This striking portrait of the King is a head and shoulders version taken from the full length in coronation robes of which various examples exist, notably in the Royal Collection and at Houghton Hall, Norfolk. Focussing on the strong features of the new monarch, the collar of the garter is prominently displayed against the ermine robe; symbols of office indicating loyalty and continuity. He became King in 1714 at the death of Queen Anne under the terms of the Act of Settlement which was designed to ensure a Protestant succession. His coronation was followed by the ill-prepared 1715 Jacobite Rising in Scotland which resulted in many members of the genty commissioning images of the king in an effort to emphasise their loyality and allegiance. As a result, after Kneller’s initial three-quarter or full-length commissions, the head and shoulders variant as seen here found popularity, particualry when the image was broadly distributed through engravings. In fact, so much so that this portrait has become one of the most memorable and lasting images of the first Hanoverian monarch.
Sir Godfrey Kneller was the greatest master of the English baroque portrait and from works such as this it is easy to understand why he succeeded in dominating British society portraiture for over forty years from the death of Sir Peter Lely in 1680. Indeed, the careers of accomplished disciples extend even further the limits of his influence, with his style, perpetuated by engravings, shaping the approach to portrait painting well into the 1740s. He remarkably painted every reigning British monarch from King Charles II to King George I, as well as almost every person of prominence in British public life.