Portrait of Lady Sundon
Portrait of Lady Sundon
Portrait of Lady Sundon
Portrait of Lady Sundon

SIR GODFREY KNELLER (1646-1723)

Portrait of Lady Sundon

1646 to 1723 Germany

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M74804

PORTRAIT OF A LADY WEARING A WHITE DRESS WITH GREEN SASH
SAID TO BE LADY SUNDON (C.1679–1742)

SIR GODFREY KNELLER 1646-1723
Oil on canvas 47 ¾ x 39 ¼ inches
Framed size check 56 ¼ x 48 inches

Born Gottfried Kniller in Lubeck, Germany in 1646, third son of the portraitist and chief surveyor of the city, Zacharius Kniller and his wife Luci (nee Beuten)
Kneller was originally destined for a Military career and was sent to Leyden to study mathematics
and fortification; however with his father’s blessing he studied art under Ferdinand Bol and Rembrandt in the early 1660’s. His first known portrait was painted in 1666. He visited Rome and Venice during 1672 to 1675. There he studied from the antique and the paintings of Raphael, Carracci, Titian and Tintoretto and worked in the studios of Carlo Maratti and Bernini.
Kneller went on to Nuremberg in 1674 and on to Hamburg before settling in London in 1676.
By 1679 he was patronized by the King and was sent by Charles to France in1684/5 to draw the portrait of Louis XIV. Kneller was jointly appointed with Riley the principal painter to William & Mary 1688. On Riley’s death in 1691 he continued alone and retained that office until his death in 1723.
He accompanied William lll, his greatest patron to the Low Countries in 1697 commissioning from him a portrait of the Elector of Bavaria, with whom William was seeking an alliance. Kneller’s style changes after this visit and his creamy colours were laid on with more dash and with a lighter, almost Rococo touch.
He was knighted in 1692 and made a Baronet in 1715.
He had a flourishing studio in London presided over by Edward Byng, producing a great many copies of his commissioned portraits. Kneller created the influential Kit-cat format (36 x 28 inches) showing one hand for his portraits of members of the Kit-cat club (the leaders of the Whig establishment).
In 1709 Christopher Wren designed a country house for him, Whitton, near Hounslow, Middlesex.
He was the first Governor of the first Academy in London from 1711 to1718.
Kneller dominated portraiture and remained the most distinguished and successful portrait painter in England until his death in London on the 19th October 1723.
He was court painting for five reigns. He worked rapidly and his best portraits show considerable sensitivity and understanding of the sitter.
He had many pupils and assistants including; Edward & Robert Byng; Joseph Highmore; Jean Baptist Gaspar; Charles Jervas and Jean Baptiste Monnoyer.

Works in Museums & Country Houses around the World including National Portrait Gallery London; Victoria & Albert Museum; Her Majesty the Queen; Tate; NGI; Yale; NG Canada; SNPG; Hampton Court, Dulwich A.G; Philadelphia Museum of Art; National Maritime Museum and many other Public Collections.

Bibl: Portrait Painters - Brian Stewart & Mervyn Cutten

Provenance: Frank Garrett Limited

M74804
LADY SUNDON (C.1679–1742)


Clayton [née Dyve], Charlotte, Lady Sundon (c.1679–1742), courtier, was born on 11 December (according to poems addressed to her before 1735 by Mary Jones), though the precise year of her birth is unknown. She was the granddaughter of Sir Lewis Dyve of Bromham, Bedfordshire and the daughter of Sir Lewis's youngest son, John, who in 1673 married Frances, the third daughter of Sir Robert Wolseley of Wolseley, Staffordshire.
Dyve was clerk of the Privy Council in 1691 and died the following year; his widow died in 1702, and both were buried at St James's, Westminster.
Nothing is known of Charlotte's childhood or education. Before August 1714 she married William Clayton (bap. 1671, d. 1752) of Sundon Hall in Bedfordshire. At the time of their marriage Clayton was MP for Liverpool (1713–15), the city he had also represented between 1698 and 1707. A close friend of the Duke of Marlborough, he acted as a manager (and later executor) of the Duke's estates while Marlborough was abroad in 1713. Three years later the Duke secured him the seat of New Woodstock, which he held until 1722 alongside the office of deputy auditor of the exchequer and in 1718, a Lord of the Treasury.

Charlotte Clayton shared her husband's friendship with the Marlborough family and it was with the Duchess's help, that in 1714 she was appointed a woman of the bedchamber to Caroline, Princess of Wales. Clayton achieved considerable influence over her mistress, a fact which displeased Robert Walpole, who erroneously attributed Clayton's importance to her knowledge of the Princess having suffered a rupture, symptoms of which, according to Hervey, first appeared only in 1724.
Walpole levelled further accusations against Clayton, claiming that she had received a pair of earrings worth £1400 from Henrietta Fermor, Countess of Pomfret, to secure the office of master of the horse for her husband. Walpole also believed that Clayton was behind the Princess's attachment to a group of what he believed to be heterodox clergymen. Clayton certainly included Benjamin Hoadly, Alured Clarke (1696–1742), Samuel Clarke (1675–1729), and Robert Clayton, Bishop of Killala, among her closest friends.
Other prominent associates included the poet Stephen Duck, Richard Steele, Richard Savage, and Voltaire, who thanked her for her kindness while he was in England.

In May 1735 it was reported that Clayton had been appointed maid of the robes, but this promotion was, according to Hervey, never realized. In June 1735 she became Lady Sundon, following her husband's elevation to the Irish peerage as Baron Sundon of Ardagh.
William Clayton was then MP for Westminster, which he represented as a loyal court whig; from 1712 to 1727 he had sat for St Albans. Despite her husband's support for the government, Lady Sundon continued to create problems for Walpole. It was his belief that from 1735 she acted as a go-between for Lord Carteret and Queen Caroline. Walpole also blamed Lady Sundon and the Countess of Pomfret for encouraging Caroline's opposition to the King's mistress, Madame Walmoden, being brought to England. Indeed, such was Lady Sundon's influence that she allegedly proposed a union between herself and Walpole to govern the kingdom. In response, the prime minister had ‘bowed, begged her patronage, but said he knew nobody fit to govern the kingdom, but the king and queen’ (Walpole, 17.277).

Lady Sundon's importance was again in evidence in the months before Caroline's death in November 1737, during which she was herself very ill at Bath. The Queen's refusal to receive the sacrament was, in Walpole's opinion, the result of Sundon's continued promotion of low-church theology.

Following Caroline's death Lady Sundon was given a pension and in 1738 she was reported to be suffering greatly with a ‘cancerous tumour in her throat’ (Complete Letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, 2.122).
Ironically, Walpole's loss of power in 1742 owed more to the actions of Lord Sundon than to his apparently scheming wife.
His candidature for Westminster in 1741 was hotly contested and his victory finally secured by a premature closing of the polls. The action prompted rioting and opposition in the Commons, where, contrary to Walpole's wishes, Sundon's election was declared null and void.
Lady Sundon did not live to see Walpole's fall; she died at her London home in Cleveland Row, St James's, on 1 January 1742 and was buried on 20 January at Sundon Hall.

Despite Walpole's open hostility, Lady Sundon was genuinely admired by many commentators. Bishop Hoadly spoke of her sincerity and goodness, and Lord Hervey's verdict was on the whole extremely favourable. There were, of course, critical voices.
Horace Walpole thought her vain and foolish, while Hervey recalled Henrietta Howard, Countess of Suffolk's hatred of her, a sentiment fully reciprocated by Lady Sundon. She was survived by her husband, who went on to sit as MP for Plympton Erte (1742–7) and St Mawes (1747–52).
He died on 29 April 1752.

Philip Carter
Sources DNB • R. R. Sedgwick, ‘Clayton, William’, HoP, Commons • GEC, Peerage • John, Lord Hervey, Some materials towards memoirs of the reign of King George II, ed. R. Sedgwick, 3 vols. (1931) • Walpole, Corr. • The complete letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, ed. R. Halsband, 3 vols. (1965–7) • F. Harris, A passion for government: the life of Sarah, duchess of Marlborough (1991)
Archives Yale U., Beinecke L., letter-book | BL, corresp., Add. MSS 20102–20105, 30516
Likenesses double portrait, before 1728 (with her husband; after G. Kneller) • E. Harding, stipple, BM, NPG; repro. in J. Adolphus, The British cabinet (1799)

Dimensions
Height 47.75 inch (121.28 cm)
Width 39.25 inch (99.69 cm)
External Height 56.25 inch (142.87 cm)
External Width 48.00 inch (121.92 cm)
Stock Code
M74804
Cider House Galleries

Cider House Galleries
Norfolk House
80 High Street
Bletchingley
Surrey
RH1 4PA
England

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