Between Lely & Kneller
Lely died in 1680 and with his passing something of an artistic power vacuum ensued: there were no immediately obvious candidates to succeed him as a painter of fashionable beauties from wealthy social circles. The first artist to succeed Lely, however, was the Italian decorator Antonio Verrio who, along with another baroque ceiling painter, Louis Laguerre, was immortalised in Alexander Pope’s description of their baroque excesses at Hampton Court and other places. After Verrio, John Riley, along with Kneller was sworn in jointly as Chief Painter. Royal painter does not seem a suitable position for Riley as he took for his inspiration life below stairs: the army of servants, domestics and retainers who cleaned up after the powerful and prominent. Paintings such as The Scullion (Christchurch, Oxford) and especially his portrait of Bridget Holmes (Royal Coll) which he imbues with a gravitas and grandeur that seems slightly incongruous for this servant. In this picture Riley seems to have effortlessly fused the Van Dyckian model with Dutch matter-of-factness: the urn with classical relief and the draperies suggest the grand manner; the broom recalls Dutch domesticity, and the features of the old retainer herself put one in mind of kitchen maids in paintings like artists such as Maes. The Dutch link is hardly surprising as Riley was trained by Soest, an artist from Westphalia with Dutch parentage, the same continental background as Lely. To complicate matters further, Soest was influenced by Dobson and was active in England that he might be considered a member of the “English School.” His portrait of the Bard of Avon which owned by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust merely underscores his integration into English painting and culture. In painting the English middle-classes, his pupil, Riley is equally successful; his intimate, focused portrayal of Elias Ashmole is consummate. And sometimes Riley would collaborate on the same portrait with John Closterman, a partnership (artistic and financial) that began when Riley became chief painter. Inevitably, the two painters quarrelled as this arrangement benefited Riley more than Closterman who still distinguished himself with fine portraits of luminaries like Sir Christopher Wren.
|John Riley, Bridget Holmes, 1686, oil on canvas, 224.7 x 149 cm, Royal Collection.|
|Gerard Soest, William Shakespeare, c. 1667, oil on canvas, 76.5 x 64.5 cm, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-Upon-Avon.|
|Sir Godfrey Kneller, Self-Portrait, oil on canvas, 107 x 114 cm, Private Collection.|
Ferdinand Bol, Self-Portrait, 1669, oil on canvas, 127 x 102 cm, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
Sir Godfrey Kneller, Michael Alphonsus Shen Fu-Tsung (d. 1691), 'The Chinese Convert', 1687, oil on canvas, 212.2 x 147.6 cm, Royal Collection.
Kneller, William III of Orange & the “Glorious Revolution.”
At first the Catholic Verrio refused to work for the Protestant William of Orange, but in any case it is Godfrey Kneller who is the painter most connected with the constitutional monarchy of William and Mary. Kneller was born in Lübeck of Dutch parentage; he was trained in Amsterdam by Ferdinand Bol, one of Rembrandt’s earlier pupils; and then he worked in Italy before moving onto England in the 1670s. There are some scholars who insist that Kneller was taught by Rembrandt directly, but this cannot be substantiated. With the death of Lely in 1680, Kneller and Riley shared the position of Chief Painter until the latter’s demise in 1691. Greatly patronised by William and Mary he mainly painted the sovereigns, though he also depicted members of the court and middle-classes too. Always with an eye for the main chance, Kneller did well out of the royal portraits selling copies in his studio at £50 each, and his portraits were obviously used in the propaganda coups of the House of Orange. The most conspicuous coup happened on the 1st November 1688, when Prince William of Orange, elected Stadholder, embarked on a military invasion of the British Isles with no less than five hundred ships. As Lisa Jardine points out, this invasion, and by implication Dutch culture, has been edited out of English history. For those like Jardine taking the trouble to investigate, there are several paintings showing this mammoth embarkation which despite its republican and proto-Enlightenment rationale was merely opportunistic regime change. William III continued to make use of Kneller who accompanied his monarch to the Low Countries where the peace treaty of Ryswick was signed. While baroque art was sweeping across Europe and being imported into England by Rubens, and to a lesser extent Verrio and Laguerre, the King’s painter tried to respond by producing his own brand of baroque as in the massive equestrian portrait of William of Orange. This may function on a number of levels: it may be an allegory of William’s landing at Torbay in 1688; it may signify the peace of Ryswick in 1697; and finally, on a more mythological level, the allegorised portrait of William may conceal poetic (chiefly Virgilian) references to the Golden Age ushered in by the Stadtholder’s tremendous gamble of invading the British Isles and destabilising the pro- Catholic/pro French government of James II.
|Europe after the Glorious Revolution (1688) Peace of Ryswick (1690).|
|Unknown 17th Century Dutch Artist, Embarkation of William III, Prince of Orange, at Helvoetsluis, c. 1688-99, oil on canvas, Royal Collection.|
|Sir Godfrey Kneller, William III (on horseback), 1701, oil on canvas, 444 x 428.4 cm, Royal Collection.|
Sir Godfrey Kneller, Three studies for Neptune; whole-length, seen from behind (?), standing in different positions, and holding a staff in his left hand Pen and brown ink Verso: A nude male torso and legs Pen and brown ink, British Museum, London.
Style, Class & Poetry in the Portraits of Godfrey Kneller
Anyone wishing to track the changes in English society during the late 17th and early 18th centuries could do worse than studying the transition from Lely to Kneller (1646- 1723) whose “reign” lasts from the “Glorious Revolution” of 1688 to about 1725. Though the usual caveats about reading social history out of portraits apply, shifts in taste can be discerned, and taste undoubtedly is a barometer of different social groups in English society. Lely’s portraits with their languid and sensuous quality reflect an aristocracy at play, listlessness in Arcadia; Kneller’s style is less yielding and more austere, perhaps indicating more severity, in parallel with the classicism found in the literature of the time.  The more sombre style may also reflect the fact that England was a monarchy in name only, unlike say the France of Louis XIV whose portraits by Rigaud and Largillière are palpably sumptuous, thus conveying the grandeur and hauteur of the French court although as Sewter notes, “the close and smooth facture of the Frenchmen is replaced in Kneller by a broad and free brushwork which visibly owes a debt to the great Dutchman, Frans Hals. Likening Kneller’s style to the heroic couplet of the Augustan poets, Sewter claims a structure that is formal and balanced but permits within it variations of pattern and tone. Wether this cross-pollination of art and letters reflects the actual cultural situation remains a matter of speculation, but Kneller painted the pantheon of Augustan poets, men of such impressive literary talent as Alexander Pope and John Dryden. According to Sewter, Kneller’s portrait of Dryden (NPG) epitomises the Knellerian portrait whose aesthetic aims can be summarised as “a pattern of forms and movements, each reduced to a rectilinear simplicity, each balanced by its opposite, resulting in a perfect equilibrium.” The danger is that this could be turned into a formula that could be used to cope with the rising tide of portrait commissions upon which Kneller’s livelihood depended given the decline of other genres in this period. As Dryden (who sat to Kneller twice) sarcastically observed: “You Only Paint to Live, not Live to Paint.”
|Sir Godfrey Kneller, Alexander Pope crowned with Ivy, c. 1721, oil on canvas, 28.27 x 22.9 in), Yale Centre for British Art.|
|E. Hanell Dyer, Sir Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723), oil on canvas, Royal Military School of Music, London.|
|Sir Godfrey Kneller, John Dryden, 1693, oil on canvas, 49 in. x 39 3/4 in, National Portrait Gallery, London.|
Sir Godfrey Kneller, Jacob Tonson I, 1717, oil on canvas, 91.4 x 71.1 cm, National Portrait Gallery, London.
A Portrait of Science: Newton & Christiaan Huygens.
As Lisa Jardine states, the picture she paints in Going Dutch of the intellectual exchange of ideas between England and the United Provinces provides a “clear context for the history of science.” Where the history of science and visual art overlap, particularly in relation to the “Age of Kneller” is in the portraits of scientists, natural philosophers and thinkers that he and others painted. Perhaps the most famous scientific likeness is that of the greatest English scientist of all time, Sir Isaac Newton painted by Kneller about four times. Newton emerged from his sheltered academic life in 1687, the year his Principia Mathematica was in press, and the year before the embarkation of William III whose imminent incursion met with the approval of the Protestant scientist of Cambridge University who was suspicious of James II’s attempts to introduce people into Cambridge who would not take the oath of the established Church. Another scientist not as visible to posterity as Newton was the son of Constantine Huygens, Christiaan. His significance to Newton is that Christiaan was sought as a person who could advance Newton’s career. Not enamoured of London, Christiaan Huygens returned to The Hague at the end of August 1690, but the two scientists continued to correspond while his brother Constantine Jr stayed in England to serve William and Mary while Newton became Master of the Royal Mint and one of the brightest stars in the scientific firmament. Brilliant, but mercurial and prone to depression, Christiaan eventually took up a salaried position at the Académie Royale des Sciences in Paris, although when his health finally collapsed, he was obliged to retire to his father’s estate- “Hofwijk” which means “house with a garden.” Amongst Christiaan’s many discoveries and accomplishments in a glittering scientific career was the startling discovery of Saturn’s rings, laid out in his Systema Saturnium (1659). His portrait was painted many times by such Anglo-Dutch artists as Adriaen Hanneman, Caspar Netscher, and Bernard Valliant, though not by Kneller and co. Christiaan died at Hofwijk in 1695, eight years after his father.
|Sir Godfrey Kneller, Sir Isaac Newton, 1689, oil on canvas, 29 3/4 in. x 24 1/2 in. National Portrait Gallery, London.|
Sir James Thornhill, Sir Isaac Newton, 1709-12, Oil on canvas, Woolsthorpe Manor, Lincolnshire.
|Caspar Netscher, Christiaan Huygens, 1671, oil on paper mounted on panel, Collection Haags Historisch Museum, The Hague, on loan at the Boerhaave museum, Leiden.|
|Christiaan Huygens, diagram from Systema Saturnium, 1659.|
Engraved prospect and plans of Huygen’s Hofwijk from the published version of the long poem of the same name.
Embattled at Sea: Anglo-Dutch Marine Painting.
The word “embattled” here can be taken in a punning sense as the marine genre has had to fight hard for the attention of contemporary art historians. However, historians know the value of marine painting, especially during the period of the Anglo-Dutch wars in which heroes like Michiel Adriaensz de Ruyter distinguished themselves. In his splendid portrait by Kneller’s mentor Ferdinand Bol, Ruyter is shown on the deck of one his ships with the Dutch navy in the harbour behind. But it is the Van der Velde clan who are most associated with painting the sea and its ships, Willem van der Velde the Elder (1611- 1693) who was employed from the time of the first Anglo-Dutch war. For inducements unknown, Willem changed sides, came to England with his son Willem van der Velde the Younger (1633-1707); both father and son were given official appointments in 1674 and were provided with a studio in the Queen’s House at Greenwich. Van der Velde Senior’s “penpaintings" were neither painting nor drawing, a hybrid form, usually executed in a combination of pen, ink and brush over a thin layer of lead white below which a neutral ground covering an oak panel.” Though Young Van der Velde undoubtedly learnt from his father how to reproduce ships on the sea with precision, he was also interested in the many moods that the marine painting could evoke, particularly “tranquil marine painting” of which he was absolute master. In the words of Ellis Waterhouse, Van der Velde the Younger had a “landsman’s sense of the picturesque.” The influence of the Van der Velde is seen in the pictures of such home-grown artists as Samuel Scott, though it is optimistic to state that the Van der Veldes created a “school” of marine painting in England. Scott gradually relinquished marine painting for views of London, inspired by Canaletto.
|Ferdinand Bol, Portrait of Admiral Michiel Adriaansz de Ruyter, 1667, Oil on canvas, 238 x 157 cm, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.|
|Willem van der Velde the Elder, The Battle of Livorno, c. 1654, pen and ink on white prepared ground, 114 x 160 cm, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.|
Willem van der Velde the Younger, Ships near the Coast, oil on panel, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
|Samuel Scott, A Danish Timber Bark Getting Underway, 1736, oil on canvas, 2273 x 2184 mm National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.|
1) John Riley, Bridget Holmes, 1686, oil on canvas, 224.7 x 149 cm, Royal Collection
2) Nicolas Maes, The Idle Servant, 1655, Oil on panel, 70 x 53 cm, National Gallery, London
3) John Riley, A Scullion of Oxford, after 1682, oil on canvas, 99. 7 x 60.5 cm, Christchurch, Oxford.
4) John Riley, Elias Ashmole, 1687, oil on canvas, 74 x 60 cm, Ashmoleon Museum, Oxford University.
5) John Riley & John Closterman, Dorothy Mason (1665–1699/1700), Lady Brownlow, 1685, oil on canvas, 250 x 152 cm, National Trust.
6) John Closterman, Sir Christopher Wren, 1690, oil on canvas, 143.3 x 121.4 cm, Royal Society.
7) Gerard Soest, William Shakespeare, c. 1667, oil on canvas, 76.5 x 64.5 cm, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-Upon-Avon.
8) Sir Godfrey Kneller, Self-Portrait, 1685, oil on canvas, 29 3/4 in. x 24 3/4 in feigned oval, National Portrait Gallery, London.
9) Ferdinand Bol, Self-Portrait, 1669, oil on canvas, 127 x 102 cm, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
10) Same in frame in Rijksmuseum.
11) Sir Godfrey Kneller, Self-Portrait, oil on canvas, 107 x 114 cm, Private Collection.
12) Rembrandt, Aristotle Contemplating the Bust of Homer, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
13) Sir Godfrey Kneller, Sir Christopher Wren, 1711, oil on canvas, 124.5 x 100. 3 cm, National Portrait Gallery, London.
14) Sir Godfrey Kneller, Michael Alphonsus Shen Fu-Tsung (d. 1691), 'The Chinese Convert', 1687, oil on canvas, 212.2 x 147.6 cm, Royal Collection.
15) Unknown 17th Century Dutch Artist, Embarkation of William III, Prince of Orange, at Helvoetsluis, c. 1688-99, oil on canvas, Royal Collection.
16) Map of Europe after the Peace of Ryswick, 1700.
17) Sir Godfrey Kneller, William III (on horseback), 1701, oil on canvas, 444 x 428.4 cm, Royal Collection.
18) Sir Godfrey Kneller, Three studies for Neptune; whole-length, seen from behind (?), standing in different positions, and holding a staff in his left hand Pen and brown ink Verso: A nude male torso and legs Pen and brown ink, British Museum, London.
19) Sir Godfrey Kneller, Jacob Tonson I, 1717, oil on canvas, 91.4 x 71.1 cm, National Portrait Gallery, London.
20) Sir Godfrey Kneller, John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, 1706, oil on canvas, 36 1/2 in. x 29 in, National Portrait Gallery, London.
21) E. Hanell Dyer, Sir Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723), oil on canvas, Royal Military School of Music, London.
22) Sir Godfrey Kneller, John Dryden, 1693, oil on canvas, 49 in. x 39 3/4 in, National Portrait Gallery, London.
23) Sir Godfrey Kneller, Alexander Pope crowned with Ivy, c. 1721, oil on canvas, 28.27 x 22.9 in), Yale Centre for British Art.
24) Sir Godfrey Kneller, Sir Isaac Newton, 1689, oil on canvas, 29 3/4 in. x 24 1/2 in. National Portrait Gallery, London.
25) Double shot showing the image flipped horizontally.
26) Sir James Thornhill, Sir Isaac Newton, 1709-12, Oil on canvas, Woolsthorpe Manor, Lincolnshire.
27) Caspar Netscher, Christiaan Huygens, 1671, oil on paper mounted on panel, Collection Haags Historisch Museum, The Hague, on loan at the Boerhaave museum, Leiden.
28) Christiaan Huygens, diagram from Systema Saturnum, 1659.
29) Engraved prospect and plans of Huygen’s Hofwijk from the published version of the long poem of the same name.
30) Ferdinand Bol, Portrait of Admiral Michiel Adriaansz de Ruyter, 1667, Oil on canvas, 238 x 157 cm, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
31) Jan Abrahamsz. Beerstraten, The Battle of Terheide, 1653-166, oil on canvas, 176cm × w 281.5cm, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
32) Jan van Leyden, The Dutch burn English Ships during the Chatham Expedition, 20th June, 1667, (Raid on the Medway), 1667-69, oil on canvas, 93 x 156.5 cm, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
33) Willem van der Velde, The Battle of Livorno, c. 1654, pen and ink on white prepared ground, 114 x 160 cm, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
34) Willem van der Velde the Younger, The Cannon Shot, c. 1670, Oil on canvas, 78,5 x 67 cm, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
35) Willem van der Velde, Ships near the Coast, oil on panel, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
36) Willem van der Velde, The Taking of the English Flagship the Royal Prince, 1666, Oil on canvas, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
37) Unknown Artist, Portrait of Samuel Scott, 1725, oil on canvas, 61.2 x 50.8 cm, National Portrait Gallery, London.
38) Samuel Scott, A Danish Timber Bark Getting Underway, 1736, oil on canvas, 2273 x 2184 mm National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.
 Moral Essays, Epistle IV: “On painted ceilings you devoutly stare/where sprawl the Saints of Verrio and Laguerre/On gilded clouds in fair expansion lie/ and bring all Paradise before your eye.”
 Verrio heralds the “Italian invasion” of artists like Ricci and Pellegrini in Britain which is outlined in Ellis Waterhouse’s Painting and Britain, 129-133.
 On Rembrandt and Bol, Rembrandt: The Master and his Workshop, 322- 332.
 James A. Winn sees the influence of Rembrandt’s Aristotle contemplating the Bust of Homer in one of Kneller’s early self-portraits: “Creativity on Several Ocassions” in Concepts of Creativity in Seventeenth-Century England
 Kneller had more chances to paint history subjects during the Glorious Revolution though most of them came to nothing like a projected cycle for the Long Gallery at Blenheim, James A. Winn, “Creativity on Several Ocassions” in Concepts of Creativity in Seventeenth-Century England
 For a discussion of the equestrian portrait and its allegories, J. D. Stewart, “William III and Sir Godfrey Kneller” in JWCI, Vol. 33 (1970), 330-336. A drawing in the British Museum associated with this composition has been seen by Stewart as evidence of Kneller’s knowledge of Rembrandt’s graphic style, though wether Kneller was actually taught by Rembrandt has not been verified, 333. For drawing, link; and for painting, link.
 On style, taste and social structure – as mediated through portraiture- see A. C. Sewter, “Kneller and the English Augustan Portrait,” Burlington Magazine, Vol. 77, No. 451 (Oct. 1940), 106-115, 106.
 Sewter, “Kneller,” 109.
 Sewter, “Kneller,” 109.
 “To Sir Godfrey Kneller”. Cited in Winn, “Creativity on Several Ocassions” in Concepts of Creativity in Seventeenth-Century England
 Jardine, Going Dutch, 264.
 According to A. Rupert Hall, Newton was painted about seventeen times by famous artists. Kneller painted Newton four times: 1689, 1702, 1720, 1722. Other artists included Sir James Thornhill (once) and John Vanderbank twice. Then there were various engravings, Isaac Newton: Adventurer in Thought, (Cambridge University Press), 387f.
 For Newton’s religious beliefs, personality quirks and a psychological portrait, Anthony Storr, “Isaac Newton,” British Medical Journal, Vol. 129, No. 6511, (Dec 21-28), (1985), 1779-1784
 Jardine, Going Dutch, 312.
 Jardine, Going Dutch, 213.
 From the Rijksmuseum website: “The 17th-century naval hero Michiel Adriaensz de Ruyter, born in Vlissingen, came from a modest background. He went to sea at the age of eleven, and quickly worked his way up to skipper. While still a seaman, in 1622 De Ruyter escaped from Spanish captivity. In these years he not only served the war fleet, but also captained merchant ships.De Ruyter took part as commander in the First Anglo-Dutch War in 1652. Both countries were fighting for dominion over the sea. De Ruyter booked many great successes, was appointed vice-admiral and remained active in the struggle against England. Under his command, in 1667 a spectacular raid was launched against the ships, docks and warehouses in Chatham, east of London on the Medway River. The pride of the English fleet, HMS Royal Charles, was also captured. The famous admiral suffered serious injuries during a naval encounter with the French off the coast of Sicily in 1676 and succumbed to his wounds one week later. A tomb in the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam marks the place where De Ruyter is buried.
 Thanks to Maaike Dirkx for this information. She goes on to say: “According to a contemporary special care was required with the preparations of the panel because of Van de Velde’s unusual technique: it was necessary to allow the ground to dry for a longer than normal: two to three months, “since otherwise the ground would not have hardened sufficiently to withstand the sharpness of the quill.”
 Elis Waterhouse, Painting in Britain, 152.
 Elis Waterhouse, Painting in Britain, 152.
 The portrait painter, Gareth Hawker makes this interesting comment. “I think Kneller has added to any haughtiness in his subject by getting him to turn away from the viewer and then swivel his eyes back to check the viewer knows he has been spurned. A common pose with Kneller for some reason. In the attached I flipped the body horizontally, so making the pose a bit more like what one might expect from, say, Sir Joshua Reynolds.”
 From NMM website: “A ship-rigged cat-bark is shown on the right, with her anchors raised and making sail in very calm conditions. She is a Danish trading vessel flying their flag from the stern. Such ships were immensely strong and used to carry large tonnages such as wood. She is distinguishable by the lack of a figurehead at a time when even humble craft carried some form of decoration on the bow. The men on the deck appear very small in scale to emphasise the dimensions of the ship. The crew of the small boat are either hauling up the bark's anchor with the aid of a davit in the stern, or possibly shifting it in order to kedge her forward given the lack of wind. The deck of the bark is crowded with men heaving on halyards and making ropes fast, while high above them half a dozen sailors are perched on the yards loosening the sails. Piles of timber unloaded from the bark are shown on a barge to the left with its identifying number '472' clearly visible. Such details assert the concern of the painting to demonstrate the importance of trade and this is underscored by the inclusion of the other shipping, such as the craft on the right, which is flying the Dutch flag. The action takes place near the mouth of a river and is probably set in the Thames near Gravesend. Although the painting is believed to be one of a pair with BHC1039 and intended to be positioned over a door, no evidence exists to support this other than the fact that both canvases are the same size and were acquired together. Scott belonged to the first generation of British marine painters, who worked in the tradition of the van de Veldes and the other Dutch artists who came to practice in London from the 1670s. His reputation chiefly rests on his topographical views of London but he was a very good marine painter, who accepted commissions like this and whose artistic and social skills eclipsed - at least in business terms- those of his slightly earlier contemporary Peter Monamy. He was notably averse to travelling by sea himself but produced many small drawings and watercolours to be incorporated later as details into his oils, such as men rowing and unloading boats, and often drew his ships from models.” Link