Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Zachary Cradock (1632/3-1695) 

Mary Beale (1633-99)

Portrait of Zachary Cradock (1632/3-1695), Mary Beale
Oil on canvas
17th Century
30 x 25 inches, 76.2 x 65 cm
Mary Beale was the first professional female English artist. She was a prolific painter, mainly in the style of Lely, and through the diaries kept by her husband Charles, a former Clerk to the Patents Office who became her studio assistant and colourman, we know much of her technique and working practice. She began her artistic career as an amateur in the 1650s, but started to paint professionally in the early 1670s, when, after escaping to Hampshire to avoid the plague, her family returned to London. She worked with peter Lely in his studio, and made small copies of his portraits of famous sitters. Herself the daughter of a puritan rector, she was particularly patronized by the clergy. Beale’s clerical portraits, such as this example, successfully portray the human side of sitters who, when painted by other, particularly male, artists, are invariably formalised by their dark and official costumes, and imbibed with the gravity of their office.

Zachary Cradock, a clergyman from an early age, was reckoned to be one of the ablest orators of his generation. He enjoyed a successful career after graduation from Cambridge in 1647, being variously chaplain to Charles II, the English merchant community in Portugal, King’s College Cambridge, as well as preacher to Gray’s Inn. In 1671 he was nominated a fellow of Eton College, and a decade later was elected as Provost, or head of the school’s governing body, which post he held until his death in 1695. He was almost certainly related to Mary Beale, for she was the daughter of John Cradock, the rector Barrow in Suffolk, while Zachary Cradock was the son of Samuel Cradock, Vicar of Greetham in nearby Rutland.
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