Ellys, John (DNB00)

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ELLYS or ELLIS, JOHN (1701–1757), portrait-painter, born in March 1700-1, was, when about fifteen years old, placed for instruction under Sir James Thornhill, with whom he did not stay long, and for a short time under Johann Rudolph Schmutz. He subsequently became an imitator of John Vanderbank and was a student with Hogarth and others in the academy started in October 1720 by Cheron and Vanderbank in St. Martin's Lane. After a few years Ellys and Hogarth succeeded to the directorship of this academy, and maintained their connection with it for about thirty years. When young Ellys obtained a special warrant to copy any pictures at the royal palaces for study, and copied several pictures by Vandyck, Kneller, Lely, and others. He was a zealous adherent of the Kneller school of portrait-painting, and resented the departure from it inaugurated by Sir Joshua Reynolds. He eventually succeeded to Vanderbank's house and practice, and having already purchased from Moses Vanderbank a share of the place of tapestry-maker to the crown, eventually obtained that position also. Ellys was consulted and employed by Sir Robert Walpole in the formation of his celebrated collection of pictures, and among other similar charges was especially sent over to Holland to purchase from the Princess of Friesland the great picture of 'The Virgin and Angels' by Vandyck, now in the Hermitage Gallery at St. Petersburg with the rest of the Houghton collection. For these services Ellys was rewarded by Walpole with the sinecure of master keeper of the lions in the Tower, which he held up to his death. He had, in October 1736, succeeded Philip Mercier as principal painter to Frederick, prince of Wales, He was a member of the committee of artists appointed in 1755 to frame a plan for constructing a royal academy, but did not survive to see any result of their efforts, as he died on 14 Sept. 1757. Ellys, who was usually known as 'Jack Ellys,' was a good and careful portrait-painter of the rather uninteresting school to which he belonged. There is a good portrait group of Lord Whitworth and his nephew, dated 1727, by him at Knole in Kent. Many of his portraits were engraved by John Faber, jun. Among these were Lavinia Fenton, duchess of Bolton, James Figg, the famous pugilist, Frederick, prince of Wales, Henry Medley, George Oldham, Lord Mayor Humphrey Parsons. William Wake, archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Walker, the actor, as Captain Macheath, Robert Wilks, the actor, and George Stanhope, dean of Canterbury. The last named was also engraved by J. Sympson. Among engravings by other artists from Ellys's portraits were Kitty Clive, by J. Tinney; Sir Charles Wager, by G. White; and Edmund Gibson, bishop of London, by G. Vertue.

[Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Vertue MSS. (Brit. Mus. Addit. MSS. 23068 &c.), Gent. Mag. 1767, xxvii. 436: Chaloner Smith's British Mezzotinto Portraits.]

L. C.