The finely painted and expressive head of this sitter is characteristic of the work of Sir Godfrey Kneller, with the treatment of the hair, in which dark strokes are freely brushed onto a mid-brown background to suggest the fall of the locks, almost regarded as a signature style. This portrait most probably dates to around the late 1690s, not least because the canvas size used here virtually disappears from Kneller’s oeuvre after c.1697. The draperies, consisting of three colours, are stylistically and tonally unusual for Kneller himself and therefore suggest the collaboration of a studio assistant; in many instances Kneller would complete the sitter’s head and would leave the completion of the rest to assistants, working under his direction.
From works such as this it is easy to understand why Kneller succeeded in dominating British society portraiture from the death of Sir Peter Lely in 1680 until his own death in 1723. Indeed, the careers of accomplished disciples such as Charles Jervas (1675-1739) extend even further the limits of his influence; even into the 1740s, it was the style of Kneller, perpetuated by engravings, which shaped the idiom of Irish and Colonial American portraiture. This reputation was well-deserved, and although Kneller’s age embraced many accomplished painters – John Closterman, Jonathan Richardson the Elder, or Michael Dahl – none came close to Kneller in immediate fame, or in such instant association in the popular mind with the exercise of portraiture. He remarkably painted ten ruling sovereigns, including every reigning British monarch from King Charles II to King George I, as well as almost every person of prominence in forty years of British public life.