Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait miniature, probably Nicholas Tufton, 3rd Earl of Thanet (1631-1679), wearing armour with studded breastplate, large falling lace collar, his hair worn long 

Samuel Cooper (1609-72)

Portrait miniature, probably Nicholas Tufton, 3rd Earl of Thanet (1631-1679), wearing armour with studded breastplate, large falling lace collar, his hair worn long, Samuel Cooper
Watercolour on vellum laid onto card
17th Century
Oval, 86mm. (3 3/8in. high)
Friedrich Neuburg Collection, Litomerice; Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 26 May 1939, lot 12 (as ‘James, Duke of York’). Ernst Holzscheiter Collection, Meilen; part 1, Sotheby’s, London, 28 March 1977, lot 8 Private Collection, America
D. Foskett, Samuel Cooper 1609-1672, London, 1974, p.130, as ‘called James, Duke of York’. The Burlington Magazine, March 1977, no.888, vol.CXIX, illustrated p.xxxviii.
Geneva, Musée d’art et d’histoire, Chefs-d’œuvre de la miniature et de la gouache, 1956, no.97 (as a Portrait of the Duke of York; lent by Ernst Holzscheiter). Zurich, Haus am Rechberg, 1957-1958 Zurich, Haus am Rechberg, 1961
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This stunningly large portrait miniature by Cooper was painted during the last ten years of his life. Heavily influenced by Van Dyck at the beginning of his career, Cooper continued to use watercolour with the fluidity of an oil painter until his death in 1672. The smaller, tightly painted, jewel-coloured works he executed at the beginning of his career, gave way to more muted, loosely painted large miniatures such as this. During his long and hugely successful career (Cooper was one of the few miniaturists able to boast a truly international reputation), he was also able to remain politically neutral. He painted many of Cromwell’s supporters during the Interregnum and then turned his attention to the lavish court of Charles II after the Restoration.

Throughout its history, the present miniature was though to represent the young James II as Duke of York, it is, however, now thought to be of Nicholas Tufton, 3rd Earl of Thanet (1631-1679). Tufton was painted by Cooper at least twice (another miniature of him is in the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch) and his father, John Tufton, 2nd Earl of Thanet (1608-1664) was painted by Cooper’s uncle, John Hoskins. The armour that the young man wears is an allusion to the Civil War, when he and his father fought for the Royalist cause.

The 2nd Earl was a staunch supporter of Charles I and led a regiment in 1642 to raise a rebellion in the King’s cause. After this collapsed he was forced to surrender and the family seat, Bodiam Castle in East Sussex (now owned by the National Trust), was sold. His son, Nicholas also played his part as royalist, being imprisoned in 1655 and again from 1656 to 1658 for attempting to capture Charles II and restore him to the throne. Nicholas succeeded his father as 3rd Earl and is painted here as part of the court of Charles II. He married Lady Elizabeth Boyle, daughter of Richard Boyle Earl of Burlington, 2nd Earl of Cork and Lady Elizabeth Clifford, on 11 Apr 1664, possibly the occasion for this miniature.
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