Godfrey Kneller, Portrait of a Man

Photo courtesy of Dave Penman (All Rights Reserved)


Country House
Mells Manor
Portrait of a Man
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
Overall height: 75 cm, Overall width: 62 cm
Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723)
Catalogue Number


The pose used in this portrait, in which the subject looks sideways towards the viewer in line with his shoulder, was favoured by Kneller around 1690–5, as was the generous brown silk wrap. It can be seen in portraits such as Thomas Betterton (c.1690–5, National Portrait Gallery, London, NPG 752), William Lowndes (c.1695, Government Art Collection 0/223) and Kneller’s self-portrait reproduced in mezzotint by John Smith (1694, NPG D11492). Such a pose shows the influence of Sir Peter Lely, in particular Lely’s early self-portraits that in turn self-consciously referenced Van Dyck. From 1688, Kneller held the position of Principal Painter to the Crown and appears to have been paying homage to his predecessors.

The unknown young man in this portrait must have been born around 1670–5. No male member of the Horner, Strangways or Fox families was born at this time and the identity of the sitter remains unknown. He may be a friend or associate of the family, since in the early modern culture of instrumental friendship, portraits were commonly exchanged as gifts and displayed as a visual manifestation of friendship, kinship and patronage networks.

by Amy Lim

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