Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Plumbago portrait of Queen Anne (1665-1714) 1704

John Faber (c.1650/60-1721)

Plumbago portrait of Queen Anne (1665-1714), John Faber
18th Century
Oval, 4 1/4 in. (10.8 cm) high
Private collection, UK.
The origin of the art of plumbago can be traced back to post-restoration England the when print makers returned from exile to resume their trade and started to discover an eager market for the originals on which their prints were based. The emphasis of the technique is on line and contrast, much like print-making, and thus the shift between mediums was a natural one for artists like John Faber. Plumbagos soon became an acknowledged art form in their own right and an opportunity soon emerged for shrewd artists to embrace both art forms and appeal to a wider market.

John Faber was born in The Hague in c.1650/60 and, after working as a portrait miniature painter in the Netherlands until around 1696, moved to England where he settled in London. Faberís earliest dated works are a pair of portraits of Louis XIV and Maria Theresa of Austria, dated 1687. A portrait of William III [V&A] dated 1702 suggests these early years in England went well for Faber, and by 1707 he established a print-selling business on the Strand, working from ĎThe Two Golden Ballsí before moving to a larger premises some ten years later. Faber was clearly industrious and his subject matter was carefully chosen to appeal to a wide audience, producing prints after numerous other artists of subjects ranging from monarchs through to simply interesting characters.

The present work, dated 1704, is thought to be the earliest portrait of Queen Anne by John Faber and the head type is probably based on the full-length portrait by Thomas Murray of 1703, and not, as suggested by Daphne Foskett, on the earlier, more fuller-faced depiction by Sir Godfrey Kneller (1702-3) . Not only has Faber opted for the more slender lines of the Murray portrait, but he has also modified the cut of her dress, leaving her bosom slightly more exposed and has switched the position of her hanging curls to her left shoulder from her right. Another portrait of Anne by Faber is in the Huntington Collection, although in this work Anne is shown wearing less jewellery and her shoulders, shown in a narrower perhaps more favourable light, result in a far weaker image of monarchical power.
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