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Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt

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- subject matching 'Self-portraits'

Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt, by Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt, circa 1706-1711 -NPG 3214 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Later Stuart Portraits Catalogue

Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt

by Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt
circa 1706-1711
18 1/4 in. x 14 in. (464 mm x 356 mm)
NPG 3214

Inscriptionback to top

Signed, bottom right: G. Kneller (GK in monogram).

This portraitback to top

Although not of the kit-cat size, listed hanging among the Kit-Cat portraits from 1735 and Faber’s mezzotint of that date prefixed his Kit-Cat series. Tonson, with good reason, had very cordial relations with Kneller, [1] but Lynch stated that Kneller was considered a member of the Kit-Cat Club only by courtesy. [2]
Kneller advertises his success. His country house, Whitton (built c.1703 [3]) appears behind him on the left; he wears a sword (presumably that given him by the King in 1692) and a gold chain with a medal stamped with William’s image, given him by the King in 1699. In the background (which is now quite obscure, but is clear on Faber’s mezzotint) an allegorical relief shows Mercury reclining on a cloud, a trumpet in his right hand, holding the reins of Pegasus with his left and looking down at Cupid who paints, a palette by his side - a motif interpreted by Stewart (1971) as meaning ‘the love and practice of painting is a path to virtue’.
NPG 3214 is a reduced version of the three-quarter-length sent to Duke Cosimo III, at his request, in 1706 (Uffizi A488) [4] which, however, shows a different background: to the right a cippus with a medallion inscribed above Linea et Lumine, and to the left a fluted column and sky. In NPG 3214 the view of Whitton was painted over this column (which is now just visible). Piper supposed that NPG 3214 may be the small copy of the Florence portrait ‘by Baker’ mentioned by Vertue, [5] but the prominent pentimento may speak against this.


Footnotesback to top

1) Kathleen Lynch, Jacob Tonson Kit-Cat Publisher, 1971, p 190n5.
2) Ibid., p 42; D. Piper, Catalogue of the Seventeenth Century Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery 1625-1714, 1963, p 400n4.
3) Sometime attributed to Vanbrugh (cf. Kathleen Lynch, Jacob Tonson Kit-Cat Publisher, 1971, p 59), but this is no longer accepted (see K. Downes, Vanbrugh, 1977, p 278). In June 1703 Vanbrugh wrote to Tonson that Kneller had got ‘a country house near Hampton Court, and is so busy about fitting it up (to receive nobody), that there is no getting him to work’ (Kathleen Lynch, Jacob Tonson Kit-Cat Publisher, 1971, p 42).
4) Inscribed: GODFREDUS DE KNELLER S.R IMP. EQUIT/MAG. BRITANNIAE EQU. AURATUS UBI/APUD REGIAM MAJESTATEM INTERIORIS CAMERAE AULICUS ET PICTOR PRINCEPS/IN COMITAU REGIS IRENARCHA NEC NON/AD CURANDUM COACTIONEM ARGENTARTIAM/UNUS EX DELEGATES/&C; J. D. Stewart, Godfrey Kneller, 1983, no.19, pl.79b; exhibited Firenze e l’Inghilterra 1971, no.48; see A. M. Crinò, Burl. Mag., CII, 1960, pp 258-59. A miniature bust-length copy by Giuseppe Macpherson is in the Royal Collection (R. J. B. Walker, The eighteenth and early nineteenth century Miniatures in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen,1992, no.590, pp 235, 248).
5) ‘Baker’ may have been John James Backer (d. 1727) who worked with Kneller until 1712 (J. D. Stewart, Godfrey Kneller, 1983, pp 38n58, 41n18).

Referenceback to top

Piper 1963
D. Piper, Catalogue of the Seventeenth Century Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery 1625-1714, 1963, pp 190-91 as perhaps studio.

Stewart 1983
J. D. Stewart, Godfrey Kneller, 1983, no.20 as c.1706-11.

Exhibitionsback to top

Royal House of Guelph, New Gallery, London, 1891; Sir Godfrey Kneller, NPG, 1971, no.3; Beningbrough 1979–2005; Pope’s Twickenham, Richmond, 1988, no.35.

Reproductionsback to top

J. Faber II 1735 (J. Chaloner Smith, British Mezzotinto Portraits, 208/1) as … Bart, Knt. of ye Roman Empire Principal Painter to K. Charles 2d. James 2d. William 3d. Q. Ann & King George 1st.


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.

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