James Stanhope, first Earl Stanhope (1673–1721)
Kneller’s oil painting of James Stanhope (at Beningbrough Hall, Yorkshire) is said to date from 1705 to 1710. John Simon’s mezzotint is undated, but the inscription on the published state of the print can help to suggest the plate’s production date. With this small amount of text a probable timeframe can be established. The first clue is in the publication address in the right-hand corner of the margin, which reads: “Sold by E. Cooper at ye 3 Pigeons in Bedford Street & by J. Simon in Long Acre against Cross lane”. The printmaker John Simon (1675-1755) arrived in London from Normandy around the turn of the century; he was one of the many Huguenot artists and craftsmen who fled France because of religious persecution. Some of Simon’s early works are lettered with this address at Long Acre (P.10420-R, P.130-1952, P.170-1951). Simon also engraved plates for a man called Edward Cooper, who was the major print publisher in London at the end of the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. His address always appears as “ye 3 Pigeons in Bedford Street” (near Covent Garden) and he specialised in mezzotints. There are a great many portraits in the collection bearing his address (click here for prints in the collection by Simon with Cooper’s address: P.68-1944, P.68-1945, P.10741-R, P.10742-R, P.10744-R, P.200-1943, P.10745-R, P.10749-R, P.72-1944). Around 1720 Simon moved to a new residence referred to on his prints as ‘ye Seven Stars in King-street, Covent Garden’. Therefore a print by Simon bearing the Long Acre address must date from before 1720, and so this particular print must date from 1705 (at the earliest) to 1720
However, we can narrow the dates down further. James Stanhope acquired a great many titles during his lifetime, and these would have been recorded in the plate’s title. He was created 1st Viscount Stanhope of Mahon, in the island of Minorca on 3 July 1717; 1st Baron Stanhope of Elvaston, co. Derby on 3 July 1717; and 1st Earl Stanhope on 14 April 1718. As the title does not include any of these titles we could assume that it was engraved before 1717. However, the portrait is dedicated to a female monarch, i.e. Queen Anne, the last of the Stuart line, who died in 1714. This brings the latest possible production date forward once more: this print must date from the period 1705 -1714.
One further attempt to secure the date can be made by tracing Stanhope’s military career to discover when he rose to the rank of Lieutenant General and “Commander in Chief of Her Majesties Forces in Spain” as he is called in the print’s inscription. He became Commander in Chief before his departure to Spain in May 1708, and the promotion to Lieutenant General came later, in January 1709. So this portrait print must have been published between the years 1709 and 1714. These two prints are highlighted here to show the differences between an early impression before the engraved inscription, and a later, published impression. The addition of the lettering is not the only difference between the two: close inspection reveals that there were several changes to the plate. The earlier impression is a trial proof, touched with white and black colouring. These markings seem to be instructions for alterations, as the markings on the early state seem to correspond with the changes to the plate on the later state. White marks have been added to the trial proof in places where the plate is to become lighter, or to highlight lines that need to be improved. The clearest example is the correction to the line of the far side of the sitter’s coat as it falls behind his shirt cuff. Black marks have been added where the plate is to become darker, such as on the sitter’s face, introducing shadows on the chin and under and to the side of the nose. Black lines are also put on the joints of stretched-out fourth finger holding the baton. There are also changes to the background of the portrait: the shape of the clouds over the sitter’s left shoulder are altered, making the lines appear softer; the plant on the left is changed completely – the leaves in the foreground having much more light shed on them; further delineation is given to the battle scene on the right.
Sir Godfrey Kneller’s painting was one of forty seven portraits of members of the Kit-cat Club executed between 1702 and 1717. The Club’s unusual name is supposed to derive from the mutton pies that they used to eat at Christopher Cat’s tavern near Temple Bar. It was a men’s drinking club, but became known as Britain’s pre-eminent political and literary club, and in particular, a club with Whig sensibilities. Its members included members of the aristocracy, leading Whig politicians, and artists and writers. It held greatest sway during the latter part of Queen Anne’s reign, acting in opposition to her Tory administration. Kneller was commissioned by the Club to paint the portrait of each member. He used a special three-quarter-length format canvas, which became known as the Kit-cat. As mentioned above, James Stanhope’s portrait is one of the series hung in the Dining Room at Beningbrough Hall near York. Half of the series are housed there, the other half in the National Portrait Gallery in London.
In 1720, the son of the founding member, Jacob Tonson (1655/6-1736) P.33-1973, bookseller and Secretary of the Kit-cat Club, arranged for the mezzotint artist John Faber (1684-1756) to engrave a series of prints after Kneller’s portraits. Some of these portraits by Faber in the collection are:
Joseph Addison (1672-1719) P.32-1973
Charles Cornwallis, 4th Baron Cornwallis (1675-1722) P.30-1973
Sir Richard Steele (1672-1729) P.31-1973
George Stepney (1663-1707) P.10096-R
Thomas Wharton, 1st Marquess of Wharton (1648-1716) P.29-1973