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John Smith (?1655–1725) was an eminent Whig politician who commanded much respect as a commissioner for arranging the union with Scotland. In 1707 he was re-elected as Speaker of the House of Commons. Kneller shows him in his Speaker’s robes, the mace and chair behind him, holding a scroll inscribed ‘The Union Act’. The composition is one of dignified regularity, the sweep of Smith’s robe deliberately following the vertical black lines on the marble floor. German-born, Kneller was the most successful and prolific portraitist of his day. Principal Painter from 1688, he was created a baronet in 1715.

February 2016