King James II and VII (1633-1701) Reigned 1685-88

  • About the work
    Country: UK
    City: London
    Place: Cabinet Office, 70 Whitehall

    This ceremonial full-length portrait of King James II is believed to be from the school of the great portrait painter Sir Godfrey Kneller. The younger brother of Charles II, James succeeded to the throne in 1685. He is depicted here in a baroque, almost theatrical setting, against a heavy, dark red drapery, adding grandeur to the composition. The sitter is standing in Garter robes, with a pendant on his chest showing St George Slaying the Dragon, and a velvet mantle covering his shoulders. There are two full-length portraits of James II by Sir Godfrey Kneller, one in which the sitter is dressed in armour (National Portrait Gallery, London), and one in the official dress (Guyzance Hall). It appears that the portrait featured here derives from Kneller’s latter version.

  • About the artist
    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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  • Details
    King James II and VII (1633-1701) Reigned 1685-88
    Oil on canvas
    height: 237.00 cm, width: 147.50 cm
    Purchased from Lord Waldegrave, 1900
    Collection of William Frederick Waldegrave, ninth Earl Waldegrave (1851-1930); from whom purchased by the Office of Works in 1900
    GAC number