Sir Godfrey Kneller

Sir Godfrey Kneller is the only portrait painter to be commemorated in Westminster Abbey. His marble monument, set up in 1730, is by sculptor J.M. Rysbrack after a design by Kneller and was originally at the west end of the nave but was displaced when a monument to Charles James Fox was moved to this position in 1847. Kneller's monument was reduced in size and placed in the lower portion of a window in the south choir aisle. It now consists of his bust with a boy holding a medallion portrait of the artist's wife. Below the basement is a winged cherub head with palm branches on either side. The Latin inscription can be translated:

Sacred to the memory of Godfrey Kneller, knight of the Holy Roman Empire and Baronet of England, painter to Kings Charles II, James II, William III, Queen Anne and George I, who died 26 October in the year 1723 aged 77

Below are lines by Alexander Pope:

KNELLER, by Heav'n and not a Master taught Whose Art was Nature, & whose Pictures Thought, When now two Ages, he had snatch'd from Fate Whate'er was Beauteous, or whate'er was Great, Rests crown'd with Princes Honours, Poets' Lays, due to his Merit and brave Thirst of Praise; Living, great Nature fear'd he might outvye Her works; and dying fears herself may dye. A. Pope.

He was born Gottfried Kniller on 8th August 1646 at Lubeck in Germany, a son of Zacharias Kniller and his wife Lucia. After being educated at Leiden he studied under Rembrandt. Later he studied in Rome and came to England to see Van Dyck's works. He started painting portraits of the English nobility and his fame grew. With his brother John he lived in Covent Garden in London and became court painter during five reigns. In 1704 he married Susanna Grave (nee Cawley) but had no children. By his mistress Mrs Voss he had a daughter Catherine. In 1715 he was created a baronet and died on 26th October 1723. He lay in state in his London house and was buried at St Mary's church, Twickenham in Middlesex (where Pope was later buried)

Further reading

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004


26th October 1723




South Choir Aisle

Memorial Type


Material Type


Sir Godfrey Kneller
Sir Godfrey Kneller memorial

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2024 Dean and Chapter of Westminster