A Portrait of Antonio Verrio (1636-1707), by Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt. (1646-1723).

Oil on canvas, oval, 73.7cm by 61cm.

The portrait was painted for the Honourable Order of Little Bedlam, a gentlemen’s drinking club at Burghley, of which Verrio was a member.

It was acquired circa 1688-90 by John Cecil, 5th Earl of Exeter (1648-1700), the founder of the Little Bedlam Club and a fellow member.

Each member of the club chose an animal avatar; Verrio’s being a porcupine, which is shown at his side and is said to have perfectly reflected his prickly (and volatile) Italian character.

He spent more than a decade at Burghley painting walls and ceilings for the 5th Earl; the relationship between the two men often fraught.

The 1688 Burghley Inventory in an addendum of 1690 records: ‘1 picture of Sigr Verrio no fframe by Kneller.’


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