Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of the Countess of Ranelagh (1675-1727/8) 1695

Studio of Sir Godfrey Kneller Bt (1646-1723)

Portrait of the Countess of Ranelagh (1675-1727/8), Studio of Sir Godfrey Kneller Bt
Oil on canvas
17th Century
20 x 13 1/2 inches 51 x 35 cm
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This small portrait would appear to derive from Kneller's 1695 full-size of the Countess of Ranelagh in the collection of the Marquess of Salisbury at Hatfield. It reproduces the original in all respects, with the exception of the landscape visible in the background.

The function of these reductions of Kneller portraits is a matter of debate. It may be that in instances where the original was inconveniently large or inaccessible they were made by the studio or by the engraver himself as a guide to making a print of the subject. There is certainly evidence of the practice, and from a later period Thomas Morton Paye's Self Portrait ''Engraver working by candlelight'' (Bearsted Collection Upton House) clearly shows the engraver working from a c.12 x 10 reduction of a painting whose original would measure c.50 x 40.

Equally, smaller pictures such as this may be compositional records -although drawing would be a more conventional medium for the purpose- or studio exercises. They may also - for which the cataloguer is grateful to Malcolm Rogers for the suggestion- have been executed for the original patron for display in a town -and, therefore, smaller- house. This plausible solution would pave the way for the small-scale portraiture of the 1730s and 40s, whose impetus undoubtedly lay in furnishing paintings for town houses.

The painting exhibits sylistic traits characteristic of John Zachary Kneller (1642 - 1702), Sir Godfrey's elder brother. John Zachary worked in Kneller''s studio producing reduced copies of his portraits. These can be distinguished from the work of other copyists by features such as the large eyes, evident in this painting and in works such as John Zachary Kneller's self-portrait (oil on copper 21.5 x 17.5 cm with Historical Portraits, London www.historicalportraits.com).

Margaret Cecil, daughter of the 3rd Earl of Salisbury, married Richard Jones Earl of Ranelagh (1640-1711/12) as his second wife, in 1695, the year of the Kneller commission.
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