Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of a Gentleman, possibly a member of the Thursby Pelham family c.1628

Cornelis Jonson van Ceulen (1593-1661)

Portrait of a Gentleman, possibly a member of the Thursby Pelham family, Cornelis Jonson van Ceulen
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Oil on copper
17th Century
Oval, 2 in. (52mm) high
 
Provenance:
Ernst Holzscheiter Collection, Meilen, part II, Sothebyís, London, 1 May 1980, lot 4
Jonson was one of the first English-born painters (he was born in London of Flemish parents) to successfully establish himself as a portraitist in oils. Outside miniature painting, England suffered a dearth of talented artists, and English art was (and would continue to be) dependent on foreign artists to set the artistic fashion, from Holbein through to Van Dyck and finally Godfrey Kneller. Jonson is not only unusual in bucking this trend, but was so confident in his art that he was able to effortlessly translate his talent to miniature painting in oils. This example, on copper, is typical of the extreme fineness of his miniatures, and can be dated to c. 1628.

Jonsonís portraits display a level of continental sophistication not often seen in the works of English Jacobean artists. And in a society that relished Ďconspicuous consumptioní, and thus the display of expensive costumes, Jonsonís realism and sense of likeness, proved popular. The majority of Jonsonís early English portraits are bust-length, such as this example, and usually display a powerfully rendered head against a darkened background. Although he did not enjoy the universal patronage of the highest society (the arrival of Van Dyck in 1632 saw to that), he was occasionally employed by Charles I, and found a ready clientele amongst the gentry and lesser nobility.
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