Completed Portraits: British 18th C 19 Could this be a portrait by Sir Godfrey Kneller of George Granville, 1st Lord Lansdowne (1666–1735)?

Topic: Artist

I previously submitted a suggestion to Art Detective that this painting might be of Bishop George Berkeley, a friend of and sitter to John Smibert (see attached composite). However, I have since reconsidered this possibility and would like to suggest instead that this is a portrait by Sir Godfrey Kneller of George Granville, 1st Lord Lansdowne (1666–1735).

The attached composite image depicts four engravings of Granville, together with the image under consideration. The first of the engravings decorates the start of Cooke's 1797 edition of 'The Poetical Works of the Right Hon, Lord Lansdowne...'.

On page 251 of Volume 2 of the Rev. Mark Noble's 'A Biographical History of England...' (1806), there is a list of several of the then-known images of George Granville (see attachment). Two refer to engravings by George Vertue taken from a painting by Godfrey Kneller.

On page 29 of 'A Description of the Villa of Horace Walpole ... at Strawberry Hill, near Twickenham' (1774), there is an entry for a portrait of George Granville, Lord Lansdow [sic], in red, together with a print of the same subject by George Vertue, after Godfrey Kneller.

On the 14th May 1842, at Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill sale (Day 18, Lot 127), a watercolour portrait miniature of Granville was sold. A copy of the print can be seen here:

I am obviously aware of the absence of the hand that is featured in three of the engravings, but this limb might have been added by the engravers to give more interest to the subject. Otherwise, the open shirt, the jacket, the hat and the general facial expression all seem to echo the clothing worn by and the attitude of the man in this Fitzwilliam Museum portrait.

Kieran Owens, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

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Rbt Brown,

1. The painting and the 'oval engraving' relate to each other in 'facial structure'. They appear to be the same man, Lonsdown.

2. The 3 square engravings relate to the Oval engraving through facial features and also stated to be: George Granville or Lord Lansdowne

3. The 3 square engravings match the painting in 'general pose and attire', with the exception of the missing hand. They do not prove to be the 'same man' as in the painting.
Conclusion: Through the engravings a good case can be made that the 'Unknown Gent' is George Granville. And being that the painting is a 'fine example of realism' it is possibly the work of Godfrey Kneller or a competing artist who may have copied Kneller's original.

Jacinto Regalado,

However, the attribution to Smibert seems quite plausible, although this is still "style of" Kneller.

Jacinto Regalado,

And by the way, Smibert should not be listed on Art UK as "American," but rather as Scottish-American or simply Scottish.

Although Smibert was born in Scotland and only went to America at the age of 40, I believe he is generally known as an American artist. Presumably he became an American citizen? Art UK follows Getty ULAN, which lists him as American, but our entry records that he was born in Scotland.

Jacob Simon,

Kieran has provided some good comparisons to support an identification as George Granville, 1st Lord Lansdowne. The problem, common to so many of these conundrums, is that a likeness of this kind is rarely sufficiently compelling, in the absence of some sort of documentation, to prove conclusive. I fear that it will be difficult to take this discussion further.

Miles Barton,

This reminds me of the work of Jonathan Richardson. The slightly wide structure of the face particularly around the mouth remind me very strongly of how he composes faces. It appears to need a clean but I'm fairly convinced if it was it would only confimed further my thoughts. Richardson painted quite colourfully and I'm sure the reds will increase the tonal range and depth of the body form which at the moment is a bit flat.

Definately not Kneller in my opinion.

Jacob Simon,

I like Miles's suggestion of Richardson as the artist.

Jacinto Regalado,

Smibert was a pupil of Kneller and Richardson was a pupil of John Riley, but there seems to be a closer match with Richardson here. What is the attribution to Smibert based on?

Bendor Grosvenor,

I can't see Kneller here at all. Closer to Richardson. But we'd need better images to take it further.

Marcie Doran,

Is it likely that the sitter was James Thomson, who is shown in an unfinished work by William Aikman (1682-1731) dated c. 1725?

I would note that, in 1905, the donor of the work we are discussing, Charles Fairfax Murray, attended an auction of works once owned by the late Louis Huth. Louis was the brother of C.F. Huth, who once owned this work.

The 1904 auction of works owned by the late C.F. Huth included a "portrait of James Thomson the poet, in red dress and cap, by W. Aikman, 44gs".

S. Elin Jones,

I visited the Witt Library in August 2019 to see if this could be James Thomson by William Aikman. Can you post photographs taken in the Witt Library here?

The portrait was accepted as a depiction of James Thomson and attributed to William Aikman when Charles Fairfax Murray donated the picture to the Fitzwilliam Museum.

However, during its time in the Fitzwilliam Museum, doubt as to the artist and identity of the sitter led to the painting being catalogued as 'Attributed to John Smibert' and "unknown man". This change is addressed in a 1960's catalogue of the paintings of the Fitzwilliam Museum,

"Given by Charles Fairfax Murray, 1908. Coll. C. F. Huth; his sale, Christie's, 19 March 1904 (35).
In the Huth sale, and when given, described as of the poet James Thomson
(1700-1748), by William Aikman, and so catalogued. But comparison with authentic portraits of Thomson does not support this identification, and despite some points of likeness with the work of Aikman, the picture appears to be by a less vigorous hand with different habits of drawing.
The style has considerable similarity to the work of Smibert, which it resembles in lighting, modelling and treatment, and in the expression, ..."

Yale Centre for British Art was also very helpful in supplying the information they had on file of the painting in their collection, of the photograph/ attachment of 'An Unfinished Study of the Head of James Thomson", as seen on Marcie's post.

Several photographs of this portrait are recorded in various catalogues as a painting of James Thomson by William Aikman.

If I remember correctly, there's quite a bit more on file, but forgive me, it's been quite a while. I can have a look if needed.

Jacob Simon,

I think that we are moving towards closure of this five year old discussion about a portrait in the Fitzwilliam Museum. The portrait has been carefully considered by the Fitzwilliam (see the post by
S. Elin Jones, 04/03/2024).

We are asked, “Could this be a portrait by Sir Godfrey Kneller of George Granville, 1st Lord Lansdowne (1666–1735)?” I suspect that the answer is “no” and “no”.

The problem, common to so many of these conundrums, is that a likeness to another portrait is rarely sufficiently compelling, in the absence of some sort of documentation. But the possible attribution of the picture to Jonathan Richardson is worth further consideration (Miles Barton, 21/01/2022).

Jacob Simon,

To bring this discussion to a close after more than five years. We are asked, “Could this be a portrait by Sir Godfrey Kneller of George Granville, 1st Lord Lansdowne (1666–1735)?” The answer is “no” and “no” from all that has gone before.

A likeness to another portrait is rarely sufficiently compelling, in the absence of some sort of documentation to support identifying the sitter.

As to the artist, I have looked further at the possible attribution to Jonathan Richardson, suggested by Miles Barton (21/01/2022) and thought worth exploring by Bendor Grosvenor (01/02/2022).

My recommendation is to close this discussion leaving the title as is and amending the artist to "Attributed to onathan Richardson the elder (1667–1745)"