circle of John Riley, George Horner II (1646–1707)

Photo courtesy of Dave Penman (All Rights Reserved)


Country House
Mells Manor
George Horner II (1646–1707)
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
Overall height: 127 cm, Overall width: 102 cm
circle of John Riley (1646-1691)
Catalogue Number


George Horner (1646–1707) was the second, but eldest surviving, son of Sir George Horner I (1605–1677) of Mells, Somerset (MM32) and his wife Anne Poole, daughter of Sir Neville Poole. He entered Lincoln’s Inn in 1663 and in 1677 succeeded his father to the manor of Mells. At some point between 1676 and 1679 he married Elizabeth Fortescue (possibly MM40), daughter of Colonel Robert Fortescue of Filleigh, Devon (MM38), with whom he had three sons and five daughters, at least four of whom died in infancy.

Horner served as a commissioner for assessment in Somerset from 1673 to 1680 and in 1689–90, as a justice of the peace from 1688 until his death, as colonel of the militia from 1681 to 1687 and deputy lieutenant for Somerset from 1680 to 1687 and 1689 to his death. He was returned as MP for Somerset in 1685 but was temporarily deprived of his local offices after refusing his consent to the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws. In 1689 he was returned for Somerset to the Convention but was largely inactive as an MP. Hard-drinking, jovial and hospitable, Horner was renowned for his ‘good Name, and most amiable Character’.1 He died on 11 March 1707 and was buried at Mells.

The carved stone seated dog (or ‘Talbot’) at the lower right of the portrait is a reference to its presence as a supporter in Horner’s family crest, while Horner’s portrayal in armour may refer specifically to his role in the militia. The three-quarter-length pose in armour with baton and hand at the hip was popular at this time, used by Riley as well as Lely, Wissing and Kneller. This painting particularly recalls Riley’s portrait of Elias Ashmole (c.1681–2, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, WA1989.36) and his characteristic use of sfumato in the shadowing of the wig on the face. Riley, however, died in March 1691 and, although the present portrait displays his influence, it is probably not by the artist himself. At some point later Horner’s son, Thomas Strangways Horner, was portrayed in a similar fashion (MM43), the portrait being conceived probably as a companion, or pendant, to the present picture.

Oliver Millar, who viewed the present portrait at Mells in July 1994, commented briefly, ‘George Horner: 3/4 length to r. port in armour c. 1690 a strong hard touch’.2

by Amy Lim


  1. A.B. [The Reverend Henry Harris], ‘Memoirs of the Family of the Horners of Mells, in the County of Somerset’, Frome Society Yearbook, vol. 1, 1987, p. 16.

  2. Oliver Millar, ‘Mells Manor (11 July 1994)’, Journal XII, p. 37, Paul Mellon Centre Archive, London, ONM/1/2/22.


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