Godfrey Kneller, Horatio Townshend (c.1683–1751)

Photo courtesy of Tom St Aubyn (All rights reserved)


Country House
Raynham Hall
Horatio Townshend (c.1683–1751)
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
Overall height: 127 cm, Overall width: 101.6 cm
Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723)
Catalogue Number
  • Inscribed bottom left in yellow paint: ‘Horatio Townshend. 3d. Son/ to Horatio Ld. Townshend.’


Horatio Townshend (c.1683–1751) was the third son of Horatio, 1st Viscount Townshend (c.1630–1687) and Mary Ashe, daughter of Sir Joseph Ashe, 1st Baronet and MP for Twickenham. Horatio Townshend’s baptism on 16 January 1682/3 at St Giles in the Fields, London, is recorded in the East Raynham parish records: ‘1682 [1683 in modern dating] Horatio Townshend ye son of Horatio Viscount Townshend & ye Lady Mary his wife was Baptized at London in ye Parish of St Giles in ye fields Jan 16th’.1 Townshend was educated at Eton (1692–8) before embarking on a successful career as a banker and politician. He married Alice, daughter of John Starkie of Huntroyde, Lancashire, in 1720 and they had one son and three daughters. He joined the Bank of England in 1722, where he advanced to the position of deputy governor (1732–3), governor (1733–5), director (1735–6) and finally a commissioner of excise (1735–death). Townshend was also active in Norfolk politics, sitting as a Whig MP for Great Yarmouth (1715–22), during which time he also held the position of director of the South Sea Company (1715–18). He later sat as the MP for Heytesbury (1727–34). He died on 4 October 1751.

This portrait was probably painted in about 1715 to mark the occasion of Townshend becoming an MP. The German-born and Dutch-trained Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt (1646–1723) had been the leading portrait painter in Britain for more than thirty years, holding the coveted position of Principal Painter to the monarch. He was knighted by George I in 1715, a rank which was not surpassed by any artist until Frederic Leighton received a peerage in 1896. He had a large workshop of assistants to help meet demand for his work, but the varying quality of its output has since tarnished Kneller’s reputation. Kneller is famed for his series of forty-three portraits of members of the so-called Kit-cat Club, a group of influential men who were supporters of the Protestant succession. All were painted between 1697 and 1721, in a special 36 x 38-inch format. Several of these portraits, such as that of Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford in the National Portrait Gallery (NPG 3220), bear similarities to Kneller’s portrait of Townshend, showing sitters with a direct and heavy-hooded gaze, with a soft rendering of the wig and a broad handling of paint to convey the rich velvet of the sitter’s coat. This portrait is not listed in Douglas Stewart’s catalogue raisonné of Kneller’s work, though portraits of other Townshends – including two of his brother, Charles, the 2nd Viscount, now in the National Portrait Gallery (NPG 1363 and 3623) – are recorded.2

by Emily Burns


Prince Frederick Duleep Singh, Portraits in Norfolk Houses, ed. Rev. Edmund Farrer, vol. 2, Norwich : Jarrold and Sons, 1928, vol. 2, p. 228, no. 25, illus. opp. p. 232 (‘HON. HORATIO TOWNSHEND’)


  1. Norfolk Record Office, PD 369.

  2. Stewart, 1983, pp. 134–5, cat. nos 760–5.


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