John Smith thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
British Galleries, Room 52, The George Levy Gallery

John Smith

Print
1716 (dated), 1716 (signed)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Object Type
This is a print, of a type called mezzotint, a form of tonal engraving in which the design is made by pitting the surface of a copper plate with a serrated tool called a rocker, then smoothing and scraping the roughened surface so that different areas of the plate will hold varying quantities of ink. This creates a range of velvety tones and white highlights when the image is printed on to the paper.

People
The painter, Godfrey Kneller, was born in Germany and came to London around 1676. The foremost portrait painter of his generation in England, he was knighted in 1692.

The printmaker, John Smith, was born near Northampton. He worked in London as a mezzotinter.

Kneller and Smith were artistic collaborators and friends. Smith enjoyed a virtual monopoly on the making of prints after portraits by Kneller, from 1689 until Kneller's death in 1723, because Kneller allowed Smith privileged access to his paintings.

In 1696 Kneller painted a portrait of Smith showing him holding his mezzotint of a self-portrait by Kneller. In 1716, Smith made this mezzotint of the painting.

Trading
This print gives no publisher's address. It was a private plate, not for sale on the open market. Instead, the sitter would have distributed examples of it. It may have been intended as a frontispiece to the bound sets of Smith's mezzotints, which he put together and sold to print collectors. Smith was the first British printmaker to earn the admiration of print collectors outside England, in countries such as France, The Netherlands, Germany and Italy, which had long and distinguished printmaking traditions of their own.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Mezzotint, ink on paper, in a contemporary frame
Brief Description
Mezzotint portrait of John Smith holding a portrait of Sir Godfrey Kneller, after a painting by Sir Godfrey Kneller, mezzotinted by John Smith, published in London, 1716
Physical Description
Currently mounted on acid-free card 41 x 32, in half imp mount 53.4 x 38.
Dimensions
  • Paper height: 36cm
  • Paper width: 27cm
Gallery Label
British Galleries: By 1700 the mezzotint had become the preferred process for creating multiple reproductions of portraits. John Smith was the leading mezzotinter of this period. About a half of his 280 mezzotint portraits were based on painted portraits by Sir Godfrey Kneller. They were relatively expensive despite the fact that large numbers were produced.(27/03/2003)
Object history
After a painting by Sir Godfrey Kneller (born in Lbeck, Germany,1646, died in London, 1723); mezzotinted by John Smith (born in Northampton, 1652, died in 1743); published in London
Subjects depicted
Summary
Object Type
This is a print, of a type called mezzotint, a form of tonal engraving in which the design is made by pitting the surface of a copper plate with a serrated tool called a rocker, then smoothing and scraping the roughened surface so that different areas of the plate will hold varying quantities of ink. This creates a range of velvety tones and white highlights when the image is printed on to the paper.

People
The painter, Godfrey Kneller, was born in Germany and came to London around 1676. The foremost portrait painter of his generation in England, he was knighted in 1692.

The printmaker, John Smith, was born near Northampton. He worked in London as a mezzotinter.

Kneller and Smith were artistic collaborators and friends. Smith enjoyed a virtual monopoly on the making of prints after portraits by Kneller, from 1689 until Kneller's death in 1723, because Kneller allowed Smith privileged access to his paintings.

In 1696 Kneller painted a portrait of Smith showing him holding his mezzotint of a self-portrait by Kneller. In 1716, Smith made this mezzotint of the painting.

Trading
This print gives no publisher's address. It was a private plate, not for sale on the open market. Instead, the sitter would have distributed examples of it. It may have been intended as a frontispiece to the bound sets of Smith's mezzotints, which he put together and sold to print collectors. Smith was the first British printmaker to earn the admiration of print collectors outside England, in countries such as France, The Netherlands, Germany and Italy, which had long and distinguished printmaking traditions of their own.
Collection
Accession Number
22100

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record createdMarch 27, 2003
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