlidge's ‘best piece.’ Worlidge drew a pencil portrait of himself, which is reproduced in Walpole's Anecdotes (edition by Ralph Nicholson Wornum). Examples of Worlidge's drawings and etchings are in the British Museum print-room. There is also there a priced catalogue of a selection of his etchings.

Pastel art medium

A pastel is an art medium in the form of a stick, consisting of pure powdered pigment and a binder. The pigments used in pastels are the same as those used to produce all colored art media, including oil paints; the binder is of a neutral hue and low saturation. The color effect of pastels is closer to the natural dry pigments than that of any other process.

Rembrandt 17th-century Dutch painter and printmaker

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was a Dutch draughtsman, painter and printmaker. An innovative and prolific master in three media, he is generally considered one of the greatest visual artists in the history of art and the most important in Dutch art history. Unlike most Dutch masters of the 17th century, Rembrandt's works depict a wide range of style and subject matter, from portraits and self-portraits to landscapes, genre scenes, allegorical and historical scenes, biblical and mythological themes as well as animal studies. His contributions to art came in a period of great wealth and cultural achievement that historians call the Dutch Golden Age, when Dutch art, although in many ways antithetical to the Baroque style that dominated Europe, was extremely prolific and innovative, and gave rise to important new genres. Like many artists of the Dutch Golden Age, such as Jan Vermeer of Delft, Rembrandt was also an avid art collector and dealer.

Drypoint intaglio printmaking technique

Drypoint is a printmaking technique of the intaglio family, in which an image is incised into a plate with a hard-pointed "needle" of sharp metal or diamond point. In principle, the method is practically identical to engraving. The difference is in the use of tools, and that the raised ridge along the furrow is not scraped or filed away as in engraving. Traditionally the plate was copper, but now acetate, zinc, or plexiglas are also commonly used. Like etching, drypoint is easier to master than engraving for an artist trained in drawing because the technique of using the needle is closer to using a pencil than the engraver's burin.

Portrait of King George II, c.1753, by or after Worlidge. King George II by Thomas Worlidge.jpg
Portrait of King George II, c.1753, by or after Worlidge.

One of Worlidge's most popular plates depicted the installation of John Fane, 7th Earl of Westmorland as chancellor of the university at the Sheldonian Theatre at Oxford in 1761. Worlidge represents himself in the gallery on the right in the act of drawing the scene with his second wife beside him. In the corresponding place on the left-hand side of the plate is a portrait of his brother-in-law, Alexander Grimaldi. Most of the numerous heads and figures are portraits. A plate of the bust of Cicero at Oxford (known as the Pomfret bust) also enjoyed a wide vogue.

John Fane, 7th Earl of Westmorland British politician

John Fane, 7th Earl of Westmorland, styled The Honourable John Fane from 1691 to 1733 and Lord Catherlough from 1733 to 1736, was a British Army officer and politician who sat in the House of Commons in three separate stretches between 1708 and 1734.

Sheldonian Theatre theatre at Oxford University

The Sheldonian Theatre, located in Oxford, England, was built from 1664 to 1669 after a design by Christopher Wren for the University of Oxford. The building is named after Gilbert Sheldon, chancellor of the University at the time and the project's main financial backer. It is used for music concerts, lectures and University ceremonies, but not for drama until 2015 when the Christ Church Dramatic Society staged a production of The Crucible by Arthur Miller.

Cicero 1st-century BC Roman lawyer, orator, philosopher and statesman

Marcus Tullius Cicero was a Roman statesman, orator, lawyer and philosopher, who served as consul in the year 63 BC. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the Roman equestrian order, and is considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.

David Garrick in character as Tancred from James Thomson's Tancred and Sigismunda, 1752. James Thomson David Garrick as Tancred 1752 VA.jpg
David Garrick in character as Tancred from James Thomson's Tancred and Sigismunda, 1752.

In April 1754 Worlidge had a large collection of his works to be sold by public auction. The printed catalogue bore the title, ‘A Collection of Pictures painted by Mr. Worlidge of Covent Garden, consisting’ ‘of Histories, Heads, Landscapes, and Dead Game, and also some Drawings.’ The highest price fetched was £51 15s. 6d., which was given for a ‘fine head’ after Rembrandt. More than sixteen hundred prints and more than thirteen hundred drawings by Worlidge were sold by Abraham Langford in March 1767 by order of his widow.

Abraham Langford British writer

Abraham Langford (1711–1774) was an English auctioneer and playwright.

Worlidge's last work was his Antique Gems, a series of 182 etchings of gems from the antique (three are in duplicate). The series was published in parts, some of which seem to have been issued as early as 1754; but Worlidge died before the work was completed. It was finished by his pupils William Grimaldi and George Powle, and, printed on satin, was published by his widow in 1768 at the price of eighteen guineas a copy. [1] The frontispiece, dated 1754, shows Worlidge drawing the Pomfret bust of Cicero; behind on an easel is a portrait of his second wife, Mary. No letterpress was included originally in the volume, but between 1768 and 1780 a few copies were issued with letterpress. After 1780 a new edition, but bearing the original date of 1768, appeared with letterpress in two volumes at five guineas each. The title-page omits mention of ‘M. Wicksteed's’ name, but is otherwise a replica of the first. Some of the old copper plates (108 in all) were reproduced in ‘Antique Gems, etched by T. Worlidge on Copper Plates, in the Possession of Sheffield Grace, Esq.,’ London, 1823, (privately printed). Charles William King in his Antique Gems (1872, i. 469) thought Worlidge's plates often inferior to those of Jonathan Spilsbury, and that the descriptions placed below contained some blunders.


Worlidge was three times married: first, to Arabella (b. 1709), daughter of Alessandro Grimaldi (d. 1732); she died before 1749. The name of his second wife was Mary.

He married in 1763 his third wife, Elizabeth Wicksteed, daughter of a toyman of Bath, and apparently sister of the well-known seal engraver there. She assisted Worlidge in his artistic work, and gained a reputation for herself by her skill in copying paintings in needlework. After Worlidge's death she carried on the sale of his etchings at his house in Great Queen Street; but she let the mansion to Hester Darby and her daughter, Mary Robinson ('Perdita'), on her marriage to a wine and spirit merchant named Ashley, who had been one of Worlidge's friends.

Worlidge is said to have had thirty-two children by his three marriages, but only Thomas, a son by his third wife, survived him. This son married, in 1787, Phoebe, daughter of Alexander Grimaldi (1714−1800); she was buried in Bunhill Fields on 14 January 1829. Her husband migrated to the West Indies in 1792. In March 1826 he was again in London, and while employed as compositor in the office of the Morning Advertiser was sent to prison for an assault. His father drew a portrait of him, which bore the title ‘A Boy's Head.’

Related Research Articles

Etching intaglio printmaking technique

Etching is traditionally the process of using strong acid or mordant to cut into the unprotected parts of a metal surface to create a design in intaglio (incised) in the metal. In modern manufacturing, other chemicals may be used on other types of material. As a method of printmaking, it is, along with engraving, the most important technique for old master prints, and remains in wide use today. In a number of modern variants such as microfabrication etching and photochemical milling it is a crucial technique in much modern technology, including circuit boards.

Francis Seymour Haden British artist

Sir Francis Seymour Haden PPRE, was an English surgeon, best known as an original etcher who championed original printmaking. He was one of the founders the Society of Painter-Etchers, now the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers, and was its first president.

Ernest Stephen Lumsden, was a distinguished painter, noted etcher and authority on etching.

Frederick Christian Lewis English engraver and painter

Frederick Christian Lewis (1779–1856) was an English etcher, aquatint and stipple engraver, landscape and portrait painter and the brother of Charles Lewis (1786–1836).

Mary and Matthew Darly English printsellers and caricaturists

Mary and Matthew Darly were English printsellers and caricaturists during the 1770s. Mary Darly was a printseller, caricaturist, artist, engraver, writer, and teacher. She wrote, illustrated, and published the first book on caricature drawing, A Book of Caricaturas [sic], aimed at "young gentlemen and ladies." Mary was the wife of Matthew Darly, also called Matthias, a London printseller, furniture designer, and engraver. Mary was evidently the second wife of Matthew; his first was named Elizabeth Harold.

James McBey artist

James McBey was a largely self-taught artist and etcher whose prints were highly valued during the later stages of the etching revival in the early 20th century. He was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Letters by Aberdeen University.

William Baillie (1723–1810) often known as "Captain William Baillie" was an Irish printmaker, known especially for works in the style of, or directly copied from, the etchings of Rembrandt. Usually described as an amateur artist, he was an officer in the British Army until 1761, and later held the post of Commissioner of Stamps. He also acted as an agent for art collectors, most notably Lord Bute.

Johann Friedrich Bause German artist

Johann Friedrich Bause was a German engraver.

Hundred Guilder Print print by Rembrandt

The Hundred Guilder Print is an etching by Rembrandt. The etching's popular name derives from the large sum of money supposedly once paid for an example. It is also called Christ healing the sick, Christ with the Sick around Him, Receiving Little Children, or Christ preaching, since the print depicts multiple events from Matthew 19, including Christ healing the sick, debating with scholars and calling on children to come to him. The rich young man mentioned in the chapter is leaving through the gateway on the right.

John Swaine British artist

John Swaine, was an English draughtsman and engraver.

John Phillips (artist) English artist, born 1808

John Phillips was an English artist and illustrator. He is perhaps best known as a satirical etcher.

William Grimaldi (1751-1830) was an English miniature painter.

James MacArdell Irish engraver

James MacArdell (1729?–1765) was an Irish engraver of mezzotints.

Robert Dighton British artist

Robert Dighton was born c.1752 in London and died there in 1814. An English portrait painter, printmaker and caricaturist, he was the founder of a dynasty of artists who followed in his footsteps.

Arthur Pond British artist

Arthur Pond (c.1705–1758) was an English painter and engraver.

Hamlet Winstanley English painter

Hamlet Winstanley (1698–1756) was an English painter and engraver.

Joseph Webb English artist

Joseph Webb was a British printmaker, painter and teacher of etching and sculpture.

Self-portraits by Rembrandt Wikimedia list article

The dozens of self-portraits by Rembrandt were an important part of his oeuvre. Rembrandt created approaching one hundred self-portraits including over forty paintings, thirty-one etchings and about seven drawings; some remain uncertain as to the identity of either the subject or the artist, or the definition of a portrait.

David Charles Read English painter and etcher

David Charles Read (1790–1851) was an English painter and etcher.



  1. In its original form the volume bore the title, A select Collection of Drawings from curious antique Gems, most of them in the possession of the Nobility and Gentry of this Kingdom, etched after the manner of Rembrandt by T. Worlidge, printed by Dryden Leach for M. Worlidge, Great Queen Street, Lincolns Inn Fields; and M. Wicksteed, Seal-engraver at Bath, MD.CCLXVIII.

Wikisource-logo.svg  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : "Worlidge, Thomas". Dictionary of National Biography . London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.