Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Sir John Cotton 2nd Bt (c.1647 – 1718) c.1667 1667c.

Sir Peter Lely (1618-80)

Portrait of Sir John Cotton 2nd Bt (c.1647 – 1718) c.1667, Sir Peter Lely
Oil on canvas
17th Century
30 x 25 inches 76.2 x 63.5 cm
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Sir John Cotton was the son of the Royalist Sir John Cotton (1615 – 1689), and served as Tory MP for Cambridge from 1689 – 1708. His career as a politician was less celebrated, however, than that of his notorious son Sir John Hinde Cotton, known in the eighteenth century for his unrepentant Jacobitism. The Cottons seat was Madingley Hall in Cambridgeshire, which is now the permanent headquarters of the Board of Extra Mural Studies of Cambridge University.

This portrait represents at least the second occasion on which Cotton sat to Lely. He appears as a small boy in the portrait of the first baronet and his family (Manchester City Art Gallery). His distinctive lantern-jawed physiognomy is at once recognizable, despite the intervening decade, and the alert cast of his brows remains in this portrait, datable not only from its sitter’s age, but on the wig to the latter half of the 1660s. The distinctive feigned oval with laurel leaf border is a motif employed by Lely in other portraits of this date, for example Portrait of a Lady in a brown dress (formerly with Historical Portraits, London) and Portrait of a gentleman called General Cavendish (formerly with Spink, London).
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