German-born but Dutch trained, Kneller settled in England in 1676. He became the greatest master of the English baroque portrait and, as court painter to four sovereigns, dominating English art for more than thirty years. This self-portrait shows him wearing across his chest a gold chain from which hangs a medal with a profile head of William III, a gift from the king and queen. The view to the left is of Whitton Hall (later renamed Kneller Hall), Twickenham, built by Kneller between 1709-11
The Kit Cat Club 1732-35
Fine, half length portraits of the Whig grandees of the Protestant Ascendancy. The influential Kit Cat Club of politicians, aristocrats, writers, scientists, artists and architects was founded in 1700 by Jacob Tonson (1656-1736) the publisher. It included the painter Kneller (1646-1723). The portraits (now in the National Portrait Gallery, London) were painted by Kneller as a present from the members to Tonson their founder; some are unfinished, showing only the faces, as Kneller died before all the portraits could be completed. Faber has faithfully reproduced even these. The club’s avowed aim was to ensure a Protestant succession to the British throne after the death of William III. With the accession of the Protestant Queen Anne, the club turned increasingly from politics to pleasure and its chief preoccupations were soon eating and drinking. The club was supposed to have taken its name from the tavern keeper Christopher Catt and his famous mutton pies known as ‘Kit-Cats’. The club gradually came to an end in the 1720’s with the deaths of most of the original members.