Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Lady Mary Fairfax (1638-1704), with her Tutor, c.1645 

Robert Walker 

Portrait of Lady Mary Fairfax (1638-1704), with her Tutor, c.1645, Robert Walker
Oil on canvas
17th Century
33 x 36 in (83.8 x 91.4 cm)
Literature: Theodore Crombie, ''Some Old Masters of the Year'', Apollo, January 1963, p.45, illus. fig. 5.
The sitters were formerly identified as General Fairfax with his child, and although there is no evidence to support that identification, the academic emphasis is close to the family''s interests.

The Greek inscription is translated as ''Ever growing older and learning less'', apparently a parody on an elegiac couplet by Solon.

Robert Walker was the leading portraitist of the Parliamentary party under Cromwell; he also painted subject pictures and copied old masters. Although his postures are sometimes close to Van Dyck there is no evidence that he was his pupil and Walker seems to have self-consciously avoided his more flamboyant techniques. He painted Cromwell several times, as well as most of the other Parliamentary leaders, his style being remarkable for its solemnity and melancholy, temperamentally far removed from Van Dyck.

Thomas Fairfax, Third Baron Fairfax of Cameron, studied at St John''s, Cambridge, before becoming a soldier. He fought for the parliamentarians, becoming Commander in-Chief and sitting as a judge at the King''s trial. In 1660 he headed the commission sent to Charles II at the Hague. On his death he left 28 manuscripts to the Bodelian, he produced poems and autobiographical works as well as translations, and was addressed by Milton in a sonnet.
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