Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of a Young Man of the Smith family, c.1710 

Sir Godfrey Kneller Bt. (1646-1723)

Portrait of a Young Man of the Smith family, c.1710, Sir Godfrey Kneller Bt.
Oil on canvas
18th Century
50 x 40 in (127 x 101.2 cm)
R L Murphy Esq Colnaghi, London
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Kneller studied under Ferdinand Bol, and perhaps Rembrandt himself in the 1660s. He was in Rome and Venice between 1672 and 1675, settling in England in 1676 for life. He was soon employed at Court and became the most successful portraitist of the generation following Lely. He enjoyed the office of Principal Painter, at first jointly with John Riley (d.1691), from shortly after the accession of William and Mary in 1688 until his death. He was knighted in 1692 and became a baronet in 1715 after which he often signed his pictures Kneller, Bart..

His work fully expresses the spirit of the English Baroque, and includes penetrating studies of many of the leading figures of Whig Society such as the famous Kit-Kat portraits now in the National Portrait Gallery (Beningborough Hall, Yorkshire), which include the likenesses of Sir John Vanbrugh, Charles 3rd Earl of Carlisle, and others.

The subject of this three-quarter length portrait is shown standing in a romantic landscape; he is dressed in a tight-fitting green coat with a pink cloak drawn across it and a full-bottomed wig. He carries a sword and has a greyhound by his side.
This is one of the finest examples of the Augustan style portrait for which Kneller is now best remembered. It dates from his later middle period (c.1710), when he produced his most distinguished paintings including the celebrated Kit-Kat series. The exact identity of the sitter is uncertain. The unusual quality of the work suggests that the sitter is a prominent member of the Smith family.
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