Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait miniature of a Lady wearing green watered-silk dress with white underslip, patterned silver-grey cloak over her left shoulder, pearl necklace and further smaller pearls decorating the bun of her hair worn in curls, 1646 

John Hoskins the Elder (c.1590-1664/5)

Portrait miniature of a Lady wearing green watered-silk dress with white underslip, patterned silver-grey cloak over her left shoulder, pearl necklace and further smaller pearls decorating the bun of her hair worn in curls, 1646, John Hoskins the Elder
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Watercolour on vellum
17th Century
Oval, 2 3/4 in. (70 mm.) high
 
Provenance:
Provenance Mrs Fleischmann by 1912; The Ashcroft Collection; The M Papier Collection, no. 172; Sotheby’s 7 May 1946, lot 58 (described as ‘a superb miniature’); Bonhams, London, 23rd May 2007, Lot 258; Private Collection.
Literature:
Literature Basil Long, The Connoisseur, July 1926, p.133, pl. 2 (Long here describes her hair in Crawshaw’s words ‘Tresses that wear jewels, but to declare, How much themselves more precious are’) Herbert Furst, The Connoisseur, October 1934, p.224, pl.1 (Described as Ashcroft Collection on loan to V & A.) Basil Long, British Miniaturists, 1966, p. 226 (described as ‘particularly good’)
Exhibited:
Exhibited Brussels Exhibition, 1912, catalogue p.184, no. 216 On loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1924-1939 Exhibition of British Art, London 1934, catalogue no. 953, ill. pl. 203, no. 1088
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Painted in 1646, the present work is one of the finest examples to emerge from the workshop of John Hoskins. Initially trained as an oil painter, Hoskins followed Nicholas Hilliard as the favoured limner to the court during the 1620s and 1630s. He was generously rewarded by Charles I with an annuity of £200 a year but the civil war interrupted his brilliant court career. After working almost solely for the monarch over several decades, Hoskins was forced to look elsewhere for commissions and by the late 1630s was running a busy studio. His miniatures reflected the change in British portraiture so monumentally transformed by Van Dyck’s arrival in England in 1632.

With his annuity indefinitely halted, Hoskins probably employed his gifted apprentices, including his nephew Samuel Cooper (?1608-1672) and his son, John Hoskins junior (?1630-after 1690)to keep up with the increasing demand for his miniatures during the 1640s.

The present work has, on numerous occasions, prompted positive responses from various experts including Basil Long who in his 1966 publication British Miniaturists singled out the work, describing it as ‘particularly good’ (p.226). The fresh condition, no doubt preserved by the protective fruitwood case, make it a truly exceptional survival, as well as a beguiling subject. Although the sitter is unknown, it is not too fanciful to suggest that it may have been carried by a husband parted from his wife during the Civil War.

The work seems to have emerged in 1912 when it was exhibited in Brussels in the Exposition de la Miniature, the owner given as a Mrs Fleischmann, a distinguished collector who also exhibited twenty-six miniatures by important eighteenth century artists. It then passed through several notable collections until its auction sale at Bonhams broke a record for the artist.
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