Smith, John (1652?-1742) (DNB00)

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SMITH, JOHN (1652?–1742), mezzotint engraver, was born at Daventry, Northamptonshire, about 1652. He was articled to an obscure painter named Tillet in London, and studied mezzotint engraving under Isaac Beckett [q. v.] and Jan Vander Vaart [q. v.] He became the ablest and most industrious worker in mezzotint of his time, and the favourite engraver of Sir Godfrey Kneller, whose paintings he extensively reproduced, and in whose house he is said to have resided for some time. Smith's plates, which are executed in a remarkably brilliant and effective style, number about five hundred, and of these nearly three hundred are portraits of distinguished men and women of the period between the reigns of Charles II and George II, from pictures by Lely, Kneller, Wissing, Dahl, Riley, Closterman, Gibson, Murray, and others. The remainder are sacred, mythological, and genre subjects after Titian, Correggio, Parmegiano, C. Maratti, G. Schalken, E. Heemskerk, M. Laroon, and others. Previous to 1700 his plates were mostly published by Edward Cooper [q. v.], but about that date he established himself as a printseller at the Lyon and Crown in Covent Garden; he there published his own works and also reissued many of those by Beckett, Lens, Williams, and others, cleverly retouching them and erasing the original engravers' names. Smith's latest print appears to have been the portrait of the youthful Duke of Cumberland, after Highmore, dated 1729. On giving up business he retired to his native county, where he died on 17 Jan. 1742 at the age of ninety. He was buried in the churchyard of St. Peter's, Northampton, where there is a tablet to his memory and that of his wife Sarah, who died in 1717. The bulk of his copperplates eventually came into the hands of Boydell, who reprinted them in large numbers. A portrait of John Smith, in which he appears holding his engraving of Kneller, was painted and presented to him by that artist in 1696, and he executed a print from it in 1716; it has also been engraved by S. Freeman for Walpole's ‘Anecdotes.’ The original is now in the National Portrait Gallery.

[Walpole's Anecdotes of Painting (Dallaway and Wornum); Chaloner Smith's British Mezzotinto Portraits; Dodd's manuscript Hist. of Engravers in Brit. Mus. (Addit. MS. 33405).]

F. M. O'D.