portrait of elizabeth viscountess dunbar 1710 by sir godfrey kneller

Portrait of Elizabeth, Viscountess Dunbar 1710, by Sir Godfrey Kneller.


| $23,154 USD | €19,922 EUR

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Oil on canvas in the original carved and giltwood frame. Signed, faintly, with GK monogram to the left. (Our restorer confirms that this signature is original to the painting.) A later inscription identifying the sitter lower left.
ELIZABETH, VISCOUNTESS DUNBAR was the daughter of the Hugh Clifford, 2nd Baron Clifford of Chudleigh, painted here aged 25 in 1710. The Hon. Elizabeth Clifford (1689 – 25 September 1721), married first William Constable, 4th Viscount Dunbar (1653–1718), without issue, married second on 17 November 1720 Charles Fairfax, 9th Viscount Fairfax of Emley, without issue.
SIR GODFREY KNELLER (1646-1723) dominates our understanding of late seventeenth and early eighteenth century British portraiture. With Van Dyck, Lely and Reynolds, his name has become synonymous with the visual interpretation of British history – not least because he painted almost every person of prominence in forty years of British public life. Every reigning British monarch from Charles II to George I sat to Kneller.
This is a very fine example of Kneller's work in the early 18th century, it is one of Kneller’s more intimate female studies. The sitter is unencumbered by high fashion or a background of stately topography. The emphasis is instead placed directly on the alluring femininity, and enhanced by the falling hair around her shoulder. This looseness of focus is created with a free fluidity of brushstrokes. He has used a Rembrandt-esque technique of subtle tones in the face, and we can see how Kneller often allowed the bluer ground layer to show through when suggesting the darker flesh tones. In both techniques, we should bear in mind Kneller’s own advice, when rebuking those who peered at his works too closely, ‘My paintings were not made for smelling of…’.
The painterly technique seen here is an excellent demonstration of Kneller’s style. The bold handling of the flesh tones is Kneller at his most emphatic, while the sizeable areas of grey ground we see are indicative of his method of painting quickly, developed by this stage in his career to cope with the many demands of a large circle of patrons. The same effect is used for the shadows in the face: rather than paint darker colours on top of the pink flesh tones, as most artists would have done, Kneller instead painted in the reverse order, using the ground layer for his dark shadows, and then painting the lighter colours on top. Often he worked with an almost dry brush in strong firm strokes. Here the flesh tones have been rapidly, almost roughly painted, with bold areas of impasto giving way to areas where almost no paint has been applied at all, a trick that allowed Kneller to use the blue-grey ground layer to show darker flesh tones.
Basically Kneller's style was Baroque but there were three essential aspects to it which are found in all his mature works: naturalism, classicism and a feeling for the handling of paint. In his feeling for paint Kneller was, curiously, anti-classical in his dislike of 'finish' .. or 'over working' a painting. Both he, and later Gainsborough, defended a 'rough' surface.
SIZE: 37 x 32 inches including the frame.
PROVENANCE: Heathcote Ball, Appleby Magna, 1987.
Collection of the late Dr Peter Wakely.
Internal Ref: 9249


Height = 94 cm (37")
Width = 81 cm (32")
Depth = 6.6 cm (3")

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