The sitter for this interesting portrait is a Royal Naval captain from an aristocratic family, depicted in front of his single-captain ship. The celestial globe, an unusual motif in naval portraits, shows the constellations Ursa Major and Cancer, signifying November-December and perhaps indicating the date of a recent voyage. The cut of the captain's coat and its boot cuff, as well as his embroidered gloves and loose-hanging neckcloth, point to a date of circa
Kneller was the leading portraitist in late-17th and early-18th century England, and this painting dates from his mature period. In addition to the specifics of the ship, costume, and the celestial globe, Kneller included details like the captain's widow's peak, which has begun to grow back after he would have shaved it to accommodate his fashionable wig.
1. Pieter van der Merwe and Amy Miller of the National Maritime Museum, Royal Museums Greenwich, provided this information to the present owner in an email dated 1 November 2012.