Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of a young boy with battledore and shuttlecock 1610c.

 Anglo-Flemish School 

Portrait of a young boy with battledore and shuttlecock,  Anglo-Flemish School
Oil on canvas
17th Century
43 1/4 x 33 1/2 in; 109.9 x 85.1 cm
1824, London, sold by the dealer Horatio Rodd, as 'A portrait of a girl' by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, with the following catalogue entry;daughter of James the First, written on the back, and is probably h “A little Girl, most superbly habited in brocade and lace, whole length, holding in one hand a shuttlecock, in the other a battledore; on it is written In her 3d year, 1562, which has been apparently altered from 1600; canvas, 3 feet 8 inches by 2 feet 9, very curious.”
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This intriguing portrait appears on first sight to depict a young girl, of the age of about three. Indeed, it was sold as such in the early nineteenth century, when the sitter was thought to be Elizabeth Stuart, the daughter of James I commonly known as the “Winter Queen”.

The sitter is in fact a boy, and wears the traditional dress worn by all children in their earliest years. The shuttlecock and battledore mark him out as enjoying more masculine games, and a similar pattern can be seen in the lost portrait of Prince Rupert of the Rhine, of whom an engraved portrait exists showing the same pose, and at about the same age as sitter here. A girl might instead hold a comb or simply a rattle. The face is also, on close inspection, clearly intended to show a boy.

The picture was almost certainly painted in England in about 1620. However, its distinct continental handling and technique suggests that it is by one of the numerous Flemish artists then patronised by the English court and the aristocracy, such as Paul Van Somer, who arrived in England in about 1615. The quality of the dress, with its exquisite detailing, thick impasto and fine colouring may well be redolent of Van Somer’s work, as would the slightly naïve drawing of the hands. The sitter was clearly a child of high rank, as can by seen by the richness of his dress.
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