27297236._UY200_An Exact Likeness: The Portraits of John Wesley, Richard P. Heitzenrater, Abingdon Press, 2016.

The latest from Dr. Heitzenrater is for all the Methodist nerds.

Heitzenrater is the leading Wesley scholar of our time. In his latest book, An Exact Likeness, the Duke Divinity professor explores the many different portraits of the great preacher. As in paintings, engravings, and busts of the founder of Methodism.

If you want to call it biography, you can. But be forewarned, the subject is the portraits, not Mr. Wesley. Heitzenrater’s writing is approachable as he explains the history of the varying portraits. Heitzenrater draws connections between historical evidence and Wesley’s journals as to which portraits Wesley sat for and which he did not.


These portraits and their copies were the selfies of their day. They were a snapshot into the soul of a person. After all, the face is more than a collage of organs to make use of the five senses. The slant of an eyebrow. The mouth set a certain way. A penetrating look in the eye. These details and more communicate something about the character of the subject. They brilliantly depict the Oxford don, Methodist preacher, a notable person.

Heitzenrater points out that all the different “exact likeness”es include the long nose, the dimpled chin, the thin lips, and the clerical garb. These became standard in images of Wesley. Heitzenrater points out, however:

“One preliminary conclusion thus becomes apparent: the various portraits of Wesley do not tell us very much about how Wesley looked. They do illustrate a few basic points: he always seems to have worn his clerical garb.”

The variant portrayals reflect the wide range of interpretations of Wesley’s writings and his character, that exist even to this day. Yet, Heitzenrater reminds the reader that the main interest of the painter or engraver was to make money, “not to present an accurate image of the person.”

You can purchase a copy by clicking on the image below:

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a digital review copy.