King James II
- Extended catalogue entry
Later Stuart Portraits Catalogue
King James II
by Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt
96 3/4 in. x 56 3/4 in. (2456 mm x 1441 mm) overall
Inscriptionback to top
Signed on the pedestal, lower left: G. Kneller Fe./1684.
This portraitback to top
There can be little doubt that this impressive and vigorous painting began as a portrait of James as Lord High Admiral. Beckett’s engraving shows in place of the regalia the baton and helmet of a Lord High Admiral, an office James had filled since May 1684 in all but name (following his enforced resignation in 1673 on declaring himself Catholic). The regalia in NPG 666 are hurriedly painted (although neither close inspection nor x-radiography proves that the portrait had first agreed with Beckett’s engraving). Stewart equated NPG 666 with the portrait ordered in October 1683 for the Scottish Privy Council Chamber, paid for in October 1684 and received by December  (indicating the regalia were certainly added). Kneller dated the portrait 1684; James came to the throne in February 1685.
The background man-of-war flies the Admiralty flag, although the Duke of York was said always to have flown the Standard at the main; perhaps this reflected his ambiguous position.  M. S. Robinson supposed that the naval scene may be by Van de Velde, ‘though a little flimsy and might be a copy’. 
Copies or versions (all showing the crown) are at Glamis Castle and Manchester City Art Gallery (1961.251).  Half-length versions at Holyrood, and formerly in the Dillon collection.  A version at Welbeck lacks the anchor and distant ships. 
Of many smaller derivations, there is an unattributed bust-length miniature in the Dutch Royal Collection  and a drawing for (or from) the head was sold in 1999. 
Footnotesback to top
1) J. D. Stewart, Godfrey Kneller, 1983, p 192; see HMC Buccleuch & Queensberry, Drumlanrig, II, 1903, p 149. O. Millar, The Tudor, Stuart and Early Georgian Pictures in the Collection of Her Majesty The Queen, 1963, p 23n, hesitated over this provenance, but this was before Stewart published the documentation in 1983.
2) D. Piper, Catalogue of the Seventeenth Century Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery 1625-1714, 1963, p 177, acknowledging information from M. S. Robinson (letter on file, see note 3).
3) M. S. Robinson, letter to C. K. Adams, 25 August [before 1963].
4) Bought from A. M. McNeill, 1961; illus. Kings and Queens, Liverpool, 1953, souvenir, p 20, and Kings in Conflict, Belfast, 1990, p 33.
5) Photograph in NPG archive; possibly Dillon sale, 24 May 1933, lot 64 (unidentified man, half-length in armour, feigned oval).
6) R. W. Goulding, Catalogue of Pictures belonging to … the Duke of Portland …, C. K. Adams ed., 1936, no.413.
7) Illus. K. Schaffers-Bodenhausen & M. Tiethoff-Spliethoff, The Portrait Miniatures in the Collections of the House of Orange-Nassau, 1993, p 201, no.184.
8) Bonham’s, 24 November 1999, lot 110.
Referenceback to top
Collins Baker 1912
C. H. Collins Baker, Lely and the Stuart Portrait Painters, 1912, II, p 171.
O. Millar in M. Whinney & O. Millar, English Art 1625-1714, 1957, pp 195-96.
D. Piper, Catalogue of the Seventeenth Century Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery 1625-1714, 1963, pp 176-77.
J. D. Stewart, Godfrey Kneller, 1983, no.385, and pp 26, 192.
Provenanceback to top
Council Chamber, Edinburgh, 1684; the Dukes of Hamilton; probably the whole-length of James II by Kneller in the Hamilton inventories 1704, no.190, and 1759, no.106;1 Hamilton Palace sale, Christie’s, 10th day, 8 July 1882, lot 1073, purchased.
1 Transcripts of the Hamilton inventories from the Scottish NPG in the NPG library. Kneller’s full-length portrait of the 4th Duke of Hamilton, a staunch Jacobite, is on loan to the Scottish NPG (PG L12; exhibited Sir Godfrey Kneller, NPG, 1971, no.98).
Exhibitionsback to top
Kings and Queens, RA, 1953, no.195; Sir Godfrey Kneller, NPG, 1971, no.91; Parliament and the Glorious Revolution, Banqueting House, Whitehall, 1988.
Reproductionsback to top
I. Beckett 1684 (J. Chaloner Smith, British Mezzotinto Portraits, 50).1
1 Illus. Lord Killanin, Sir Godfrey Kneller and his times 1646–1723, 1948, f.p.17. The second state alters the printed title from Duke of York to King. A reduced painted version (101 x 61 cm) relating to this first state was with D. Williamson, London, 1964. A bust-length oval engraving by J. Verkolje, lettered P Kneller pinxt … 1684 (J. Chaloner Smith, British Mezzotinto Portraits, 5 and F. W. H. Hollstein, Dutch & Flemish Etchings Engravings and Woodcuts 1450–1700, 29 illus.) appears to relate to NPG 666.
This extended catalogue entry is from the National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Ingamells, National Portrait Gallery: Later Stuart Portraits 1685–1714, National Portrait Gallery, 2009, and is as published then. For the most up-to-date details on individual Collection works, we recommend reading the information provided in the Search the Collection results on this website in parallel with this text.