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Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue: George I

The following text is from the National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Kerslake, Early Georgian Portraits, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1977 (now out of print). For the most up to date research on the Collection, we recommend reading the information provided in the Search the Collection results on this website in parallel with this text. This can be accessed by following the link with each portrait’s title.

In consulting the following, please note that apart from the reformatting which allows the printed catalogue to be made available on-line the text is as published in 1977. Footnotes in the original edition are given within square brackets.

Contents Foreword Introduction Catalogue scope Abbreviations Arrangement of entries

George I (1660-1727)

George Lewis, King of Great Britain and Ireland, 1714-27; son of Ernest Augustus of Hanover and great-grandson of James I and VI; KG, 1701; elector of Hanover from 1708; married Sophia Dorothea of Celle, 1682, divorced, 1694, and imprisoned her until her death, 1726; a distinguished soldier on close terms with Marlborough, took Hanover into the Grand Alliance against Louis XIV; became King under the Act of Settlement on the death of Queen Anne; from 1717, spent much time in Hanover where he died.

4223 Studio of Sir Godfrey Kneller, c.1714
Oil on canvas, 29 7/8 x 25 in. (756 x 635 mm); profile; dark eye, fresh complexion, grey wig resting on shoulder; white cravat, gold-edged armour, draped with pale mauve cloth, fastened by a brooch on his right shoulder; light brown background, greyish-brown spandrels with two rules, painted oval; lit from top left.

Inscribed in gold, right, level with his chest: GEORG.I., and below, in black, in facsimile of a signature: G.Kneller/ Eq: pinx:.

NPG 4223 is probably the best of several versions and if not autograph throughout, was surely produced in the artist's studio. A good version is in the Brunswick collection. Of the two in the Royal collection, the copy at Windsor bought by George IV, recorded first in 1816 at Carlton House, has the longer history (Millar, 371). A studio version was listed at Buckingham Palace in 1866 (Millar, 359). Another version described as an 'Heirloom from Lady Darlington',[1] belonged in 1908 to Alexander, Count Kielmansegge, descendant of John Adolph, Baron von Kielmansegge, master of the horse to George I. His wife Sophia Charlotte (c.1673-1735),née von Platen, was created Countess of Darlington in 1722. A copy of the portrait in Lord Salisbury's collection at Hatfield has gone under the name of the 7th Earl of Exeter. A miniature copy by B. Lens was sold at Christie's, 11 February 1936, lot 34.

The engraving of the type by Chéreau, the younger, reversed, with ermine edging to the drapery and without the Garter ribbon, included the lettering Inauguratus XX die Octobris 1714. The engraving, therefore, if not the painting, would seem to date from after the coronation. The sitter appears too old for a date prior to 1701, the year he was made knight of the Garter, and the omission of the Garter from the engraving and from known versions of the painting, remains unexplained. The portrait is probably associated with a payment to Kneller, dated 6 May 1715, which included twenty pounds 'for the coin'. [2] A possible date would be between George's arrival in England, 18 September 1714, and the coronation, 20 October.

Condition: slight retouchings on his right cheek; some rubbing outside the chin, which is now thin; a number of dark vertical lines in the wig, and opposite the necktie.

Collections: bought, 1961, through Leggatt's, from the sale of the late J.R. Marriott, Phillips Son & Neale, 19 July 1961, lot 312; from the collection of the late L.H. McCormick, Christie's, 1 December 1922, lot 74; earlier history unknown, but in view of the form GEORG in the inscription, probably at one time in a German collection.

Engraved: Jacques Chéreau, the younger.

544 Studio of Sir Godfrey Kneller, c.1714
Oil on canvas, 75 ¾ x 54 in. (1924 x 1372 mm); dark brown eyes, long grey wig falling in front of his shoulder, right, and behind, left; Garter robes, the scarlet surcoat leaving his left knee uncovered, the blue mantle folded back over his left arm falls over the arm of his chair to the red Turkey carpet; long lace cravat, grey waistcoat and breeches, white shirt with lace cuffs, white hose, buff shoes, a small ring on the little finger of his left hand; in front of an alcove, left, on a red cloth-covered table, crown, orb and sceptre, and white plumed hat of the order; the wall, right, is covered in deep red.

A rather crude version of the standard Kneller coronation portrait of 1714, engraved by Vertue in 1715. Kneller received payment for copies from at least 6 May 1715 (Millar, 361), and though his own hand is nowhere apparent, the paint seems contemporary and the picture may well have come from his studio. A version said to be signed and dated 1716 has now come to light in an English private collection. [3]

Condition: lightly cleaned, 1879 and 1895; surface cleaned and revarnished, 1900.

Collections: transferred, 1879, to the NPG from the British Museum, old Cottonian Library.

488 After a portrait by Sir Godfrey Kneller of c.1714
Oil on copper, 6 5/8 x 5 5/8 in. (168 x 143 mm), oval; dark brown eyes, wig to below his left shoulder; Garter collar over coronation robes, a fold over his left arm; green background; lit from left.

NPG 488, a pair with the sitter's daughter Sophia Dorothea (NPG 489), is a small copy deriving ultimately from Kneller's whole length of 1714. The type may have been transmitted by Faber junior's engraving of the painting after 'D. Stevens', 1722 (CS 154, II), itself deriving from the Kneller.

Condition: varnish yellowed; slight loss of paint round the edges.

Collections: bought 1877, from C.H. Waters.

4156 By John Michael Rysbrack.
Terracotta bust, 24 ¾ in. high (629 mm); incised pupils, hair curled in Roman manner, crowned with laurel; lion armour, drapery clasped by a circular brooch on his right shoulder.

Rysbrack gave a list of his work to Vertue including a 'K. George 1. a Marble'. Vertue noted, 1732, 'the King did not actually set', [4] but it is not clear whether the type is posthumous or perhaps after another portrait. Rysbrack came to London in the autumn of 1720 and his reputation was such as to have justified important commissions from about 1723. A marble bust similar to NPG 4156, but with Garter star, was in the Hall at Christ Church, Oxford, by 1766, [5] and a whole length version, in marble, in the Squire Law Library, Cambridge, was ordered in 1736 and erected in 1739. [6] Another statue, erected in the Royal Exchange, was last recorded as sold, damaged, after the fire of 1838. [7] Two marble medallions by Rysbrack are now lost. [8]

Condition: numerous cracks including one down the centre of the chest; five of the laurel tips are broken and three missing. The glaze may cover a red paint which the sculptor habitually used to produce a homogeneous surface after the infilling of cracks with plaster, the cracks themselves resulting from the firing. [9] The grey glaze is unusual.

Collections: bought, 1960, from Roger Warner and by him, 1959, from the Poulett collection, Hinton St George [10] where its identity had been lost. Identified by the late Mrs M.I. Webb, it may be one of the models that remained in Rysbrack's studio, recorded in the catalogue of his sale, 24 January 1766, lot 41, or 25 January 1766, lot 33. [11]

Literature: [Horace Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford], A Catalogue of the Right Honble Sir Robert Walpole' s Collection of Pictures, 1736, MS, The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York (cited as Walpole 1736); R. Robertson (?) A Description of the Pictures at Houghton Hall, 1750, presented to the NPG in 1888 by G. Leveson Gower (cited as Robertson); L. Melville, The First George, 1908; O.M. Dalton, Catalogue of the Ivory Carvings . . . in the British Museum, 1909; Catalogue of English Porcelain . . . collected by Charles Schreiber . . . presented to the Museum in 1884, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1930; J.W. Goodison, Cambridge Portraits, 1955; E. Croft-Murray, Decorative Painting in England 1537-1837, 1962; J. Kerslake, 'Sculptor and Patron? Two Portraits by Highmore', Apollo, XCV,January 1972.


Before 1714
Known in his early years as George Lewis, Duke of Hanover, and after 1699 as Elector of Hanover, portraits up to 1714 unless otherwise stated, depict him three-quarter length in armour or cuirass and are in the Brunswick collection, formerly at Schloss Blankenburg. He was painted by Nicolaes Maes [12] probably in the Low Countries on his way to England.

Two oils by Kneller seen in the 'Brunswick Art Treasures', Victoria and Albert Museum, 1952, are associated with the years between his arrival about December 1680 and his sudden departure, and marriage, 21 November 1682. Of these, the portrait facing to the right, engraved by R. Tompson (CS 17), is presumably the source of the mezzotint mentioned by Vertue in D'Agar's sale: 'a metzotint hd of K. George half length after Sr. G. Knellers painted when he was in England. formerly. the print tho. meanly done. yet retains a likeness of his picture lately done when King by the same painter. a great proof of the trueness of likeness. that he constantly hit'. [13] The identity of the other Kneller portrait has been questioned, [14] and it may represent one of George's younger brothers. A half length by Seaghley, [15] 1702, engraved by B. Lens, seems related to two other close but probably distinct types, one by the Nuremberg artist J.L. Hirschmann ('Hirseman'), now known only by John Smith's engraving (CS 99, as Elector), and the other, formerly NPG 1366, bought from Sir Frederick Milner, Bart, as the 3rd Earl of Peterborough and sold, 1920, to the Ministry of Works. Two further portraits, near-identical heads, one said to be of c.1699, are also close to the above and to the engraving by B. Picart published by Renard of Amsterdam. Although dated after the coronation the engraving is surely based on a portrait of the Hanoverian period, the face mask being not far from the portrait by Quiter, 1705 (H.H. Quiter?) at Blenheim. When exhibited in the 'NPE', 1867 (194), it was stated to have H. de Quiltery, ft. 1705 written on the back but this is not now visible. It was probably painted for Marlborough who was in Hanover that year.

A portrait of a boy as Cupid wearing the lesser George, said to have been painted by the sitter's mother the Electress Sophia, and now attributed to G. Honthorst, [16] is wrongly named. The child appears to be about three or four years old and must be William III (1650-1702) who became a knight of the Garter in 1653, the only child c.1650-1714 to have had the order so young.

1714-27 Kneller and Studio
The bulk of Kneller's output must have originated with the accession, but closer dating is not available. A few examples of a profile are found, as in NPG 4223; the state portrait was three-quarter face. Examples are numerous. NPG 544 is particularly hard, but no clearly pre-eminent version emerges. The types presumably relate to two sittings or series of sittings and the variety or derivatives from the three-quarter face would seem to confirm a statement in the Houghton manuscript of 1750 that this was the only 'Picture' for which he 'ever sat in England'. [17] Vertue, however, records that 'King William and Queen Mary also the late Queen . . . & the Present King were drawn by him [Kneller] several times . . .'. [18]

Judging from his usual practice, particularly with a reluctant sitter or one pressed for time, Kneller may well have taken drawings from life, the oils being worked up in the studio with the help of costume and models. A three-quarter face engraved by Vertue as a [b] Solo Originali and published with the date of the coronation might indeed represent some such working sketch now lost; another, formerly doubted by Oppé, is at Windsor. [19] Whole length oils, standing in robes of state, with the crown on a table on the left, are at Windsor Castle (Millar, 360), at Houghton, the Scottish NPG (1059), the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, Aske Hall and Gripsholm Castle, Sweden. A good reversed version is at Burghley [20] (as by Dahl) and another, similar, with a record of payment to an unnamed artist in 1715 is at County Hall, Northampton. Another, whole length with the same pose of head, formerly in the Guildhall, London (destroyed in 1940), [21] was commissioned by the corporation and received in 1716. It shows George wearing the crown as in Faber junior's engraving. In a further variant, still with the same head, the King is seated in Garter robes; examples are NPG 544 and the better versions at Hampton Court (Millar, 375) and at Floors Castle, Duke of Roxburghe collection.

A head and shoulders engraving by P. Van Gunst shows him in the same pose but in cuirass with Garter ribbon. No corresponding oil is known and no artist's name is given. The print is reversed and the ribbon consequently over the wrong shoulder. The three-quarter face also appears in a whole length equestrian type in the Earl of Verulam's collection at Gorhambury. [22] An equestrian portrait, 53 x 42 in., was recorded at Houghton in 1736 and again in 1752 with the information that 'The Figure is by Sir Godfrey, which he took from the King at Guildford Horse-Race. The Horse is new painted by Wootton'. [23] A sketch which evidently went to Russia with the other Houghton pictures was in the Gatchina Palace. [24] The addenda to the 1736 catalogue also refer to a whole length. [25]

1714-27 Other artists
Among other works, there is an equestrian portrait of 1726 by John Vanderbank (Millar, 499, pl.168) based on Vandyck's portrait of Charles I in the National Gallery, [26] and another, 50 x 40 in., sometimes ascribed to Wootton shows the sitter riding to the right, with mounted troops in the background; an example is at Aynho. Further portraits, apparently independent, include a whole length in coronation robes by Enoch Seeman, 1717, Middle Temple, receipt dated 22 November that year, close to the mezzotint by Faber junior of 1722 after 'D. Stevens'. Another by Fountain (Millar, 498, pl.189), engraved by Monguibert is also close; a head is owned by the City of Bath. The face mask of the seated three-quarter length given to Lord Chancellor Hardwicke in 1730 [27] is also near to Fountain who held the post of 'Hofcontrefaitre' to George I. The King also appears in the decorations of the Painted Hall at Greenwich, 1708-24, now partly ascribed to Sir James Thornhill's assistant Dietrich André. [28] Two studies for this are in the British Museum.

The only work known to be from life is by David Le Marchand (1674-1726), the Dieppe ivory carver who spent most of his life in England. [29] An ivory head incised ad. Viv. was acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1931 and a medallion, [30] with a version at Brunswick, is in the British Museum. Vertue's reference that 'the King did not actually set' [31] almost certainly applies not only to Rysbrack's bust but also to Burchard, Delvaux and Van Nost whose statues are recorded by Gunnis. [32] A wax profile medallion, [33] probably by Gosset and another in which the sitter looks to the left, acquired 1931, as well as a bronze equestrian statuette with the rider being crowned with laurels, are in the Victoria and Albert Museum.


1. Melville, II, frontispiece.
2. Calendar of Treasury Books, XXIX (ii), p.508; quoted Millar, p.148. For references to coinage, see W. Peck, English Copper, Tin and Bronze Coins at the British Museum, 1960, pp.198-203.
3. Information, O. Millar, 1970.
4. Vertue, III, p.56.
5. Poole, III, p.50 (127).
6. Webb, pp.161-63, 216; Goodison, pp.22-23, pl.viii.
7. Webb, p.216.
8. Ibid; sale catalogue 20 April 1765, lots 16 and 17.
9. Rysbrack to Sir Edward Littleton, 6 May 1768; Webb, p.200.
10. Sale of furnishings, Wooley & Wallis, Salisbury.
11. Webb, p.161.
12. 21 x 17 ½ in., signed; exh. 'Kings & Queens', RA, 1953 (221), souvenir catalogue pl.58.
13. Vertue, I, p.126.
14. Exh. 'Sir Godfrey Kneller', NPG, 1971, catalogue p.51, reproduced.
15. Reproduced, Macaulay' s History of England, ed. C.H. Firth, 1914, V, p.2217.
16. At Sotheby's, 27 November 1968, lot 72; exh. ‘Manchester Art Treasures', 1857 (244).
17. Robertson; the Houghton picture reproduced Country Life, XXII, 1907, p.132.
18. Vertue, II, p.121.
19. Oppé (405); exh. 'Sir Godfrey Kneller', NPG, 1971 (65).
20. Their catalogue, 1954 (360).
21. For some years in the frame of their George II.
22. Exh. 'Kings & Queens', RA, 1953 (222).
23. Walpole, 1736, f.9; Aedes Walpolianae, 2nd edition, 1752, p.45 (see below, Orford, 1st Earl, Iconography).
24. Serge Brust, 'Portraits by Kneller in Russia', Burlington Magazine, CVII, 1965, p.426, pl.47.
25. Walpole, 1736, pp.35-36.
26. Connoisseur, XCV, 1935, reproduced p.257. C.H. Collins Baker, Catalogue of the Principal Pictures in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle, 1937, p.298.
27. Bought by Warwickshire County Council, Wimpole sale 1950, now in County Hall.
28. Croft-Murray, p.263; Binyon, IV, 1907, p.182 (23, 24).
29. Presumably David Le Marchant, who died in The French Hospital, London, 17 March 1726 (admitted 3 February 1726 as David Marchand). Kerslake, p.29, and note 32, citing hospital archives.
30. Dalton, p.152 (456),
31. Vertue, III, p.56; see above NPG 4156.
32. Gunnis, pp.70, 126, 285.
33. Schreiber collection catalogue, II, (623), p.178.


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