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A brief encounter between: 'Portrait of Charles II' and 'Louis XV Rigaud'

Godfrey Kneller and Stephen Farthing

Regal man in chair

Godfrey Kneller 1646-1723, 'Portrait of Charles II'

Jumbled image of royal symbols and a man's figure

Stephen Farthing born 1950, 'Louis XV Rigaud' 1975

Both paintings are portraits of kings completed after their deaths. Although Kneller began his portrait 'from life', Charles II was dead by the time it was finished. The source for Farthing's image is a portrait painted in 1730 by Hyacinthe Rigaud of the French king Louis XV, but clearly Farthing has recreated it in a mixture of 20th century styles. In fact it is not so much a portrait as a symbolic representation, constructed from signs and symbol of the French monarchy, such as the fleur-de-lys.

Similarly, Kneller's portrait of Charles II is an accumulation of symbols - the crown on the shadowed table beside him; the St George's Cross of England and star of the Order of the Garter embroidered on the sleeve of his cloak; and the garter itself tied above the shapely calf of his leg that the King liked to show off to courtiers of both sexes.