After Sir Godfrey Kneller; An Early 18thC Oil on Canvas Portrait of King George I c.1714

Origin: English School
Period: George I
Provenance: Ex Christies London, 30th October, 1959
Date: c.1714
Height: 30”
Width: 25”
Depth: 1”

The unframed early eighteenth century oil on canvas portrait of King George I, shown bust length depicting the King with the collar of a Knight of the Garter over his coronation robes, bearing a Christie’s stencil verso for ‘423 MA’, the whole surviving from the first quarter of the eighteenth century, most likely from the coronation year of 1714, and last offered at Christies Auction House in London in 1959.

The condition of the painting is unrestored, uncleaned and unframed and is in as found order with losses. It has been relined, and there are areas of loss with flaking and craquelure to the top surface particularly to the lower half of the painting; please refer to the photographs for a visual reference. The painting is extremely decorative as it is but could be extensively cleaned, restored and framed if so desired, to restore it. As always, we prefer things left as they are.

The picture is stenciled verso ‘423 MA’. This is a Christie’s Auction House stencil. Spotting a Christie’s stencil is a good indication of a work’s potential importance, and the alphanumeric cipher of the type shown here has been in use almost since Christie’s founding in 1766, originally applied to the backs of pictures with a brush, before stenciled stock numbers were introduced. Every Christie’s stock number matches a unique record in the Christie’s Archive, a legendary repository of detailed information on provenance and prices for every picture sold in the company’s almost two-and-a-half centuries.

In this case, the stencil shows us that the work was offered on the 30th of October 1959 with the following description:

Christie’s London 30 October 1959 lot 152

Property Title:
Various Sources

 B. Kent, 3 Brighton Road, Lewes, Sussex

Catalogue entry:
When only the surname of the artist is found this usually means that in our opinion at the time of cataloguing that it is a work of the school or by one of the followers of the artist or in his style, for instance ‘Gainsborough’.

152 PORTRAIT OF KING GEORGE I, bust length, in garter robes wearing
the chain and jewel of the George – in a painted oval – 29 in. by 24 in.

Sold: £10 s10 [10gns]

Buyer: [reads as] Tonker or Tonkin or Tonken

There is a similar work in the National Portrait Gallery entitled;

‘King George I
after Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt
oil on copper, (circa 1714)
6 5/8 in. x 5 5/8 in. (168 mm x 143 mm) oval
Purchased, 1877

That work shows exactly the same pose, clothing and is shown bust length, the only difference being that our work is essentially just flipped horizontally with the sitter facing sinister rather than to dexter.

The great day of the coronation of King George I on October 20, began in Westminster Abbey with the ceremony of recognition, the new King facing the altar; then came Communion and a sermon, and at last the vital moment when George was crowned in Edward I ’s throne after being anointed. Only now was he seen by all of those in Westminster Abbey, facing them with his crown in place, seated in the magnificently carved and decorated new throne to receive the homage of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and lastly to be acclaimed by the remainder of the congregation. This was theatre, with a clever use of props – even the crown was largely decorated with coloured glass of no value. A costume change – into the imperial purple plus orb and sceptre – followed off stage in St Edward’s Chapel, and the shy new King could escape the Abbey stage. He ruled for just thirteen years.

An accomplished and attractive early Georgian work of good size that could be extensively restored or simply enjoyed in its regally decayed state.