FAITHORNE, WILLIAM (1626 or 1627-1691), English painter and engraver, was born in London and was apprenticed to Robert Peake, a painter and printseller, who received the honour of knighthood from Charles I. On the outbreak of the Civil War he accompanied his master into the king's service, and being made prisoner at Basinghouse, he was confined for some time to Aldersgate, where, however, he was permitted to follow his profession of engraver, and among other portraits did a small one of the first Villiers, duke of Buckingham. At the earnest solicitation of his friends he very soon regained his liberty, but only on condition of retiring to France. There he was so fortunate as to receive instruction from Robert Nanteuil. He was permitted to return to England about 1650, and took up a shop near Temple Bar, where, besides his work as an engraver, he carried on a large business as a printseller. In 1680 he gave up his shop and retired to a house in Blackfriars, occupying himself chiefly in painting portraits from the life in crayons, although still occasionally engaged in engraving. It is said that his life was shortened by the misfortunes, dissipation, and early death of his son William. Faithorne is especially famous as a portrait engraver, and among those on whom he exercised his art were a large number of eminent persons, including Sir Henry Spelman, Oliver Cromwell, Henry Somerset, the marquis of Worcester, John Milton, Queen Catherine, Prince Rupert, Cardinal Richelieu, Sir Thomas Fairfax, Thomas Hobbes, Richard Hooker, Robert second earl of Essex, and Charles I. All his works are remarkable for their combination of freedom and strength with softness and delicacy, and his crayon paintings unite to these the additional quality of clear and brilliant colouring. He is the author of a work on engraving (1622).
His son William (1656-1686), mezzotint engraver, at an early age gave promise of attaining great excellence, but became idle and dissipated, and involved his father in money difficulties. Among persons of note whose portraits he engraved are Charles II., Mary princess of Orange, Queen Anne when princess of Denmark, and Charles XII. of Sweden.
The best account of the Faithornes is that contained in Walpole's Anecdotes of Painting. A life of Faithorne the elder is preserved in the British Museum among the papers of Mr Bayford, librarian to Lord Oxford, and an intimate friend of Faithorne.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)