Lady Mary Berkeley was the oldest of three daughters of Charles Berkeley, second Earl of Berkeley, and Elizabeth, daughter of Baptist Noel, third Viscount Campden. This portrait was probably painted soon after Lady Mary's marriage to Thomas Chambers, whose father, Sir Thomas, had purchased the manor and park of Hanworth, Middlesex, in 1670. The house, which burned in 1797, was said to have a room with a ceiling by Kneller. A portrait by Kneller of Lady Mary’s brother, James Berkeley, third Earl of Berkeley, belongs to the National Portrait Gallery, London. Lady Mary and her husband had two daughters and co-heirs, one of whom, Mary, married Lord Vere Beauclerk, third son of the first Duke of St. Albans, of whom the Museum owns a portrait by Kneller (39.65.8).
This half-length portrait of Lady Mary in a feigned oval surround is unfinished. There is no evidence to suggest whether or not it was delivered. The attribution to Kneller has been accepted by Oliver Millar (1964) and J. Douglas Stewart (1990), and while W. G. Constable (1931) rejected it, it seems to fall within the canon, insofar as this has been established. The last part of the inscription on the picture was read prior to cleaning in 1948 as “G. Kneller Esquire fecit 1700.” There are other inscriptions of comparable wording, and the date accords well with the style.
An area of damage extending from the sitter's hairline through her right eye to the bodice of her dress was caused by exposure to excessive heat and takes the form of a large number of tiny pinpoint losses and blisters.
[2010; adapted from Baetjer 2009]