Edmund Dunch was a politician and bon-vivant from Little Wittenham in Berkshire. He was born to an aristocratic family, grandson of an earl and a descendant of Oliver Cromwell. He married Elizabeth Godfrey, one of the maids of honor to the queen. For most of the years between 1701 and 1719 he served in the House of Commons for various districts. Colorful stories about Dunch include one in which he bet his Wittenham estates in a card game with King James and lost, the king returning them on the condition he never play cards again.
The Kit-Cat Club was a London political and literary club, active c.1700 1720. The club got its name from the tavern where it originally met, operated by Christopher Cat (or Kat), also famous for its mutton pies known as “Kit-cats.” The membership of around four dozen included leading Whig politicians and London’s best young writers. Among them were Charles Seymour, 6th duke of Somerset; Sir Robert Walpole; Thomas Pelham-Holles, duke of Newcastle; William Congreve; Joseph Addison; Sir Richard Steele; and Sir Godfrey Kneller, who did these portraits of his fellow members. Kneller’s portraits, painted c. 1702-21, were commissioned by the publisher Jacob Tomson, the club’s secretary and moving spirit, for a room in his house in which its meetings were then held. In 1735, Tomson published a folio volume of mezzotint engravings of the portraits.
Sir Godfrey Kneller was a German born painter and draftsman who moved to England. He was the greatest master of the English baroque portrait. As court painter to four sovereigns, he dominated English art for more than thirty years. He was also founding governor of the first art academy in England. He popularized the 36″ x 28″ format that he used for his Kit-Cat Club portraits and it became known as the “kit-cat.” Until then, the reigning standards were 30″ x 25″ (bust length) and 50″ x 40″ (three-quarter length) — the “kit-cat” allowed the artist to include not just the bust but the hands in a life-size portrait.
John Faber, Jr., was an English engraver who studied mezzotint engraving under his father, John Faber, Sr., became a well-respected engraver of portraits. Peter Lely and Sir Godfrey Kneller had him make prints after their works. Some 165 plates by Faber are recorded, many being mezzotint portraits of the British royalty and aristocracy, after artists such as Kneller and Vanloo. His 47 plates of members of the Kit-Kat Club after Kneller and a series of 12 portraits titled Beauties of Hampton Court are his best known works. The National Portrait Gallery has a large collection of his works.
Condition: Generally very good with the usual light toning, wear, soiling, soft creases, cockling. : Occasional minor scattered foxing confined to margins.
Bénézit, E. Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs. France: Librairie Gründ, 1966. Vol. 3, p. 689 (Faber).
Ford, David Nash. “Edmund Dunch.” David Nash Ford’s Royal History. 2004. http://www.berkshirehistory.com/bios/edunch4.html (14 February 2005).
Hind, Arthur M. A History of Engraving & Etching: From the 15th Century to the Year 1914. 2nd ed. London: Constable and Co.: 1927. pp. 270-271.
“Kit-cat,” from Oxford Dictionary of Art, 1997. http://www.xrefer.com/entry/144294.
“Kit-Cat Club,” The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th Ed. New York: Columbia University Press: 2001. Online at Bartleby.com. http://www.bartleby.com/65/ki/KitCatCl.html (14 February 2005).
“NPG3206, Edmund Dunch.” http://www.npg.org.uk/live/search/portrait.asp?mkey=mw01981 (14 February 2005).
“Thomas Hopkins (died 1720), financier.” National Portrait Gallery, UK. http://www.npg.org.uk/live/search/person.asp?LinkID=mp02269 (14 February 2005).
“Sir Godfrey Kneller.” The Grove Dictionary of Art. New York: Macmillan. 2000. Online at Artnet.com. http://www.artnet.com/library/04/0469/T046946.asp (14 February 2005).