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Art and Monarchy 1714-1760

Sir Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723)

Queen Anne (1665-1714) c.1702-4

Oil on canvas | 76.1 x 63.8 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 405614

Queen's Closet, Kensington Palace

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Sir Godfrey 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 from Charles II to 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).

The second daughter of James II and Lady Anne Hyde, in 1702 Queen Anne succeeded her childless sister and brother-in-law Mary II and William III. She adopted the motto semper eadem (‘always the same’) from her great predecessor, Queen Elizabeth I; throughout the eighteenth century her reign was regarded as another Elizabethan age.

One of Kneller's jobs as 'Principal Painter' was to create an image from which the Royal Mint could produce new coinage and celebratory medals for Queen Anne’s accession. The Queen is shown head and shoulders in profile, attired in a gold dress with an ermine stomacher and an ermine-lined cloak attached to her shoulders. She wears the collar-chain of the Order of the Garter and a small crown with pearls. A lock of hair falls over right shoulder.

Text adapted from The First Georgians: Art and Monarchy 1714-1760, London, 2014