This three-quarter length portrait shows King James II of England and Ireland and James VII of Scotland dressed in armour. His left hand rests on his hip, while he holds a staff in his right hand. He wears the Garter ribbon over his armour, indicating membership of the Order of the Garter, and a swathe of orange fabric is tied around his waist. His helmet is seen to the left of the composition.
This work was painted in 1683, two years before James’s accession to the throne in 1685, when he was still Duke of York and held the office of Lord High Admiral. It shows him as a commander, holding a baton with which to direct the forces under him. Radiating power and authority, the portrait was later used as the basis for James II’s royal portrait by Kneller (now in the National Portrait Gallery in London), which shows him in a similar pose but holding the royal sceptre instead of a baton.
This work was formerly in the collection of William Rome (c.1842-1907), proprietor of the chain of ‘Sweetings’ fish restaurants, in the City. Rome’s country residence was Creeksea Place in Essex. Another version of the portrait is at Saltram, near Plymouth.
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.
King James II and VII (1633-1701) reigned 1685-1688, in armour
Oil on canvas
height: 126.50 cm, width: 102.50 cm
Purchased from Christie's, 21 December 1907
bl: G. Kneller F / Ao 1683. [date faint and uncertain)
Collection of William Rome (c.1842-1907), proprietor of the chain of ‘Sweetings’ fish restaurants, in the City, of Creeksea Place, Essex; by whom sold through Christie’s, London, on 21 December 1907 (Lot 84), as by Sir P. Lely; from which sale purchased by Gooden & Fox on behalf of the Office of Works
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