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Dressed in royal state robes decorated lavishly in ermine, gold and lace, William III (also known as William of Orange) is depicted in this three-quarter length portrait by an unknown artist. Staring directly at the viewer, it reveals the studied confidence of the King. Painted around 1690, this portrait is similar in composition and style to the State portrait that William sat to Sir Godfrey Kneller for in 1690, held in Royal Collection. The latter portrait was one of the most famous depictions of the king and was copied many times.
William III was born in The Hague, grandson of Charles I and husband to Mary, daughter of James II. As ‘Stadholder’ of Holland (Leader of the United Provinces of the Netherlands), he became the Protestant champion in Europe against the domination of Louis XIV. With the birth of James II’s heir in 1688, came the potential threat of the Catholicisation of England – a situation that prompted the Whig political party to invite William to invade England. The success of this resulted in the declaration of William, and his wife Mary, as King and Queen, of England, positions that were secured following William’s subsequent Grand Alliance against France.
Godfrey Kneller was born in Lübeck, Germany. He moved to Amsterdam in 1662 to study painting under Rembrandt van Rijn and Ferdinand Bol. He later trained with Gianlorenzo Bernini and Carlo Maratta in Rome. After returning to Lübeck in 1675, he moved to Hamburg and then to London to study the works of Sir Anthony van Dyck. In England he received commissions from prominent figures, including Charles II. In 1684, Charles sent him to France 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, Kneller and portraitist John Riley became joint Principal Painters to the Crown. Following Riley’s death, Kneller alone retained the position.
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