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The Art of the Garden

Leonard Knyff (1650-1722)

A View of Hampton Court c. 1702-14

Oil on canvas | 153.1 x 216.3 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 404760

Chatsworth Room, Hampton Court Palace

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Knyff was born in The Hague and had settled in England by 1681; he specialised in bird’s-eye views of English country houses, recording their architecture and agriculture with great attention to detail. In a letter of 9 January 1703 Knyff wrote, ‘I have done a great many [drawings] of Hampton Courte and Windsor for his Majesty [Queen Anne’s husband, Prince George of Denmark] which are not yet engraved’. This painting was not acquired for the Royal Collection until 1948 and no engraving of this composition survives, but in the absence of contradictory evidence it may be connected with these drawings referred to in 1703. This date fits with the topography of the Palace, showing the transformation wrought here by William III. Taking the view from the east (the rear of the palace) emphasises the Baroque parts at the expense of the Tudor. We see Wren’s Fountain Court and new garden facades (south and east) as well as the formal gardens created by George London and Henry Wise to go with them. William III’s Banqueting House appears near the river and the enclosed rectangular gardens to the north of the Palace all show the changes he made in these areas. On the Thames are barges and a ferry transporting a coach; on the other side of the river is the village of East Molesey, and Hampton can be seen in the distance.