Oil on canvas, oval, 73.7cm by 61cm. Inscribed on the reverse: ‘Sir Godfrey Kneller by himself’.
The portrait was painted for the Honourable Order of Little Bedlam; a gentlemen’s club at Burghley, of which Kneller was a member.
It was acquired circa 1688-90 by John Cecil, 5th Earl of Exeter (1648-1700), the founder of the club and a fellow member.
Each member of the club chose an animal avatar; Kneller’s was a unicorn, which appears to the right of the portrait.
The 1688 Burghley Inventory, in an addendum of 1690, records: ‘1 picture of Mr Kneller no fframe by Kneller.’
The German-born Kneller was the leading portrait painter in England during the late 17th and early 18th Centuries.
He was court painter to monarchs from Charles II to George I, who knighted him.