After Godfrey Kneller
English, b. Germany, 1646–1723
Like many artists, Godfrey Kneller, the most celebrated portrait painter in England at the turn of the eighteenth century, greatly enhanced his reputation, and his pocketbook, by selling reproductions of his portraits to the general public. The medium of choice was the mezzotint, which featured a tonal range perfectly suited for translating an oil painting into print. It also could be produced more rapidly and at less expense than other intaglio processes. Devotion in Such Looks portrays Catherine Huckle (c. 1690–1714), née Voss, the daughter of Kneller with his mistress, Agnes Voss.
In 1690, Kneller engaged the mezzotint artist John Smith, who over the next thirty years remained responsible for engraving the majority of the master’s paintings. As Smith’s reputation grew, Kneller attempted to garner full control over his services by inviting the mezzotinter to live in his home. Instead, Smith set up his own shop, called the Lion & Crown, where he enjoyed many decades of profitable independence, engraving for a number of painters as well as producing prints after his own design. It was largely through Smith’s efforts that British mezzotints were recognized by the start of the eighteenth century as superior to anything that was being produced on the continent, so much so that the process came to be known as “la manière anglaise.”