Portrait of a Gentleman c.1640; Circle of Cornelius Johnson
By Roy Precious From United Kingdom
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Oil on canvas in reproduction giltwood frame.
A pleasing portrait of a gentleman aged 35 (faintly inscribed 'Aetatis su[ae] 35' to the upper right).
The sitter has a calm, intelligent look and is dressed in an expensive embroidered silk doublet; he carries his gloves ( a mark of wealth) and a silver-headed stick.
"In the 1630s even a simple black suit of a quality fit for court wear cost as much as the rent of a London house for a year, clothes are vital signifiers of rank and wealth"
' Cavalier' by Lucy Worsley, Chief Curator of the Historic Royal Palaces.
In a period when black clothing was the fashion artists strove to depict the different nuances and textures of the fabrics as convincingly as possible.
They found that black is an ideal background with which to contrast the crisp white linen and rich lace and this dramatically accentuates the face and hand gestures. This extreme opposition between black and white is both austere and exciting, and is a characteristic feature of portraiture of this period.
The portrait is contained within a feigned oval, typical of the style of Johnson and his Circle.
CORNELIUS JOHNSON (Jonson, Jansen, Van Ceulen) 1593-1661 was born in London, the son of Flemish emigres.
Although Waterhouse thought he was trained in Holland it seems more likely (as Collins Baker has it) that Marcus Gheeraerts was his master in London.
Johnson is the most satisfying and 'English' of the portraitists working in England in the 1620s to 40s. He has a fine technique with a restrained and introspective style, with careful attention to the costume details.
His accurate portraits are never flattering but a sober and objective portrayal of his usual sitters: the gentry and lesser nobility. His style, and that of his circle of course, is easily identified by its coolness and restraint.
In 1632 he was made Painter to the King, but his wife's fears of the approaching Civil War caused him to retire to Holland in 1643. He continued to paint for the rest of his life, but was reportedly ruined by the extravagance of his second wife and died a poor man in Utrecht in 1661.
SIZE: 42.75 x 37.5 inches inc. frame. Canvas size 36 x 31.
Verso: an old Christie's stencilled number.
PROVENANCE: Private Collection, Fellow of a Cambridge College.
We specialise in portraits from the 16th to the early 20th century, we also stock some 17th and 18th century ship paintings, furniture of the 17th and 18th centuries, and other artefacts dating from 200 B.C. to the 20th century.We have sold to many important collections including The Historic Royal Palaces collection and The Yale Center for British Art. Viewing is by appointment, or an arrangement can be made for the item to be brought to your home for inspection.