WILLIAM CECIL, 5TH EARL OF EXTER - BY JOHN SMITH, AFTER WILLIAM WISSING.

Fine 17th century mezzotint portrait of  William Cecil, 5th Earl Of Exeter (1682-1715) Ready to hang in its antique wooden frame with gilt highlights. A full-length portrait of a boy seated on a bank in a landscape, wearing a loose robe and sandals, a dog at his right side and gesturing with his left hand to a macaw in a tree; in the foreground is a stream.

Cecil, who had earlier accompanied his father and brothers to Europe, may have been on the Continent again in 1696 when a ‘William Cecil’ is listed as attending the University in Padua. He was returned for Stamford in 1698 on the family interest.

Little is known of Cecil’s parliamentary career in his first session. His name appears on what was probably a forecast of those likely to oppose a standing army in the 1698–9 session, which is consistent with his classification as a supporter of the Country party in a comparative analysis of the old and new Parliaments in about September 1698.

In the autumn of the following year, William accompanied his family abroad to attend the Pope’s jubilee in Rome, passing through France and perhaps visiting Fontainebleau, where the exiled James II was in residence. From Italy, Cecil went on a tour to Malta. On the family’s return through France, the English ambassador reported that Exeter intended to see Versailles and ‘I believe he will not come to me and I know it is expected he will go elsewhere; but it may be he will deceive them’. Before they could return to England, Exeter died near Paris, in August 1700.

Re-elected for Stamford in January 1701, Cecil was returned again in the 1702 election, on 13 Feb. 1703 he voted against agreeing with the Lords’ amendments to the bill for extending the time for taking the oath of abjuration and in mid-March 1704 was forecast by the Earl of Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) as a government supporter over the ‘Scotch Plot’ investigations. Cecil was forecast as likely to support the Tack on two lists of 1704, and on 28 Nov. 1704 voted for it, thus earning the designation ‘True Church’ in a published list of MPs in 1705, and also a minor political martyrdom as one of the Tackers defeated at the general election of that year. He did not stand again, giving way to his younger brother, Charles.

A trustee under his late father’s will, Cecil consented to a bill passed in May 1702 enabling the sale of certain lands to pay his father’s debts and secured a further Act in March 1709 to sell more of the estate in order to pay off a mortgage of £10,500 raised on the Yorkshire lands. Cecil, who had himself settled on one of the family’s outlying properties in Yorkshire, was appointed a deputy-lieutenant for the North Riding in 1712. He died on 6 May 1715 and was buried in the parish church of Well, near Snape.

William Wissing (1656-1687) was born in Amsterdam and trained in The Hague and in Paris. He arrived in London in 1676, where he became assistant to Sir Peter Lely. After Lely's death in 1680, Wissing helped to finish off his uncompleted portraits. Wissing subsequently became a fashionable portrait painter and was taken up by the court. He was sent to Holland by James II in 1684 to paint the Prince of Orange and Princess Mary. Wissing's style was heavily based on the work of Lely and he received much patronage from the nobility and gentry.

John Smith (c. 1652 – c. 1742) was an English mezzotint engraver and one of the most highly-regarded and successful of English engravers. Born in Northampton, he first made mezzotints in 1683. For the first nine years of his career he produced prints for five main publishers and the majority of his output was portraiture. In 1687 he began publishing his own prints. In 1688 Smith began producing prints of paintings by Godfrey Kneller who supplied him with a range of portraits of the most important people in Britain at the time, of whom many became his private patrons. Smith’s exceptional ability at the mezzotint process meant that he elevated it to a medium to rival traditional engraved portraits.

Mezzotint. Framed: 50.8 cm x 40.6 cm / 20 in. x 16 in. Sheet : 34 cm x 25 cm/ 13.3 in. x 9.8 in. Executed: 1686

Price: £480

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