George Byng (1663-1733), 1st Viscount Torrington

A three-quarter length portrait of George Byng facing to the left. He wears a breastplate, red velvet coat with gold buttons and a brown full bottom wig. His right hand rests on a stone plinth together with his baton, while his left hand holds the hilt of his sheathed sword. In the right background a ship in action highlights the sitter’s naval career.

Byng entered the navy in 1667 as a ‘King’s Letter Boy’ where he saw early service in India. While a lieutenant, his success was assured when he won over officers of the fleet to Prince William of Orange’s cause in 1688, and helped establish his fortune. Byng led the attacking squadron at the capture of Gibraltar and played an important part at the battle of Malaga in 1704. In 1708 he repulsed a French Jacobite fleet and after the capture of Minorca in 1707 was the first to use it as a naval base. Byng crowned his career in 1718 when he won a notable victory over a Spanish fleet off Cape Passaro, when 16 ships were taken and seven burned. The painting was started in 1707 and finished in 1709. It is signed twice ‘G.Kneller f’ and inscribed ‘Sr george Byng, Admiral of the White’ ; altered from ‘Vice Admiral of the Blue’. It was engraved as a mezzotint by J. Fabs senior in 1718.

Object Details

ID: BHC2589
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Kneller, Godfrey
Date made: Late 17th century to early 18th century
People: Byng, George; King George IV
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Greenwich Hospital Collection
Measurements: Painting: 1275 mm x 1030 mm; Frame: 1437 mm x 1205 mm x 80 mm

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