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Bust of Charles Wilkes

The wax portrait bust of Charles Wilkes, 1830
by Robert Ball Hughes
view online at:
New-York Historical Society Museum & Library.

GALLERY LABEL: Wilkes came to America from his native London about 1782 and two years later was one of the men who organized the Bank of New York. He was the first treasurer of The New-York Historical Society, serving from 1805-18.

    The bust is recorded in the Smithsonian American Art Museum Art Inventories Catalog on SIRIS. Another wax bust of Charles Wilkes with similar dimensions is also recorded on SIRIS, location unknown.

    Charles Wilkes (1764-1833) was born in London, a nephew of the famous John Wilkes, lord mayor of London. Charles Wilkes was the President of the Bank of New York from 1825 until his retirement in 1832. He was also an officer of the American Academy of Arts, along with John Trumbull.

    Around 1830, Wilkes was on the committee for the statue of Alexander Hamilton destined for New York Merchants Exchange. He was apparently an admirer of Alexander Hamilton, along with the other men on the Committee.

According the Sketch of the Life of Robert Ball Hughes by Mrs. E. Ball Hughes, p. 2:

In 1828 Mr. Hughes made a beautiful Group of Shepherd boy dog and Lamb.  This was exhibited at the Royal Academy. and came to America in  1829 and was purchased by Mr. Charles Wilkes of New York.  Then President of the N Y. Bank. 

and on p. 13:

About this time Mr. Hughes made a very fine statuette of Governor Clinton and although he had orders for several busts . after sending to England for his group of the Shepherd boy which had been exhibited in the Royal Academy on its arrival in New York it was so deservedly admired, that after it was sold to Mr. Charles Wilkes.

    Note that Eliza mentioned that Ball Hughes had orders for several busts in New York. We know that he made a bust of John Trumbull, John Watts, and this one of Charles Wilkes.

    Charles Wilkes died in 1833, the same year that 
Ball Hughes was elected a member of the Board of Directors of the American Academy of the Fine Arts, of which Trumbull was President at the time.

last update 3/25/2013
For noncommercial use, Copyright David E. Brown 2008-2013