John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough (1650-1722) army officer and politician
About the work
Army officer and politician John Churchill, first Duke of Marlborough wears a suit of armour, a wig, a lace necktie and the collar and Lesser George; the latter two demonstrating his membership of the Order of the Garter.
This mezzotint print of 1705 is thought to have been made after a portrait by artist Godfrey Kneller of c.1700-03, which is now untraced. Kneller’s equestrian portrait of Marlborough of c.1706, showing the Duke on a rearing charger accompanied by Hercules, several ‘putti’ and other figures, is now in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London.
About the artist
John Smith I was a mezzotint engraver and printseller. He collaborated with the print maker Isaac Beckett in the mid 1680s and set himself up as a printseller towards the end of the 17th century. He made prints for both private commissions and public sale and also retouched plates by other engravers. Many of his prints are portraits after the work of his friend Godfrey Kneller. He also produced prints of religious subjects, scenes of classical mythology and landscapes after both Old Masters and contemporary painters.
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.