John Vanderbank, 1694 - 1739
Portrait of Nicola Antonio Porpora 1686 – 1768 , Italian Composer & Singing Teacher
Nicola Antonio Porpora
oil on canvas
30 x 25in. (76 x 63.5cm.)


 In 1729 the anti-Handel clique invited Nicola Porpora to London to set up an opera company as a rival to Handel's. Perhaps sensing a decline in his art, he moved to London in 1733 at the invitation of some English patrons. He would write five operas in London, including Arianna in Nasso (1733), and other vocal works, like the serenata La festa d'Imeneo. He left England in 1736, having achieved many successes there, having spent 3 years there. The 1733–1734 season had small success, even the presence of his pupil, the great Farinelli, failed to save the dramatic company in Lincoln's Inn Fields (the "Opera of the Nobility") from bankruptcy. It was during this period of his stay in London when this portrait was painted . He visited London in 1743 for premiere of his Temistocle at the Kings Theatre in the Haymarket (22 Feb 1743).

In a career that spanned almost seventy years Porpora worked mainly in Naples, Rome, Venice, London, Dresden and Vienna. He was a maestro at three of the Conservatorii in Naples, maestro di coro at the three main Venetian Ospedale, formed an opera company to rival Handel in London, became Ober-Kapellmeister to the Electoress of Saxony and was internationally celebrated. His output was large, mostly vocal music including more than 40 operas, 12 serenatas, 4 pasticcios, 14 sacred operas or oratorios, around 135 secular cantatas, 40 sacred choral works, 7 masses, 9 solo motets, 13 Marian antiphons as well as various lamentations and duets. His instrumental output was small, most notably a G major cello concerto, F major cello sonata and his opus 2 Sinfonie da camera (London 1736). Despite his success and international fame during his lifetime, Porpora's life ended in poverty.

Nicola (or NiccolòAntonio Porpora (17 August 1686 – 3 March 1768) was an Italian composer and teacher of singing of the Baroque era, whose most famous singing students were the castrati Farinelli and Caffarelli. Other students included composers Matteo Capranica and Joseph Haydn. Porpora was born in Naples. Porpora's father was a Neapolitan bookseller. He was enrolled in the Conservatorio dei Poveri di Gesu Cristo2 in September of 1696 where it is assumed that his first composition teacher was Greco. By 1699 he was likely to have been earning his keep as a student teacher as his tuition fees were waived from this time.

He showed talent early in his childhood, and at the age of ten was placed in the Conservatorio dei Poveri di Gesu Cristo. Not much is known about his teachers there, but upon his departure he was well-grounded in voice and composition. His first opera, Agrippina, came in 1708, though he took three years to produce his next significant work in any genre. L'Aggrippina, which was a success, however it was to be some time before he received another opportunity to write an opera. In fact it wasn't until 1711 that his opera Flavio Anicio Olibrio was performed during Carnival. The libretto states that he was appointed at this time as the maestro di capella to Prince Phillip of Hesse-Darmstadt, the General of the Austrian army in Naples. He graduated from the music conservatory Poveri di Gesù Cristo of his native city, where the civic opera scene was dominated by Alessandro Scarlatti. Porpora's first opera, Agrippina, was successfully performed at the Neapolitan court in 1708.

By 1711, Porpora had become maestro di cappella under the Prince of Hessen-Darmstadt at Naples, and two years later, following the departure of the Prince for Austria, the maestro di cappella for the Portuguese ambassador. Porpora was well connected then, even receiving a Viennese Court commission for his opera Arianna e Teseo (1714). Four years later he provided another opera, Temistocle, for that same court. Around this time, the composer was also coming to be regarded as one of the finest teachers of singing in Italy, his pupils including the castrato Caffarelli. In 1713 Porpora is described in the libretto to his Basilio re d'Oriente as maestro di capella to the Portuguese Ambassador to Rome, in 1715 he is appointed maestro at the Conservatorio di S Onofrio3 and in 1716 receives an honorary title from Prince Phillip who was by now the Imperial Governor of Mantua. In 1717 tragedy strikes and Porpora's father and elder brother die. His responsibilities immediately grow and he begins his work as music teacher in earnest, both at the Conservatorio and privately, in order to support the remaining members of his family.

In Naples at this time the operatic scene was 'towered over' by the Sicilian composer Alessandro Scarlatti 4 who had been working there since the beginning of the century. In an atmosphere dominated by cliques and the Roman Accademia Arcadiana it was difficult for Porpora to develop an audience, however with Scarlatti's departure in 1719 the chances for opera production grew and by the end of year Porpora's Faramondo premiered for the Empress Elisabeth's name day. He composed a further opera for Elisabeth's birthday Angelica in 1720, and in 1721 Gli orti esperidi to libretti by the young Pietro Metastasio. Farinelli, then aged 16, made his debut in the latter. His second, Berenice, was performed at Rome. In a long career, he followed these up by many further operas, supported as maestro di cappella in the households of aristocratic patrons, such as the commander of military forces at Naples, prince Philip of Hesse-Darmstadt, or of the Portuguese ambassador at Rome, for composing operas alone did not yet make a viable career. However, his enduring fame rests chiefly upon his unequalled power of teaching singing. At the Neapolitan Conservatorio di Sant'Onofrio and with the Poveri di Gesù Cristo he trained FarinelliCaffarelliSalimbeni, and other celebrated vocalists, during the period 1715 to 1721. In 1720 and 1721 he wrote two serenades to libretti by a gifted young poet, Metastasio, the beginning of a long, though interrupted, collaboration. In 1722 his operatic successes encouraged him to lay down his conservatory commitments.

By the early 1720s, Porpora's reputation throughout Italy as a composer was growing as well, owing in great part to a string of successes in Rome. Porpora's fame grew during this time as he was becoming known in Rome as an opera composer. His Eumene is premiered at the Roman Teatro Alibert and he was invited back to the Alibert, with Farinelli, for the following two years. Porpora was by now so confident of his success as a composer that he resigned from the Conservatorio in 1722. He toured Germany and Austria in 1724 where only one opera, Damiro e Pitia, was performed, the Emperor apparently thought his music was too florid and ornate and he returned to Italy where he was highly productive, composing Didone abbandonata (Metastasio) for Reggio nell'Emilia and in 1725 Ezio and Semiramide riconosciuta (Metastasio) for the Teatro S Giovanni Gristostomo in Venice. Whilst in Venice he was appointed 'maestro del pio Ospedale degli'Incurabili' 5 the fact of which was noted in the libretto to one of his most successful operas Siface and it is here that he settled for some time. The first of Porpora's two great rivalries developed here with Leonardo Vinci, another Neapolitan, when they both produced operas at the same theatres in Venice and Rome. Vinci, however, died at the end of 1727.

He settled in Venice in 1726 to teach at the Ospedale degli Incurabili. The lack of conflict was not to last very long as, in 1730, whilst Porpora was absent in Rome, Hasse 6 had great operatic success in Venice. The ensuing rivalry was to continue for many years. Musical highlights of this period included the operas Tamerlano, Poro, Annibale, Germanico in Germania and Issipile, the Cantata: da recitarsi nel Palazzo Apostolico la notte del SS Natale and the oratorio Sanctus Petrus Urseolus and his Mass in A major. Perhaps sensing a decline in his art, he departed for London in 1733 at the invitation of some English patrons. He would write five operas in London, including Arianna in Nasso (1733), and other vocal works, like the serenata La festa d'Imeneo. He left England in 1736, having achieved many successes there.  London beckoned in 1733 with an invitation from the 'Opera of the Nobility' to take on Handel at the King's Theatre. The first of Porpora's operas to be performed at Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre was Adrianna in Naxo 7 which was a great success and used many of Handel's former singers including Senesino, Montagnana and Cuzzoni (who only arrived in Spring 1734). During his 3 London years Porpora completed 4 more operas, Ferdinando, Temistofle, Meride,and Arianna, an oratorio David e Bersabea and a serenata La festa d'Imeneo. He also published his opus 1 cantatas, dedicated to the Prince of Wales, and his Sinfonie da camera opus 2.

Despite having an 'all-star cast', which included Farinelli who joined in 1734, the 'Opera of the Nobility' under Porpora did not establish a clear superiority over Handel's company and he left England for Venice in 1736, shortly before the collapse of both his and Handel's opera companies. Curiously, Porpora seems to have been regarded as of secondary importance to Senesino by the 'Opera of the Nobility'. Lincoln's Inn Fields opera house was called Senesino's house or The Prince of Wales' house, never Porpora's. Upon his return to Venice he was once again appointed maestro at the Incurabili in Hasse's absence and the next two years were spent teaching and working on the operas Lucio Papirio for Carnival 1737, and Rosbale for performance in the Teatro S Giovanni Grisostomo as well as a commission for a Roman opera Carlo il calvo performed in the Spring of 1738 in the Teatro Alibert. Shortly afterwards he returned to Naples to fulfil a commission to write a work for the King's birthday, to be performed in the Teatro S Carlo, the result of which was a second version of La Semiramide riconosciuta, performed in January 1739. His return to Naples prompted the authorities at the Conservatorio di S Maria di Loreto 8 to appoint him maestro di capella and he received commissions for operas from both the Carlo and comic theatres. Il barone di Zampano, Il trionfo di Camilla, Tiridate, Il trionfo del valore were the results. 

After a rebuff from the court of Charles VI at Vienna in 1725, Porpora settled mostly in Venice, composing and teaching regularly in the schools of La Pietà and the Incurabili. In 1729 the anti-Handel clique invited him to London to set up an opera company as a rival to Handel's, without success, and in the 1733–1734 season, even the presence of his pupil, the great Farinelli, failed to save the dramatic company in Lincoln's Inn Fields (the "Opera of the Nobility") from bankruptcy. Upon his return to Venice he was once again appointed maestro at the Incurabili in Hasse's absence and the next two years were spent teaching and working on the operas Lucio Papirio for Carnival 1737, and Rosbale for performance in the Teatro S Giovanni Grisostomo as well as a commission for a Roman opera Carlo il calvo performed in the Spring of 1738 in the Teatro Alibert. Shortly afterwards he returned to Naples to fulfil a commission to write a work for the King's birthday, to be performed in the Teatro S Carlo, the result of which was a second version of La Semiramide riconosciuta, performed in January 1739. His return to Naples prompted the authorities at the Conservatorio di S Maria di Loreto 8 to appoint him maestro di capella and he received commissions for operas from both the Carlo and comic theatres. Il barone di Zampano, Il trionfo di Camilla, Tiridate, Il trionfo del valore were the results. 

These were almost the last operas Porpora was to write for the Italian theatres, finally stopping altogether with the production of Statira at the Teatro S Giovanni Grisostomo during Carnival 1742, after he had moved to Venice as maestro do coro at the Ospedale della Pietà. The composer returned to Italy and held a series of posts over the next decade, perhaps divulging a certain restlessness, and perhaps insecurity. In Naples, he accepted the position as maestro di cappella at the Conservatorio di Santa Maria di Loreto in 1739; in Venice he was appointed similar posts in 1742 and 1743, none served concurrently. After unsuccessfully seeking yet another maestro appointment in Naples, he traveled to Dresden to serve as court kapellmeister and teacher to Maria Antonia, the Electoral Princess. Maria Antonia Walpurgis in Dresden in 1747, once again moving to follow the available work. However, as in Venice, he met his rival Hasse at the court in Saxony and the rivalry was further fired by the presence of the great soprano Faustina Bordoni 10 (Hasse's wife!). Porpora had taken as protégée the young soprano Regina Mingotti 11 and conflict arose between the two singers. However, despite the difficulties, Porpora was appointed Kapellmeister 'Until further notice' in 1748 (Hasse was Ober-Kapellmeister) before receiving his pension in 1752 whereupon he left Dresden for Vienna.

He departed around the beginning of 1753 and traveled to Vienna, mainly as it turned out, to teach. His most prominent student there was the young Haydn. In Vienna he renewed his acquaintance with Metastasio and was possibly going to set libretto of Metastasio's new L'Isola disabitata but was prevented by illness from doing so. He gave singing lessons to many, including Metastasio's protégéé Marianne von Martinez, and the composer Joseph Haydn became valet, pupil and accompanist for singing lessons. Haydn in fact claims to have learnt '…the true fundamentals of composition…' from Porpora. An interval as Kapellmeister at the Dresden court of the Elector of Saxony and Polish King Augustus from 1748 ended in strained relations with his rival in Venice and Rome, the hugely successful opera composer Johann Adolph Hasse and his wife, the prima donna Faustina, and resulted in Porpora's departure in 1752. From Dresden he went to Vienna, where among other pupils he trained the young Marianne von Martinez, a future composer. As his accompanist and valet he hired the youthful Joseph Haydn, who was making his way in Vienna as a struggling freelancer. Haydn later remembered Porpora thus: "There was no lack of AsinoCoglioneBirbante [ass, cullion, rascal], and pokes in the ribs, but I put up with it all, for I profited greatly from Porpora in singing, in composition, and in the Italian language." He also said that he had learned from the maestro "the true fundamentals of composition".

In 1753 Porpora spent three summer months, with Haydn in tow, at the spa town Mannersdorf am Leithagebirge. His function there was to continue the singing lessons of the mistress of the ambassador of Venice to the Austrian Empire, Pietro Correr. In 1759 Porpora's Dresden pension was stopped due to the invasion of Saxony during the Seven Years War and it was at this time that Metastasio wrote to Farinelli, who was at the court of the King of Spain, to urge assistance for Porpora. He was appointed as 'another maestro di capella' at the Naples Conservatorio di S Maria di Loreto where he had been employed some 20 years before and he accepted a commission for the Teatro S Carlo. For this he reworked his earlier Il trionfo di Camilla for the Carnival but this time it was a failure. In 1760 he was also appointed to a position at the Conservatorio di S Onofrio, but by September of 1761 he had resigned from both appointments. He spent his final years in Naples, dying in poverty. Following his death, the musicians of Naples performed gratis at his church of Ecce Homo in Naples where he was buried on March 3rd, 1768.


From this time Porpora's career was a series of misfortunes: his florid style was becoming old-fashioned, his last opera, Camilla, failed, his pension from Dresden stopped, and he became so poor that the expenses of his funeral were paid by a subscription concert. Yet at the moment of his death, Farinelli and Caffarelli were living in splendid retirement on fortunes largely based on the excellence of the old maestro's teaching. A good linguist, who was admired for the idiomatic fluency of his recitatives, and a man of considerable literary culture, Porpora was also celebrated for his conversational wit. He was well-read in Latin and Italian literature, wrote poetry and spoke FrenchGerman and English. Besides some four dozen operas, there are oratorios, solo cantatas with keyboard accompaniment, motets and vocal serenades. Among his larger works, his 1720 opera Orlando, oratorio Gedeone (1737), one mass, his Venetian Vespers, and the operas Germanico in Germania (1732) and Arianna in Nasso (1733 according to HOASM) have been recorded.

Nicola Porpora is a mostly forgotten figure in composition today; however, he exerted considerable influence as a teacher in his day, and much of his own compositional output is of exceptional quality. He made his chief contribution in the vocal realm, having written many worthwhile secular and sacred operas, oratorios, serenatas, and cantatas. Porpora helped to enrich the melodic qualties of vocal music by drawing on greater technical resources -- which he understood as well as any contemporary. His embellishing of the vocal melodic line, while not strictly his own development, helped shape the course of vocal music in opera and various other forms in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Among his important works are his operas Arianna e Teseo and Faramondo, and his serenata Gli orti esperidi. Porpora may be better known as a teacher of Franz Joseph Haydn, and of the singers Uberti, Farinelli, and Caffarelli, as well as of the poet and librettist Pietro Metastasio.

Vocal music


See List of operas by Nicola Porpora.


  • Davide e Bersabea (P. Rolli; London 1734)
  • Gedeone (A. Perrucci; Vienna 1737)
  • Il Verbo in carne (anon.; Dresden 1748)



Philip Mercier, 1733: Frederick, Prince of Wales with his younger sisters Anne, Caroline and Amelia

I. D'amore il primo dardo

II. Nel mio sonno almen (Il sogno)

III. Tirsi chiamare a nome

IV. Queste che miri O Nice

V. Scrivo in te l'amato nome (Il nome)

VI. Già la notte s'avvicina (La pesca)

VII. Veggo la selva e il monte

VIII. Or che una nube ingrata

IX. Destatevi destatevi O pastori

X. Oh se fosse il mio core

XI. Oh Dio che non è vero

XII. Dal pover mio core

Instrumental music

  • 6 Sinfonie da camera op.2 (London 1736)
  • 12 Sonatas for violin and bass op.12
  • 12 Triosonatas for 2 violins and bass (Vienna 1754)
  • Sonatas for cello and Bass
  • Concerto for cello and strings

Artist biography

John Vanderbank (9 September 1694 – 23 December 1739)   was a leading English portrait painter who enjoyed a high reputation during the last decade of King George I's reign and remained in high fashion in the first decade of King George II's reign. George Vertue's opinion was that only intemperance and extravagance prevented Vanderbank from being the greatest portraitist of his generation, his lifestyle bringing him into repeated financial difficulties and leading to an early death at the age of only 45.

Charles Spencer, 3rd Duke of Marlborough (1706-1758), painted by John Vanderbank in 1719, one of the artist's earliest signed works
Lady Grace Carteret, Countess of Dysart (1713–1755), by John Vanderbank
George I, Vanderbank's 1726 equestrian portrait of the first Hanoverian king, Royal Collection
Sir Lionel Tollemache, 4th Earl of Dysart (1708–1770), by John Vanderbank
Portrait of Peter Vanderbank (1649–1697), drawn between 1695 and 1697 by Godfrey Kneller
John Dodd, of Swallowfield, Berkshire by John Vanderbank
James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos (1673-1744), patron of the arts and Handel, painted by John Vanderbank in 1722.
Francis Bacon, Viscount of St Alban, by John Vanderbank
Anastasia Robinson Seated at the Harpsichord, proof for the 1727 mezzotint by John Faber the Younger after the 1723 painting by John Vanderbank, British Museum
John Bourchier (1710-1759) by John Vanderbank
Mrs John Vanderbank c. 1730, by Christian Friedrich Zincke
Michael Rysbrack (1694-1770) painted in 1728 by John Vanderbank

Vanderbank was born in London on 9 September 1694 into an artistic family, the eldest son of Sarah and John Vanderbank Snr, a naturalised Huguenot immigrant from Paris and, since 1679, well-to-do proprietor of the Soho Tapestry Manufactory and Yeoman Arras-maker to the Great Wardrobe, supplying the royal family with tapestries from his premises in Great Queen Street, Covent Garden. John Vanderbank senior was the leading tapestry weaver in England throughout his life and by the introduction of the lighter and less formal style, now referred to as chinoiserie, he exercised a powerful influence on the style of the Soho weavers.

John Vanderbank first studied composition and painting under his father and then the painter Jonathan Richardson, before becoming one of Sir Godfrey Kneller's earliest pupils in 1711 at his art academy in Great Queen Street, neighbouring his father's tapestry workshop. After Sir James Thornhill took over from Kneller in 1718, Vanderbank continued his studies there for two years before founding an academy of his own in 1720.

Vanderbank's younger brother, Moses Vanderbank, was also an artist and draughtsman, although besides a family group depicting three children (1733), three altarpieces in the 12th century church at Adel near Leeds, and a portrait of a young child with a lamb (1743), his painted works are exceptionally rare. He succeeded his father to the post of Yeoman Arras-maker to the Crown in 1727.

The family's relationship to the leading late 17th century painter and engraver Peter Vanderbank is uncertain although the Parisian origins of both, the similarity of profession, the facial similarities of Kneller's chalk portrait of Peter Vanderbank and John Vanderbank's self-portrait drawing, and John Vanderbank senior's ownership of land in Hertfordshire where Peter Vanderbank married and spent his final years are suggestive.


Portrait painter

Vanderbank worked chiefly as a portraitist, also painting some allegorical subjects, and as an illustrator. He began his portrait practice in 1719 with a large equestrian portrait of Charles Spencer, 3rd Duke of Marlborough, developing a free, painterly style, his faces admirably drawn with what Vertue describes as ‘greatness of pencilling, spirit and composition’,and partly derived from his admiration for Rubens and Van Dyck, many of whose works he had studiously copied. His early portraits continued the vigour and grand style of Kneller but with a more vital and energetic drawing than his contemporaries. He used a bold pigmentation in the flesh where pink tones are painted thinly over the cooler greys of the ground layer to suggest glowing skin, the technique of colori cangianti derived from Rubens who was himself inspired by the artists of the seicento. Equally distinctive is the way in which mid-tones are represented by unpainted areas of grey-green primer and the placing of pure red pigments for highlights.

Vanderbank's academy

In 1720, after a period of infighting, Thornhill closed Kneller's Academy and opened a new academy of his own, conducting free life-drawing classes from a room he added to his own house in James Street, Covent Garden. In October of the same year a faction led by John Vanderbank, who on his father's death in 1717 had received a legacy of £500, and the elderly Louis Chéron established an academy which they advertised as 'The Academy for the Improvement of Painters and Sculptors by drawing from the Naked' at premises in St Martin's Lane. Vanderbank's Academy, as it became known, proved popular and its list of subscribers is a roll call of the next generation of leading artists. Conversely Thornhill had little success in finding subscribers, despite making no charge, and Hogarth, Thornhill's son-in-law, attributed its failure at least in part to the competition from Vanderbank's Academy. In 1724 it was discovered that the academy treasurer had embezzled the subscription funds and this, coupled with Vanderbank's growing debt problems, and perhaps Chéron's old age and illness (he died in May of the following year), led to the closure of the academy that summer.

Vanderbank's Academy was shortlived but had an important influence on the development of English art, not least by furthering the introduction in England of life drawing classes for promising students such as William HogarthJoseph HighmoreWilliam KentJohn FaberJohn Ellys and James Seymour. Moreover in leading the academy Vanderbank was at the centre of an influential artistic hub enjoying the patronage of the wealthiest aristocrats, largely responsible for shaping the taste and cultural life of England in the 1720s and 1730s, encompassing art, architecture, music and the landscape. For example when William Kent joined Vanderbank's Academy he was already painting interiors at Cannons for the Duke of Chandos, the princely palace designed by James Gibbs whom Vanderbank had known since Kneller's Academy, and in 1722 Vanderbank painted a portrait of the Duke of Chandos which has in the background the great basin lake created at Cannons (of which Nicholas Hawksmoor said "I cannot but own that the water at Cannon's... is the main beauty of that situation and it cost him dear",and in 1727 Hogarth, probably on Vanderbank's recommendation, was invited to paint a cartoon of The Element of the Earth for Joshua Morris, the tapestry maker of Great Queen Street, for some hangings for Cannons, so initiating Hogarth's painting career. The Duke of Chandos had installed Handel as musician in residence at Cannons, where he composed the Chandos Anthems and his first oratorios, and in 1719 was one of the principal founding subscribers to the Royal Academy of Music to ensure a steady supply of baroque opera under Handel's aegis. Vanderbank was a frequent concert goer, drawing a caricature of Senesino, Cuzzoni and Berenstadt in a scene from Handel's Flavio in 1723, which was anonymously etched and engraved, and in the same year painting the portrait of the leading soprano, and later contralto, Anastasia Robinson, Countess of Peterborough, of which Faber produced a popular mezzotint in 1727.

Vanderbank's extravagant habits saw him repeatedly in financial difficulties between 1724 and 1729, when his debts were cleared by his brother Moses. From 1729 John Vanderbank occupied a house in Holles Street, Cavendish Square, rent-free thanks to the generous patronage of Lord Carteret who, however, appropriated the contents of his studio after his death. According to Vertue, there Vanderbank lived ‘galantly or freely according to the custom of the Age’ and so in the 1730s Vanderbank's career returned to the ascendant, Vertue noting that he had 'a great run of business painting persons of quality and distinction'.

Vanderbank's portraits of royalty, leading aristocrats and eminent persons of his day are to be found in every major art gallery around the world including the Metropolitan Museum of ArtNational Gallery of Art, Washington DCRoyal Academy of ArtsTate GalleryThe Royal CollectionThe Courtauld Gallery, the Dulwich Picture Gallery, and the National Portrait Gallery. A great many of Vanderbank's portraits were engraved in mezzotint by John FaberGeorge VertueGeorge White and others, and were highly popular at the time.

Vanderbank's most characterful and distinguished portraits are generally of the 1720s including the great patron of Handel and of the arts the Duke of Chandos (1722), the two portraits of Sir Isaac Newton (1725 and 1726), the painter George Lambert (untraced but engraved by Faber in 1727), the eccentric Newmarket trainer Tregonwell Frampton (c.1725), the poet James Thomson (1726), and the sculptor John Michael Rysbrack (c.1728). Ellis Waterhouse considered that Vanderbank's masterpiece was the large full-length of Queen Caroline (1736). Vanderbank painted three allegorical subjects incorporating an equestrian portrait of George I for the decoration of the staircase at 11 Bedford Row, London, and contributed The Apotheosis, or, Death of the King (1727) to the series of ten paintings by various artists, including Chéron and Pieter Angelis, engraved in 1728 and advertised by John Bowles as Ten Prints of the Reign of King Charles the First. By contrast, some of Vanderbank's later portraits of ‘persons of Quality’, male or female, are technically well painted but can betray a lack of rapport with his sitters and a tendency to rely on stock poses sometimes directly derived from Van Dyck. Vertue noted that, like many portraitists of the period, Vanderbank sometimes used the services of the drapery painter Joseph van Aken from the mid 1730s.

As a draughtsman and illustrator, Vanderbank demonstrates a verve and originality not always found in his portraiture. A series of pen, ink, and wash drawings of horses and riders being trained in the exercises of haute école, drawn in the early 1720s when the artist ‘was himself a Disciple in our Riding-Schools’ was engraved and published by Joseph Sympson in 1729 as 'Twenty Five Actions of the Manage Horse'. The drawings were widely copied and pirated. In 1723 Vanderbank was commissioned by the publishers J and R Tonson to illustrate Don Quixote, in the original Spanish and this eventually appeared as a lavish four-volume quarto edition in 1738 with sixty-eight engraved plates after Vanderbank. This project, for which Vanderbank's initial designs were preferred over Hogarth's, appears to have preoccupied Vanderbank, perhaps almost empathetically, for the remainder of his life, resulting in three sets of drawings; first sketched then finished for the engraver's use, then drawn afresh, elaborated, and fully finished, as well as a series of some thirty-five small freely painted oil panels. Vanderbank also illustrated or designed frontispieces for various volumes of plays.

Vanderbank's only known apprentice was John Robinson (1715-1745) whom he took on for five years for a premium of £157 10s on 23 July 1737. Robinson attained some success as a portrait-painter in his short life. Having married a wife with a fortune, he purchased the late Charles Jervas's house in Cleveland Court, Bath, and thus inherited a fashionable practice.

From Vertue we know that Vanderbank was immensely talented, 'so bold and free was his pencil and so masterly his drawing', and also that Vanderbank might have made a greater figure than almost any painter England had produced had he not been so careless and extravagant; 'only intemperance prevented Vanderbank from being the greatest portraitist of his generation'. Vertue notes that Vanderbank ‘livd very extravagantly a mistres drinking & country house a purpose for her’. This extravagance led him into debt and in 1724 Vanderbank fled to France briefly to avoid imprisonment by his creditors, returning to enter 'the liberties of the Fleet', mansion houses near the Fleet prison in which privileged prisoners could enjoy relative comfort in return for payment. In 1727 Vanderbank's mother died, having prudently left her assets out of reach of John's creditors to her younger son Moses, and in 1729 Moses sold a share in the family tapestry business to the painter John Ellys to settle John Vanderbank's debts. Vanderbank then accepted a free residence in Lord Carteret's house in Holles Street, neighbouring the Duke of Chandos's house in Cavendish Square, London.

That Vanderbank succeeded in remaining in the first rank of portraitists in the 1720s and again in the 1730s in spite of his intemperance, sometimes producing outstanding works of art, testifies to the accuracy of Vertue's opinion.

On 12 July 1723 Vanderbank married the actress Ann Hardaker (b 1703) at St Mary's Church, Islington, the daughter of William Hardaker and Sibella (née Mountjoy) of Holborn, London. She was deemed by Vertue to be ‘a Vain empty wooman’ though, judging by the portrait miniature by Christian Friedrich Zincke and Faber's mezzotint from her portrait by her husband, she was certainly strikingly attractive.The Hardakers had links to the West Riding of Yorkshire where Vanderbank's older sister Elizabeth had married John Hotham in 1715. This northern connection might have been the source of Moses Vanderbank's commission in Leeds. Vertue noted that Vanderbank ‘left no children behind him by this wooman’ and indeed none has ever been traced from the marriage.

Vanderbank died of consumption (tuberculosis) in Holles Street on 23 December 1739 aged 45 and was buried in St Marylebone Parish Church, Westminster. In his will, dated 19 December 1739 and made four days before he died, he leaves his entire estate "unto my dear wife".Anne Vanderbank died in 1750 and was buried at St George Hanover Square