Sir Godfrey Kneller

Sir George Mackenzie, 1636 - 1691. Founder of the Advocates Library (1680s)

About this artwork

Sir George Mackenzie was widely regarded by his contemporaries as “the brightest man in the nation”. Born in Dundee, he went to study at Aberdeen’s King’s College in 1650, followed by The University of St Andrews, graduating in 1653. He then travelled to France and read law at The University of Bourges, graduating in 1658. After returning to Scotland, Mackenzie was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates and went on to become Lord Advocate in 1677. He gave the inaugural speech at the formal opening of the Advocates' Library in 1689. This highlights his interest in literature - he published many books, ranging from imaginative tales to moral philosophy and political theory. This portrait shows Mackenzie in a fashionable wig, similar to those worn by Charles II during his reign.

Sir Godfrey Kneller

Sir Godfrey Kneller

Kneller was a German artist who trained in Amsterdam under Ferdinand Bol and Rembrandt. He came to London in 1674 and became the leading portrait painter in England during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century. The output from his studio was enormous and included effectively everyone of importance from the reign of Charles II to George I. Kneller popularised the Kit-Cat format for portraits (36 x 28 inches), named after his portraits of the members of the famous Whig dining club. The founding governor of the first academy of art in England, his position as court and society painter was unrivalled. Kneller was Principal Painter from 1689, and in 1715 was created a baronet, a rank that was not surpassed by any artist for over a century.