The 3ft x 3ft 11in (91cm x 1.19m) oil on canvas had passed by descent from the family it depicted.
The Wolfe family lived at Forenaughts House, a Georgian mansion in Naas, County Kildare, where this painting once hung. The sitters are thought to be John Wolfe (1754-1816) and his wife (and cousin) Charlotte (d.1787), together with a daughter and two of their sons, perhaps John and Theobald.
Though unsigned, several typical Wheatley artistic ploys are used, such as the use of architecture and shadows to frame the family and the careful painting of trees in the background.
Wheatley lived briefly in Dublin between 1779-83 and worked in nearby Kildare. During his four years in Ireland, he produced a number of highly accomplished small popular full-length portraits, including an equestrian portrait of Sir Henry Pigot which currently holds the record for the artist at auction – a premium-inclusive $330,000 at Christie’s New York in 2000.
The Wolfe family portrait, which had been re-lined and well restored at some point in its history, was pursued to £8000, double the top guide, when it was hammered down to a private buyer in the Cotswolds.