Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) and John Lambert (1619-1683) 1650c.

Studio of Robert Walker (1599-1658)

Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) and John Lambert (1619-1683), Studio of Robert Walker
Oil on canvas
17th Century
52 x 67 inches 85 x 102 cm
Christie's London 11th October 1953 (lot 161)
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The double portrait of Cromwell and Lambert would have been a potent image when it appeared c.1650 as one of the principal icons of the Parliamentary General and his second-in-command. Both are shown three-quarter length in armour, in the attitude of General and trusted subordinate. The composition, which provided the source for contemporary individual portraits of both men, depicts Cromwell with the time-honoured attributes of the commander: a purposeful stance, red military cloak and baton. The image is that of the field commander rather than of the Head of State, and may be taken with its near parity to the portrayal of Lambert, as an element that dates the composition to the years before the establishment of the Protectorate in 1653. The double portrait depicts two brother officers, rather than a quasi-monarch and his subject.

Lambert's is the second place in the painting, but he is little removed in rank, and unlike other similar military double portraits (for example King Charles I and Sir Edmund Walker, Unknown artist, National Portrait Gallery) is not shown at a lesser level than his principal. His pose is based closely on that of Van Dyck's military portrait Count Hendrick van den Bergh. This painting was in the collection of King Charles I until the great sale after the King's execution, and so the period 1649/50 provides what may be a convenient date for the inception of the portrait.

Several versions of this composition are recognised, although there is uncertainty over which, if any, is the prime autograph version. The painting formerly in the collection of the Earls of Bradford (Christie's November 22nd 1974 lot 108) is believed to have come from Lambert's house in Wimbledon, but if this is now correctly identified there seems little to tell it apart in terms of technique and quality from other, plainly contemporary, examples such as this. It would appear that Walker's workshop was responsible for producing this image to satisfy the demand among influential members of the new regime for images of its two principal figures.

Lambert and Cromwell had emerged from the Civil Wars as the leading lights not only of the Parliamentarian Army faction, but also of the new England that had resulted from the execution of King Charles I. Cromwell had recognised Lambert's outstanding military accomplishment from the Battle of Marston Moor in 1644, where he had weathered a royalist cavalry charge and, despite the disarray of his forces, managed a counter-attack. He had also distinguished himself in more political actions, and in the 1647 dispute between the Army and Parliament, through his legal training and his diplomatic turn of mind, was appointed the chief military representative, drafting The Heads of the Proposals of the Army''s grievances. His careful intellect and reverved manner marked him as one that ''did not belong to the school of godly warriorship'', but this allowed him political subtlety and distinguished him from his more doctrinaire rivals.

By 1650 he was acknowledged as Cromwell's right-hand man, and advanced into Scotland with him as Major General of the Army. His bravery at Dunbar impressed Cromwell particularly, who pursued the Scottish Parliament on Lambert''s behalf until he was rewarded with a grant of land. In return, Lambert was Cromwell''s closest supporter in his dealings with the Parliament, and in the years leading up to 1653 began to recognise that a different form of government than the uneasy cooperation of Parliament and Army might better meet the needs of the three kingdoms. When in 1652 Lambert was deprived by Parliament of the promised Lord Lieutenancy of Ireland his exasperation with that body was complete, although this may have in fact been engineered for his own ends by Cromwell. In 1653 Lambert headed the council of officers who drafted the instrument that appointed Cromwell Lord Protector.

In the years that immediately followed Lambert remained devoted to Cromwell's cause, even proposing that the office be made hereditary within the Protector's family. At the same time Lambert seemed to outsiders to be independent of the Protector and almost equal in power. He was ''the army's darling,'' and as a Royalist wrote: ''It lies in his power to raise Oliver higher or else to set up in his place. One of the council''s opinion being asked what he thought Lambert did intend, his answer was that Lambert would let this man continue protector, but that he would rule him as he pleased.'' Disaffection only resulted in 1657, when Cromwell seems seriously to have considered accepting the title of King. This was too great a rejection of the republican experiment and Lambert's opposition was not alone in forcing Cromwell to abandon the idea. For the rest of the Protectorate, however, Lambert lived in retirement at Wimbledon.

This exile may have blunted his political acumen, and by the time that he attempted to return to public life after the Protector's death and Richard Cromwell's ''abdication'' his influence was less than that of General Monck. From exile the Royalists speculated that he might be the man to ensure the Restoration, even considering marriage between the Duke of York and Lambert's daughter, but events proved otherwise. Lambert failed to move swiftly and subtly enough and 1660 found him condemned to death by the restored party. His good reputation as a commander and his absence from the King''s trial in 1649 ensured that this was commuted to life imprisonment. He died in exile on Jersey in 1683.
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