English School, circa 1722
A satirical portrait of Robert Knight, Cashier of the South Sea Company, or 'Lucifer's New Row-Barge'
Oil on Canvas
71.8 x 62.5cm
This painting is recorded in contemporary prints titled 'Lucifer's New Row-Barge', a version of which is in the British Museum, (no.1868,0808.3499)
Robert Knight (1675-1744)
Robert Knight was a financier and a founder of the South Sea Company. In 1704 Knight was Clerk in the Sword Blade Company (the pennant in this picture bears the device of the Company) and became cashier of the South Sea Company in 1711. In 1718 he succeeded his father-in-law as Governor of St Thomas's Hospital. In 1719 he was one of the chief negotiators with the government of the day to incorporate all the National Debt into the South Sea Company. This was successfully completed through bribes to MP's and peers which were recorded in Knight's green book. Knight greatly profited personally from this process and bought an estate in Essex for £20,000. In 1721 the whole scheme came crashing down and Knight escaped to Calais with his green book, keeping the evidence of all the bribery. Knight was captured and incarcerated in Antwerp but was released as neither government really wanted to have his incriminating evidence exposed. His estates in England were confiscated and sold for £261,077 but he had sufficient funds to set up in Rue St-Honore in Paris as well as an estate near Vincennes. Eventually, with political changes in England, Knight returned in 1743, acquiring his former country estate and he died the following year.
Provenance: From the collection of Sir Michael Codron.
Estimate: £3,000 - 5,000
Hammer Price £ 24,000