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From the time of its acquisition in 1976 until 2016 this work was tentatively attributed to John Riley (1646-1691). It was displayed with this label when the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū opened in 2003:
The subject of this three-quarter length portrait is unknown but, finely dressed and well groomed, he was obviously a nobleman, like many of John Riley’s clients.
Riley has painted his subject with careful attention to detail. By c.1688 his practice had grown to such a size that, while he continued to paint the details of sitters’ features, he employed other artists to paint elements such as drapery, clothing and background details. Riley’s less formal portraits are generally more successful than his formal ones. Indeed, one commentator has noted, “It is obvious that Riley was most at home below the stairs”.
Riley was born in London and studied under the portrait painters Isaac Fuller (d. 1672) and Gerard Soest (d. 1681). Early in his career Riley enjoyed success from the patronage of the middle-classes. He joined the Painter-Stainers’ Company in 1682 and was appointed Principal Painter to William III and Mary II in 1688, jointly with the well-known portraitist Sir Godfrey Kneller (1649 -1723). Riley died in London.