Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of a Gentleman, 1687 

Sir Godfrey Kneller Bt. (1646-1723)

Portrait of a Gentleman, 1687, Sir Godfrey Kneller Bt.
Oil on canvas
17th Century
49 x 40 in (124.4 x 101.6 cm)
By descent to the Rev. EH Dawkins, Morhanger House, Bedfordshire; His sale Christie’s London February 28th 1913 Lot 30 as Sir Charles Sedley Bt Agnew’s 360gn; Scott and Fowles, New York, by 1915, by whom sold to; R.C. and N.M. Vose, November 4th 1915; Bought Matthew Andrews May 18th 1917; Possibly Mrs Hanna (mother of Leonard C Hanna Jr) who is said to have donated it to the Cleveland Playhouse, Cleveland Ohio circa 1976; Cleveland Playhouse Treasure Sale after 1978 where acquired by a private collector, Cleveland Ohio; Lawrence Steigrad Fine Arts, New York to 2005.
V. de Sola Pinto ed. The Poetical and Dramatic Works of Sir Charles Sedley Constable London 1928 Vol I frontispiece (‘Portrait of a Gentleman said to be Sir Charles Sedley) p.xxxix (‘reproduced by courtesy of Messrs Scott and Fowles New York) and ‘A note on the illustrations’ following p.xxxix; J Douglas Stewart Sir Godfrey Kneller and the English Baroque Portrait Clarendon Press Oxford 1983 J Douglas Stewart in Portraits and other recent acquisitions Lawrence Steigrad Fine Arts catalogue 2004 cat. 14.
The Cleveland Museum of Art Cleveland Ohio February 14th – December 1916
To view portraits by Sir Godfrey Kneller for sale, please go to www.philipmould.com.

The years from 1675 to the early 1690s represent perhaps the only period in Kneller’s career when he may have felt threatened by rivals. Even after the death of Sir Peter Lely in 1680 he was in competition with John Michael Wright, John Riley, John Closterman and Willem Wissing, all of them accomplished and versatile painters.

Kneller’s portraits of this date are shining demonstrations of his talent, and none is a more virtuoso demonstration of his talent than the present example. It employs a pose based on Lely’s Portrait of the 2nd Earl of Carnarvon, but the intensity of characterisation is entirely Kneller’s own - the sitter’s torso is brought forward from the vertical, leaning to engage the spectator more intently, the right hand is dropped further to clutch the draperies tighter and the open background is reduced to a narrow glimpse of landscape shut in by foliage. The effect is to intensify our sense of the sitter’s presence in which we must engage with a formidable intelligence, and feel the power of the sitter’s wit as if coiled about to strike.
Philip Mould Ltd, 18-19 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5LU.Copyright Philip Mould Ltd.