J. R. SMITH after Sir Joshua Reynolds
Members of The Kit Cat Club
1. James Berkeley, Earl of Berkeley
Six mezzotint portraits of members of the London Kit Cat Club engraved by John Faber after the paintings by Sir Godfrey Kneller and published in London in 1735.
The Kit Cat Club, which flourished in London at the beginning of the eighteenth century, was a political and literary institution that derived its name from the tavern where it originally met, run by a Mr. Christopher Cat who was also famous for his mutton pies or kit-cats. The club's avowed aim was to secure a Protestant succession to the British throne and after the accession of Protestant Queen Anne their activity turned principally from politics to pleasure. Membership of the club included many notaries of the day including leading Whig politicians and London's most eminent young writers. Also included was the famous painter, Sir Godfrey Kneller, who was commissioned by the publisher and club secretary, Jacob Tomson, to produce a series of portraits of his fellow members. The paintings were executed between 1702 and 1712 and then published as a folio of mezzotints in 1735. Godfrey Kneller moved to London from his native Germany and became known as the finest exponent of the baroque portrait. These portraits now hang in The National Portrait Gallery. The mezzotints are considered amongst the finest work of the English engraver John Faber and offer a fascinating insight into the political and social infrastructure of early eighteenth century London.