Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Francis Wiat of Quex, Thanet (d.1739) 

John Closterman (1665-1711)

Portrait of Francis Wiat of Quex, Thanet (d.1739), John Closterman
Oil on canvas
17th Century
29 15/16 x 24 7/8 in (76.1 x 63.2 cm)
Private collection, UK
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The sitter in this portrait can be identified through an inscription in the bottom left corner as ‘Francis son/of Edwin Wiat Esqr’. The Wiat (or Wyatt) family were a prominent family based in Kent, whose ancestry can be traced back to Sir Henry Wyatt of Allington Castle, an ambassador and poet at the court of Henry VIII. In the seventeenth century Sir Francis Wyatt, grandfather of the sitter in the present work, was appointed governor of Virginia by Charles I, a position he held twice between 1621 and 29 and again in 1642. His son Edwin Wiat (as it was now spelt), father of Francis, held a number of influential legal positions, including serjeant at law and justice of the peace for Kent, and lived at Boxley Abbey. Francis was the son of Edwin and his wife Frances, daughter of Thomas Crispe of Thanet, and in 1711 he married Elizabeth, widow of William Buller of Cornwall.

Francis resided at the Quex estate in Thanet, the ancestral home of his wife Elizabeth. Following his death, Quex was inherited by Francis’s brother Richard, and when the latter died without issue, it passed to Robert, Lord Romney.

A number of Wiat and Crispe family portraits have appeared on the market in recent years, all of which bare the same style of inscription seen in the bottom corner of the present work, indicating they were all once in the same collection. One of these family portraits, depicting Francis’s mother Frances by John Riley, was previously sold by Philip Mould & Co, and is now in a private collection. Due to the fact that these other family portraits were sold without any stated provenance, it is difficult to establish with certainty which branch of the family owned and later disposed of the portraits.

Johann Kloosterman (also spelled ‘Closterman’) was born in Germany and is thought to have arrived in England in 1681, following the death of court painter Sir Peter Lely. Soon after his arrival, Kloosterman was employed by John Riley as a drapery painter, although the existence of signed works by both artists during the 1680s suggests they also worked independently.

The demand for Kloosterman’s work soared following the death of Riley in 1691, pushing him further into the higher echelons of society, and by the late 1690s he appears to have enjoyed a position amongst the most distinguished literary and artistic circles.

By November 1698 Kloosterman was in Spain where he was patronised by the Spanish court and painted full-length portraits of Carlos II and Maria Ana of Neuberg. As is frequently seen throughout the history of travelling artists, Kloosterman, whilst looking for patronage, also acted as an agent for wealthy English collectors and did much to encourage the collecting of Old Master drawings in England at this time.

After his return to England and up until his death in 1711, Kloosterman maintained a successful portrait painting practice and employed at least one assistant, and although in competition with great painters like Sir Godfrey Kneller and Jonathan Richardson, he seems to have sustained an illustrious lifestyle. Kloosterman died in May 1711, not long after being robbed of his valuables by a devious mistress, an event which supposedly drove him into madness.
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