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John Somers, Baron Somers

17 of 21 portraits on display in Room 9 at the National Portrait Gallery

John Somers, Baron Somers, by Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt, circa 1715-1716 - NPG 3223 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

John Somers, Baron Somers

by Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt
oil on canvas, circa 1715-1716
35 3/4 in. x 27 3/4 in. (908 mm x 705 mm)
Given by the Art Fund, 1945
Primary Collection
NPG 3223


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Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

  • Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt (1646-1723), Portrait painter. Artist associated with 1678 portraits, Sitter associated with 30 portraits.

This portraitback to top

Having entered the Middle Temple in 1669, Somers won a great legal reputation and was junior counsel for the Seven Bishops in 1688. He also helped to draft the Bill of Rights. As Solicitor-General and Attorney-General he created a new and important tradition by his temperate prosecution of the enemies of the new regime of William and Mary. As a leader of the Whigs he organised the Junto, a close body of ministers which in some ways anticipated the Cabinet. He became a Baron and Lord Chancellor in 1697 and was finally ousted from office when the Tories came to power in 1710. Described by Johnathan Swift as possessing 'all excellent qualifications, except virtue', in this portrait Somers holds a first edition of an octavo edition of Spenser's Fairie Queene published in 1715 and dedicated to him.

Related worksback to top

  • NPG D19842: John Somers, Baron Somers (source portrait)
  • NPG D33118: John Somers, Baron Somers (source portrait)
  • NPG D41809: John Somers, Baron Somers (source portrait)

Linked publicationsback to top

Events of 1715back to top

Current affairs

Henry St John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke flees to Paris - following his part in secret negotiations around the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 - where he becomes foreign minister to the Pretender, James Stuart. First Jacobite Rebellion begins in Scotland against the rule of George I. The Pretender arrives from France. Total solar eclipse is seen across southern England; the last total eclipse visible in London for almost 900 years.

Art and science

Artist Jonathan Richardson publishes The Theory of Painting, credited with being the first significant work of artistic theory in English. Poet Alexander Pope begins his acclaimed translation of Homer's Illiad Architect Colen Campbell creates interest in the Palladian style in Britain with the publication of his Vitruvius Britannicus.

International

Louis XIV of France dies after seventy-two years on the throne. He is succeeded by his five-year old grandson, Louis XV. British build a permanent factory in Canton, China.

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