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Portrait Of William Congreve C.1709 - Studio Of Sir Godfrey Kneller.


£12,950 | $17,160 USD | €14,793 EUR
Item Number: SA788360
Date of manufacture: 18th Century
Current Status: For sale
Seller: Period Portraits
This antique has been viewed 28 times in the past month with the most views from the United States.


This fine work recently reidentified by Period Portraits, depicts the famous playwright and poet William Congreve (1670-1729).
The identification of this portrait is confirmed by the use of an identical head that appears in a 1709 portrait of Congreve by the Studio of Godfrey Kneller (NG 67) in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery (NPG), London. A close comparison shows the exact same features, including the calm eyes, strong nose and hearty double chin. His appearance here relates to a white chalk and charcoal head study by Kneller that survives in the Courtauld Collection, which may well have been used to produce this painting.
As one of Britain’s most fashionable painters, demand for Kneller’s brush often exceeded his output. To remedy this, the artist employed a vast number of studio assistants to complete copies and variations on the master’s own paintings. Bearing in mind the quality of the handling, it is conceivable that the portrait on offer was a repetition completed by a studio assistant working in Kneller’s studio. Making use of a head study, perhaps the aforementioned Courtauld sheet, the artist working on this picture changed the position of the sitter’s body and placed it within a shady grove. The positioning of the sitter’s hand inside his frockcoat would have presumably had the intention of keeping the costs down. It is known that the inclusions of hands in portraits, a tricky feature for any able artist let alone a studio assistant, could often increase the work’s price.
Kneller included a likeness of Congreve in his famous Kit-Cat series, which also survives at the NPG (NG 3199). This surviving work, in a grand format with exuberant brushwork, is an example of Kneller working at the height of his career. The entire series, which features members of this notorious literary and political club, have come to epitomise British portraiture in the opening decades of the eighteenth century. One imagines that the following studio piece may have been painted for one of the playwright’s followers or friends. Congreve is also recorded to have collected works by Kneller, and is recorded having paid £15 for a portrait of ‘Saint Cecilia’ in June 1703.
William Congreve (1670 - 1729). William Congreve was born in Bardsey Grange, Yorkshire, in 1670. A talent for writing is likely to have descended on his mother’s side. Mary Congreve nee Browning (d.1715) was related to the early modern treatise writer Dr Timothy Bright (d.1615). Mary’s family connections to successful and recently ennobled merchant families helped to raise the her own family’s position during the Stuart Restoration. Despite his Yorkshire roots, William and his family had moved to London by 1672 and moved across to Ireland two years later to support William’s father’s career in the military. Congreve’s first portrait was made at the age of twelve whilst his family was in service to the Dukes of Ormond in Ireland. His education began at Kilkenny College and ended with a degree from Trinity College Dublin in 1686. The budding writer was already drafting short works and poems by the time he joined the Middle Temple to study Law in March 1691. His literary interests soon consumed his life and career, and brought him into the circle of the likes of Dryden whilst publishing his own lines.
On the verge of his blossoming literary career, and whilst writing to his friend Edward Porter in 1692, Congreve reflected on the landscape he found consolation in:
I have a little tried, what solitude and retirement can afford, which are here in perfection. I am now writing to you from before a black mountain nodding over me and a whole river in cascade falling so near me that even I can distinctly see it.
It is perhaps telling that the portrait on offer, as well as his likeness in the
Internal Ref: PP000109


This item is antique. The date of manufacture has been declared as 18th Century.


Height = 123 cm (48.4")
Width = 107 cm (42.1")
Depth = 4 cm (1.6")

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Period Portraits
North Yorkshire
United Kingdom

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