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.
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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