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Portrait of a Man

In this half-length portrait, the unknown sitter engages us with a direct look, proudly displaying his formal coat generously embellished with gold braid and trimmings. The sitter’s fashionable attire, comprising a collarless coat and waistcoat from a three-piece suit together with a black three-cornered hat tucked under his arm, gives him an air of respectability. Tiny highlights of paint pick out the gold threadwork and beading on the coat and cuffs, catching the light as it illuminates the sitter from the left. In contrast, soft brushstrokes follow the curls of his wig, with a dusting of powder visible on the shoulder of his velvet coat.

The portrait is attributed to the English artist George Knapton (1698–1778), a society portrait painter who was a founding member of the British Society of Dilettanti, a club for gentlemen who had visited Italy on the Grand Tour. With a reputation as a connoisseur, Knapton became Keeper of the King’s Pictures in 1765 and afterwards ceased painting for a living. The authorship of this painting is disputed: some art historians have attributed it to the English painter Thomas Hudson (1701–79), although it is now believed to be closer to Knapton’s style. Both Knapton and Hudson were known to have employed the Flemish painter, Joseph Van Aken (1699–1749), a specialist known as a draperyman, to paint clothes and other accessories in their portraits.

Currently on display

Attributed to George Knapton
Gallery 10
76.2 x 63.5 cm
Oil on canvas
Fairfax Murray Gift, 1911
Accession number