To most people “Kip & Knyff” sounds like a bit like a Victorian music hall act, but say “Kip and Knyff” to a garden or architectural historian and they will instantly picture a bird’s eye view of a great English house and estate from the late 17th or early 18thc.
“Kip and Knyff” always seem to “go together like a horse and carriage” as the song would have it, but although they had much in common and are often spoken of in the same breath they were not in fact a regular business partnership or even usual working companions and seem to have had little to do with each other apart from their most famous collaboration, Britannia Illustrata Or Views of Several of the Queens Palaces, as Also of the Principal seats of the Nobility and Gentry of Great Britain, Curiously Engraven on 80 Copper Plates the first volume of which was published 1707.
The only obvious ‘joint’ biographical facts are their Dutch origins and the fact that they were also of a similar age and longevity, Knyff being born in 1650 and Kip 3 years later, and both were to die in London in 1721.
So, as a result I’m writing two separate posts about them – one each! And this week its the turn of Leonard Knyff…
Except that Leonard Knyff wasn’t Leonard Knyff but Leendeert Knijff who was born in Haarlem in 1650 where his father was a painter of river scenes – a newish genre of Dutch painting on a par with landscape and still life. Painting obviously ran in the blood and young Leendeert was probably apprenticed to a professional still-life painter. Little is known about his early life in Holland, but we do know that his elder brother Jacob was also a painter and moved to London for work. That may be the reason that Leendart/Leonard was also living in London by 1681. Later a pass was issued to “Mr Leonard Knife” to return to Holland in 1693 and 1695, but around the same time he was made a ‘free denizen of England’ giving him the right to stay in Britain permanently. [Of course I couldn’t possibly make any contemporary parallels!]
His surviving work covers quite a wide range. There are animal pieces and still lives, and even some portraits including one of Viscount Irwin at Temple Newsam (1700). Several of these show, in their backgrounds and settings, Knyff’s interest in topography. He also drew and painted estates and their landscapes, including some for the crown, although unfortunately only a small number of finished paintings survive.
In a letter of 9 January 1703 Knyff wrote, ‘I have done a great many [drawings] of Hampton Courte and Windsor for his Majesty [Queen Anne’s husband, Prince George of Denmark] which are not yet engraved’. This painting is probably connected with this series of drawings, although there is no engraving known to be derived from it. It records the rebuilding of the Upper Ward by Hugh May completed in 1685. More importantly Knyff’s painting provides valuable evidence for the ‘Maastricht Garden’.
This was the name given to the newly acquired large area of flat land between the castle and the river, after a re-enactment of the 1673 Siege of Maastricht, which took place there the following year. William III planned to create a formal garden here, and the painting captures his plans midway. It shows how he not only moved the road that ran along the river bank so that the internal layout would be regular, but also walled-in the entire area in 1699. However, although Knyff shows some of the trees planted inside by Henry Wise following a design by Le Notre’s nephew Claude Desgots, there is no sign of the central canal that was planned, or of course of any of the gravel walks, parterres and so on. This dates the painting to around the very last years of William’s reign.
In fact almost no sooner was the garden finished than it was altered under his successor Queen Anne, before being abandoned by George I and reverting to pasture.
Interestingly there is an earlier view of the castle by Leonard’s brother Jacob, which shows the castle from a slightly different aspect so, unfortunately, the area of the Maastricht Garden [which would on the extreme left] cannot really be seen.
More famous is the well known view of Hampton Court which documents the changes begun by William III. It shows Wren’s magnificent east facade with the new privy garden and the enormous elaborate new fountain garden. This grand parterre was patterned with intricate scrolling designs cut out of the turf and filled with coloured gravel from it ran a series of avenues that fanned out in a patte d’oie or ‘goose foot’ pattern.
The painting is complemented by a surviving drawing from a different viewpoint. What always baffles me is how artists managed to produce such detailed and presumably accurate views with zero opportunities to actually see the what they were portraying.
Just down the road from Hampton Court Knyff painted at least two views from Richmond Hill. In the one above in the middle distance across the river, you can see Syon House and further away and surrounded by trees, Twickenham Park House, former home of Francis Bacon and in Knyff’s day the residence of Sir Thomas Vernon.
The other “View from the side of Richmond Hill towards the Earl of Rochester’s New Park”sold at Christies in 1999 for £200K.
Other surviving Knyff paintings include this 1705 view of the relatively newly built Thoresby Hall, the seat of the Earls/Dukes of Kingston. It was designed by William Talman, subsequently architect of Chatsworth, around 1670 and then remodelled in the 1680s but I can find almost no detailed information about it or the grounds. The house was destroyed by fire in 1746 but not rebuilt until 1767-1772 when the grounds were landscaped by Repton. The current house, now a hotel, is a huge Victorian replacement designed by Salvin.
A similar sad and incendiary story surrounds Clandon. Knyff’s view shows the gardens designed by London and Wise, which included a canal, parterres, and a wilderness, covering and extending beyond the present garden there. Sadly what Knyff showed did not last long: Thomas Onslow had the house rebuilt between 1720 and 1730 by Leoni and it was this house that went up in flames in Aril 2015. A map of the parish of Clandon of c 1733 shows the layout of the estate similar to that shown by Knyff but it was all swept away in the late 1770s when Lancelot Brown was commissioned to redesign everything. The remaining formal gardens went, and the canal was remodelled as an informal lake whilst the millpond was extended and became another. Brown also built new stables, two new entrance lodges and extended the park. So Knyff’s painting remains the best evidence for the early history of the site.
These two views painted around c. 1705 of Orchard Portman, one of the properties of Henry Seymour Portman (d. 1727). The house near Taunton was demolished in the nineteenth century. It was a plain probably Jacobean house with stables, chapel and walled gardens; Knyff shows it as a working estate with sheep in the fields and haymaking going on, while people are shown walking and arriving by coach. One of these paintings was turned into an engraving by Pieter Van der Aa a couple of years later.
Portman obviously liked Knyff’s work since he also employed him to paint Bryanston, his house in Dorset.
Bryanston House was the predecessor of the house now used as part of Bryanston School; it was demolished and replaced in 1778. Knyff’s bird’s eye view shows a sixteenth century house with a red brick seventeenth-century wing behind and with farm outbuildings on the right. Unfortunately the digital image available isn’t very good quality and makes it look as if HM’s Surveyor of Pictures needs to get the original cleaned and then re-photographed.
These kind of views presumably show the way in which the proprietors of estates wanted painting to function as an adjunct to an estate map, as a record of their land-ownership and the rural economy. One can imagine Henry Seymour not so much enjoying this painting as using it in discussions with his land agents.
There are also a couple of very early drawings of Berkeley castle, now in the British Museum.
Knyff was not just a painter but branched out into dealing in paintings. The earliest evidence for this is the sale of a ‘Collection of Pictures’ and ‘other Furniture’ at his house in “Buckingham Street, opposite the barber’s pole”, at 10am on Tuesday 3 November 1684. By December 1694 the venue was described as ‘Mr Knyff’s Auction-House, having one Door in the Old Palace Yard, the other over against the Painted-Chamber’. Another sale in 1701 was described as “out of hand” and advertised at the foot of Knyff’s announcements about his print subscription for country house portraits. There are also Receipts held at Temple Newsam from ‘Leonard Knyff: painter and picture dealer’.
From 1707 onwards there are regular reports of sales: “A collection of curious Original Paintings will be Sold by Auction, at Mr. Knyff’s House in the Old Palace-yard adjoyning the Stairs going up to the House of Lords, on Friday next, being the 7th of this Instant February 1706-7. The sale beginning at 11 a Clock and so continue daily till all are Sold. The pictures may be view’d any time before, and Catalogues had at the Place of Sale” [Daily Courant, 5 February 1707]
In 1708, quite late in life, Knyff married Elizabeth Cox , and the couple had two children, Leonard and Lydia. He seems to have done quite well for himself since his will speaks of him ‘being now possessed of One Thousand and seven hundred pounds more or less in the stock of the South Sea Company’ (PROB 11/588, fols. 272v–273r). He was buried in the New Chapel, Broadway, in the parish of St Margaret’s Westminster, on 24 April 1722 and the following month his remaining stock of pictures was auctioned off to raise money for his children’s education. Sadly neither of them seems to have outlived their mother who died in 1742 and was buried “as near my late husband deceased as conveniently may”.
You will have noticed that there’s no mention of his work with Johannes Kip, but we’ll look at Kip in next week’s post and then at Britannia Illustrata their joint work after that.