The Countess of Dorchester
Isaac Beckett (English; British, Circa 1653 - circa 1715/1719)
Sir Godfrey Kneller (English British, 1646 – 1723)
DimensionsPlate : 13 3/8 x 9 7/8 in. (33.97 x 25.08 cm)
Sheet : 14 x 10 1/2 in. (35.56 x 26.67 cm)
Credit LineHope College Collection
LabelIn the mid-1670s, the English mezzotint market was dominated by the transplanted Dutch artist Abraham Blooteling. Desperate to know the secrets of Blooteling’s success, the London print publisher John Lloyd bribed one of Blooteling’s studio assistants to reveal his master’s techniques. Lloyd then shared this information with one of his printmakers, Isaac Beckett, who quickly emerged as a rival to Blooteling. Beckett produced more than 200 mezzotints during his career, most of them copied after painted portraits of English aristocrats. This portrait depicts Catherine Sedley (1657-1717), the daughter of a minor noble family, who was celebrated for her quick wit and was installed as the Countess of Dorchester in 1686 by her lover, King James II and VII of England, Ireland and Scotland. The original image of Sedley was painted by Sir Godfrey Kneller, a German-born artist who moved to England in 1676 and quickly became a leading society portraitist. Kneller was one of the first painters to recognize that mezzotint reproductions of his portraits could help build his reputation and broaden his market, and he often lent his support to printmakers like Isaac Beckett who wanted to copy his works.