Dutch, active in England, 1684–1756
After Godfrey Kneller
English, b. Germany, 1646–1723
Many of the Dutch engravers who visited England in the second half of the seventeenth century remained in the country for a relatively short period. Abraham Blooteling and Gerard Valck, for example, who came to London in 1672, had returned to Amsterdam within two or three years. For John Faber, the emigration was permanent. Born in The Hague, in 1687 he moved to London while still a child with his father, John Faber senior, a miniaturist who had recently taken up mezzotint. The younger Faber also became a mezzotint engraver, learning the craft certainly from his father but also from studying with the most successful mezzotinter of his time, John Smith.
Faber is perhaps best known today for his engravings after Godfrey Kneller’s portraits of the Kit Kat Club, a social organization made up of writers, politicians, and aristocrats affiliated with the Whig political party. (The club was so named because it met in a tavern owned by Christopher (Kit) Catling, whose famous mutton pies were known as “kit kats.”) Some eight years after Kneller’s death, the founder of the club, Jacob Tonson, commissioned Faber to reproduce the artist’s paintings. The project was completed in 1735.
William Congreve (1670–1729) was a playwright whose intelligently crafted comedies were among the most popular in England during the 1690s. He was responsible for lines, still quoted today, such as “Music has charms to soothe a savage breast” and “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” both from The Mourning Bride (1697), although the latter is a convenient paraphrase. By the time Kneller painted his portrait in 1709, Congreve had set his writing career aside, preferring instead to dabble in politics.