This full length portrait of King George I shows the sitter wearing his robes of state. His right hand rests on the orb, beside which is the crown and sceptre. In the distance we see a view of the east end of Westminster Abbey and St Stephen’s Chapel, which served as the chamber of the House of Commons from 1547 to 1834.
The original version of this state portrait of George I was presented to former Prime Minister Robert Walpole, presumably by the king himself, and remains in the study of Walpole’s former home, Houghton Hall, in Norfolk. Kneller is known to have been paid for additional copies of the portrait from 1715. His studio produced 16 repetitions of the work in that year, about eleven the following year, another eleven copies in 1717 and five in 1718. Other surviving examples of the studio copies are now in the collections of Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, Colchester and Ipswich Museums, Oxfordshire County Council and at Chevening House, Kent, the official residence of the Foreign Secretary. This version was purchased for the government collection from William Frederick, ninth Earl Waldegrave (1851-1930) in 1900.
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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