- Museum number
- Object: The Reverend and valiant Mr George Walker Governor of Londonderry
Portrait of George Walker, heand and shoulders in an oval, after Kneller. 1689
- Production date
Height: 401 millimetres
Width: 287 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- (Text from Antony Griffiths, 'The Print in Stuart Britain', BM 1998, cat.211)
James II landed in Ireland in a French fleet and with a French-financed army in March 1689, and was welcomed by the Catholic south of the island. His march north to occupy the rest of the country was thwarted by the subborn defence of Londonderry, led by the militant Anglican priest, George Walker. The city was relieved by sea on 28 July 1689, and Walker left for Scotland and England. On his arrival in London in late August he was treated as a national hero, and commissioned to write his 'True account of the siege of Londonderry', which was soon translated into German, Dutch and French.
William commissioned a portrait of him from Godfrey Kneller (now lost, Stewart 826), and this was engraved by Vandrebanc. Two rival engraved portraits also appeared by David Loggan (published by himself) and by Robert White (published by R.Simpson, the bookseller in St Paul's Churchyard). Some interesting advertisements in the London Gazette relate to this episode.
The first is on 24 June 1689: 'Whereas it has pleased his Majesty to grant his Royal license and privilege to a near relation of Mr Walker's, Governor of Londonderry in Ireland, the sole engraving and publishing the effigies of the said Mr Walker from an original, which in a few days will be finished by R.White and sold by R.Simpson'. On 15 July this print is said to be 'taken from an original brought over by a near relation of his', and on 5 September it 'will be published in a few days, together with a full account of the siege' (the publisher of this was also Ralph Simpson with Robert Clavell). But clearly they had got wind of a rival portrait, for the advertisement is prefaced with the words 'Whereas his Majesty has been graciously pleased to grant his royal license and privilege to a relation of Mr George Walker's, for the sole engraving and publishing his effigies, and that no other person presume to print or publish his picture in any manner or form whatsoever, or to copy, counterfeit, buy or distribute the said effigies.'
This claim to an unprecedented type of privilege was implicitly challenged by another advertisement six weeks later: 'There is now published the true and exact picture of Mr Walker, late governor of Londonderry, painted from the life by Godfrid Kneller, principal painter in ordinary to their Majesties, and engraven by Peter Vandrebanc. Sold at his house in Prince's Street near Leicester Fields.' No more on the subject is to be found in the London Gazette, and we can only guess that Kneller, armed with his position as painter to the King and Queen, had ridden roughshod over the very odd privilege given to Walker's unidentified 'near relation'.
It is worth noting the unusual form of dedication to Walker along the bottom: 'Offered by his most humble servant P.Vandrebanc'. This derives from the wording used in France by engravers for their 'morceaux de réception' on entry to the Académie Royale. In the same way as painters had to present a painting, engravers had to present one or two engraved plates of portraits of other members of the Académie (see W.McAllister Johnson, 'French Royal Academy ... engraved reception pieces 1672-1789', Kingston Ontario, Agnes Etherington Art Center, 1982).
Walker was named Bishop of Derry and returned to Ulster in March 1690. On William's landing in June, Walker joined the Orange army and was killed at the Battle of the Boyne.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number