This portrait was presented to Downing Street by the political writer Amabel Hume-Campbell (née Lady Amabel Yorke), Countess De Grey (1751-1833) of Wrest House in Bedfordshire, in 1827. At the time the Countess's nephew, Frederick John Robinson, first Viscount Goderich (1782-1859), was Chancellor of the Exchequer and so had a residence in Downing Street. Goderich would later briefly serve as Prime Minister, from August 1827~to January 1828.
This portrait has been reduced from its original size, as proved by an inscription in gold paint along the bottom of the canvas, which is now partially beneath the stretcher and hidden by the frame. It reads: THE EARL OF GODOLPHIN PRESENTED BY THE COUNTESS DE GREY
Godfrey Kneller was born in Lübeck, Germany. He moved to Amsterdam in 1662 to study painting under Rembrandt and Ferdinand Bol. He later trained with Gianlorenzo Bernini and Carlo Maratta in Rome. He returned to Lübeck in 1675, before moving to Hamburg and then to London to study the works of van Dyck. In England he received commissions from prominent figures, including Charles II. Charles sent Kneller to France in 1684, to paint the portrait of Louis XIV. Kneller maintained his position at court after the accession of James II in 1685 and, when William and Mary came to the throne, he and portraitist John Riley became joint Principal Painters to the Crown. Following Riley’s death, Kneller alone retained the position. He was 77 when he died.
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