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Sir Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723)

Mehemet (d. 1726) Signed and dated 1715

Oil on canvas | 91.0 x 71.6 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 405430

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  • Kneller was born in Lubeck, studied with Rembrandt in Amsterdam and by 1676 was working in England as a fashionable portrait painter. He painted seven British monarchs (Charles II, James II, William III, Mary II, Anne, George I and George II), though his portraits of Charles II are no longer in the collection, and in 1715 was the first artist to be made a Baronet (the next was John Everett Millais in 1885). A set of portraits of naval heroes was given by George IV to the Royal Naval Hospital in Greenwich in 1824. When fighting the Turks in the 1680s, George I captured two men, Mehemet and Mustapha, who became his personal servants, employed (especially after his arrival in Britain) to protect his privacy. Considerable resentment was caused by the proximity to the King of two Muslims and the fact that they kept the English nobility at bay. It was believed that they prevented key positions at Court from being filled, such as the 'Groom of the Stole', which afforded especially intimate access to the King. Mehemet rose to a position of considerable wealth and influence and was rewarded for his service with the noble title: 'Mehemet von Koenigstreu' ('True to the King'). The sitter is shown resting his right hand on his green silk belt and wearing a red velvet coat over an embroidered Mandarin jacket with a fur cap.
    Provenance

    Purchased by Queen Elizabeth II for the Royal Collection in August 1975 from J.G. Milner, London

  • Medium and techniques

    Oil on canvas

    Measurements

    91.0 x 71.6 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external)

    105.0 x 85.8 x 7.0 cm (frame, external)

  • Other number(s)
    Alternative title(s)

    Mehemet, Groom of the King's Chamber & Keeper of the Closet

    Herr Mehemet Bruce (d. 1726)