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John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough

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- subject matching 'Group portraits'

Later Stuart Portraits Catalogue

John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough

by Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt
circa 1706
36 1/2 in. x 29 in. (927 mm x 737 mm)
NPG 902

Inscriptionback to top

The original canvas inscribed verso: His Grace the Duke of Marlboroug../Painted by S:r Godfrey Kneller/soon after the Battle of Ramillies 17[06]/when Flanders & Brabant surrender’d.

This portraitback to top

On the left the figure of Hercules holding a club and key, and a woman with an ermine cape proffering a model of a citadel; on the right the figure of War/Discord, with emblems of war including Louis XIV’s sunburst shield, is trampled beneath the horse’s hooves; above, Victory/Mercury attended by putti crowns the Duke with laurel; Fame blows her trumpet and to the left sits Justice/Astraea with scales and Roman fasces.
A fine Rubensian sketch, described by Stewart as ‘one of Kneller’s most brilliant canvases’, NPG 902 is a modello for a larger composition intended to commemorate the victory at Ramillies (according to the inscription quoted above), but never executed (perhaps for political reasons). Stewart also suggested possible sources for individual figures: [1] the horse and Discord from Raphael’s Expulsion of Heliodorus (Vatican); Discord again from Rubens’ St Francis of Paola appearing to the Victims of the Plague (Dresden), and Victory/Mercury from Raphael’s God dividing the Land from the Water (Vatican Loggie).
NPG 902 may be compared with another (slightly larger) Kneller modello of 1708, Queen Anne presenting the Plans of Blenheim, made for a larger picture which the Queen intended to present to the Duke; political events then prevented the completion of the large design. [2]

Footnotesback to top

1) J. D. Stewart, Godfrey Kneller, 1983, no.86; J. D. Stewart, Godfrey Kneller, 1983, p 62 and n28.
2) G. Scharf, Catalogue raisonné; or, A List of the Pictures in Blenheim Palace, 1862, p 176; see J. D. Stewart, Godfrey Kneller, 1983, p 61, no.51, pl.58.

Referenceback to top

Piper 1963
D. Piper, Catalogue of the Seventeenth Century Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery 1625-1714, 1963, p 217.

Stewart 1983
J. D. Stewart, Godfrey Kneller, 1983, p 62, no.467.

Stewart 1995
J. D. Stewart, ‘King William the Deliverer and Shakespeare’s Hopeful Harry of Hereford’, Apollo, CXLII, November 1995, p 28.

Provenanceback to top

[Perhaps with the sitter’s daughter, Henrietta, Duchess of Marlborough, and thence by descent to the Duke of Newcastle] Thomas Pelham, 1st Earl of Chichester, Stanmer; purchased 1892.

Exhibitionsback to top

Royal House of Guelph, New Gallery, London, 1891, no.10, lent Chichester; English Taste in the 18th century, RA, 1955–56, no.91; Sir Godfrey Kneller, NPG 1971, no.86; Manners & Morals, Hogarth and British Painting 1700–1760, Tate Gallery, 1987, no.3; Treasures from the National Portrait Gallery, Fukushima, Nagoya, Kitakyushu, Hiroshima, Tokyo, 1995–96, no.7; The Noble Horse, Tokyo, 1998, n.n..


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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