Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of a girl in green, probably a marriage portrait 1702

Sir Godfrey Kneller Bt. (1646-1723)

Portrait of a girl in green, probably a marriage portrait, Sir Godfrey Kneller Bt.
Oil on canvas
18th Century
50 x 40 inches 127 x 101.2 cm
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The identity of the sitter in this outstanding work by Sir Godfrey Kneller is presently unknown. It clearly belongs to that part of his oevre which he reserved for sitters of considerable significance and importance, displaying his greatest artistic virtuosity and boldness of design. Comparable works of this quality are his portraits of Pope, Newton and Prior.

Two symbolic elements in this picture suggest that it is a marriage portrait. The Convolvulus (or Bind-Weed) visible in the top left hand corner is a symbol of Christian purity. Its iridescent whiteness, like that of the Lily, made it an appropriate symbol of innocence and purity. In the north country it went under the name of Lady's Cap - a reference to the Virgin Mary.
The bay-leaves achieve the same effect, but draw instead upon mythological tradition. In order to resist Apollo''s advances Diana turned herself into a bay-tree. The bay leaves, like the Convolvulus, therefore pronounce the sitter''s virginal qualities.
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