soldportrait of matthew prior c 1700 attributed to sir godfrey kneller

SOLD....Portrait of Matthew Prior c. 1700; attributed to Sir Godfrey Kneller



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Oil on canvas in fine 18th c. carved and giltwood frame.
The sitter is thought to be Matthew Prior, poet and diplomat; the best known image of Prior shows slightly more aquiline features, but in the National Portrait Gallery are three images of Prior (NPG D3973, D19242 and 562) bearing a very strong facial resemblance to this sitter and wearing the same clothing.
MATTHEW PRIOR (1664-1721). Prior's brilliance as a boy was noted by Lord Dorset who paid for the continuance of his education at Westminster. He took his B.A. in 1686, becoming a Fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge two years later.
He became famous for writing a satire on Dryden in collaboration with Charles Montagu, Earl of Halifax.
After four years as Secretary to the Embassy in the Hague he was appointed one of the Gentlemen of the King's Bedchamber.
The poet's knowledge of French assisted his move to Paris in attendance on the English Ambassador. Still writing highly successful poetry, on his return to England Prior became Under Secretary of State then a Commissioner of Trade. In 1701 he became M.P. for East Grinstead.
After 1710 he was involved in many important negociations with the French Court...sometimes as Ambassador, sometimes as a secret agent. When the balance of power within the Government changed he was impeached and confined for two years. During his imprisonment he wrote prolifically and earned enough for him to live in comfort for the rest of his life.
He is buried in Westminster Abbey.
SIR GODFREY KNELLER (1646-1723) was the dominant Court and Society portraitist of his age.
About the turn of the century Kneller's style starts to change. His handling of the paint became freer with a painterly delight in the use of the medium..a style shown to perfection in this portrait. Kneller was at his best painting creative sitters - a rapport was established.
Here he dispenses with the fashionable wig and elaborate costume, and paints Prior in the clothing that was the preserve of men of the arts and sciences...the silk gown and soft velvet cap. The emphasis is on the sitter as an individual and the viewer's attention is directed to the face, with no distraction from background or accessories.
Even the simple robe is depicted with a looseness of focus and a sophisticated technique of fluid brush strokes...reminding one that Kneller had studied under Rembrandt. With this technique one should perhaps remember Kneller's comment to those who peered closely at his portraits, "My paintings were not made for smelling of..."
SIZE: 37x32 inches inc. frame
Small areas of damage to the frame.
PROVENANCE: an Edinburgh Private Collection.
Internal Ref: 8451

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