Sir John de Medina came from a Spanish family settled in the Low Countries. He had arrived in London in 1686, where he adopted a style comparable to that of the reigning master Sir Godfrey Kneller. Perhaps on account of the difficulties of obtaining sufficient patronage in a capital already filled with portrait painters (at this date he would at various times have been in competition not only with Kneller, but with Michael Dahl, John Closterman and John Riley to name but the four most prominent) he travelled to Scotland where he settled in Edinburgh c.1693/4. There his agreeable version of the prevailing London manner guaranteed him a steady patronage by Scottish clients, and almost all of the principal Scottish nobility sat to him. He is accused of a formulaic approach to portraiture – most frequently encapsulated in the fact that his three-quarter length portraits were sometimes created by applying ad vivum heads onto pre-painted ‘postures’ – but works such...

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Sir John de Medina came from a Spanish family settled in the Low Countries. He had arrived in London in 1686, where he adopted a style comparable to that of the reigning master Sir Godfrey Kneller. Perhaps on account of the difficulties of obtaining sufficient patronage in a capital already filled with portrait painters (at this date he would at various times have been in competition not only with Kneller, but with Michael Dahl, John Closterman and John Riley to name but the four most prominent) he travelled to Scotland where he settled in Edinburgh c.1693/4. There his agreeable version of the prevailing London manner guaranteed him a steady patronage by Scottish clients, and almost all of the principal Scottish nobility sat to him. He is accused of a formulaic approach to portraiture – most frequently encapsulated in the fact that his three-quarter length portraits were sometimes created by applying ad vivum heads onto pre-painted ‘postures’ – but works such as The Painter’s Children (ex-Historical Portraits, London) and his self-portrait (Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh) show that he was a painter of considerable powers. His series of portraits in the Surgeons’ Hall, Edinburgh is a remarkable series that stands comparison with Kneller’s Kit-Cat series, whilst being a remarkable survival of ‘club’ portraiture that is so often broken up and divided over time. In recognition of his work as Scotland’s leading portrait painter he was knighted in 1707, becoming, by chance, the last Knight of the Kingdom of Scotland before the Act of Union.



This painterly oval canvas is typical of Medina’s work at its most rapid and fluent, and the warm brushwork and engaging sense of the sitter’s personality are trademark signs of the artist’s autograph performances. As a lawyer Thomas Rigge is typical of the Edinburgh professional classes who provided much of Medina’s staple patronage.

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500 Years of British Art