James, first Earl of Stanhope is here depicted seated by a table and wearing a florid waistcoat. A similar version of this painting, which shows the table to the right and Stanhope’s right hand holding a quill, is at Chevening (official residence of the Foreign Secretary) in Kent and another (now untraced) was formerly at Battle Abbey, East Sussex.
Painter Johan van Diest made several portraits of Stanhope, all using an identical face mask. The earliest version may be the portrait in armour, now in the National Portrait Gallery in London.
Godfrey Kneller’s portrait of Stanhope is in the National Portrait Gallery and a monument to him is at Westminster Abbey, designed by William Kent and executed by the sculptor Michael Rysbrack.
Johan van Diest was the son of London-based Dutch landscape painter Adriaen van Diest (1655-1704) and was probably a pupil of Sir Godfrey Kneller, whose work he copied. Army officer and road builder General George Wade (1673-1748) commissioned van Diest to paint several works, including ‘The Wise Men’s Offerings’ (c.1725; now destroyed), part of an elaborate altarpiece which Wade presented to Bath Abbey; portraits of Bath Councillors (commissioned 1728; seven now in the Council Chamber of the Guildhall, Bath) and a full-length portrait of Wade (1731; Council Chamber of the Guildhall, Bath). Despite numerous Bath commissions, van Diest remained London-based and produced decorative work for the London home of poet Alexander Pope (1688-1744).
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