Handel was a German-born British Baroque composer who was a leading composer of concerti grossi, operas and oratorios. Born in Germany as Georg Friedrich Händel, he lived most of his adult life in England, becoming a subject of the British crown on 22 January 1727. His most famous work is Messiah, an oratorio set to texts from the King James Bible; other well-known works are Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks. He deeply influenced many of the composers who came after him, including Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, and his work helped lead the transition from the Baroque to the Classical era.
There are eleven portraits of George Frideric Handel that are thought to be authentic. Portrait #1 is referred to as the “Chandos Portrait”. It was painted by Sir John Thornhill in 1720 for the Duke of Chandos. Handel, thirty-five at the time, is shown at the keyboard in casual clothing.
The authenticity of Portrait #2 has been questioned. . It was painted between 1725-1730 by Bartholomew Dandridge. There are many experts who believe this portrait does not portray Handel although there are some signs that it may, in fact, be the composer.
Portrait #1, Sir John Thornhill, 1720
Portrait #3 is the first of two painted by Balthasar Denner. Painted in 1727, this portrait is one of the most familiar of Handel.
Portrait #2, Bartholomew Dandridge, 1725-1730
The exact date of Portrait #4 is unknown. Philip Mercier painted it sometime between 1730-1735. Mercer (1689-1760) was one of the top artists in London during this time.
Portrait #3, Balthasar Denner, 1727
Portrait #5 was painted by George Andreas Wolfgang the Younger in 1731. Wolfgang was born in 1703 and died in 1745.
Portrait #4, Philip Mercier, 1730-1735
Portrait #6 was painted by Balthasar Denner in 1736. Authenticity of this portrait has been questioned, as Handel would have been in his early fifties at the time of this portrait and this is a portrait of a man somewhere in his thirties.
Portrait # 5, George Andreas Wolfgang the Younger, (1703–1745), 1731
Portrait #7 was painted as a miniature by George Andreas Wolfgang the Younger in 1737. The artist painted this as a miniature of the composer with an organ in the background.
Portrait #6, Balthasar Denner, 1736
Artist John Theodore Heins (1697-1756) painted Portrait #8 in 1740. It is assumed that this portrait is authentic because it holds a great resemblance to the portrait painted by Balthasar Denner.
Portrait #7, George Andreas Wolfgang the Younger, 1737
Francis Kyte is the artist who created Portrait #9. At the time of this painting in 1742, Handel was fifty-seven years old. Handel sat for this portrait as an engraving by Houbraken was to be done of the portrait afterward.
Portrait #8, John Theodore Heins, 1740
Portrait #10 was painted by Thomas Hudson. Hudson was born in 1701 and died in 1779. This artist was known for accurately painting his subjects.
Portrait #9, Francis Kyte, 1742
Thomas Hudson also painted Portrait #11. This work, painted in 1756, portrays Handel in his older years. The ‘Messiah' score is in front of the composer.
It is highly likely that additional portraits of Handel exist. Portraits have been lost over the years only to reappear much later. That could easily happen again.
Portrait #10, Thomas Hudson, 1748
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Portrait #11, Thomas Hudson, 1756