Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of a Lady of the Court of Catherine of Braganza c.1670 1670c.

Jacob Huysmans 

Portrait of a Lady of the Court of Catherine of Braganza c.1670, Jacob Huysmans
Oil on canvas
17th Century
30 x 25 inches 76 x 63.5 cm
Huysmans was born in Antwerp and came to England shortly after the Restoration where he was noted by Pepys as capable of a more exact likeness than Lely. Certainly the diarist records that by August 1664 in the circle of Queen Catherine of Braganza he was reckoned the better painter. He styled himself ''The Queen's Painter'', and certainly his portraits of her show a more profound interpretation of her character than can be found in the works of his rivals.

This portrait with its silvery tonality and distinctive facial colouring and highlights to the tightly-coiled hair is characteristic of Huysmans' work of c.1670. The sitter's pose recurs in other portraits by the same artist, though the ultimate debt is to Van Dyck, where the gesture with the right arm is to be found, for example, in the Portrait of Lord John and Lord Bernard Stuart (National Gallery).The vogue for devotional emblems that appears in the portraiture of the 1660s and 1670s was expressed by a number of painters. John Greenhill, Peter Lely and Willem Wissing all depict female sitters as saints, but the more Baroque imagery is reserved by the painters, such as Benedetto Gennari and Huysmans, patronised by the Catholic members of the court. The significance of the crucifix displayed by the sitter here has defied exact interpretation. The motif of the Christ Child asleep on the cross, however, was a popular one in Italian painting of the seventeenth century -it is a subject treated, for example, by Guercino- in which the sleep prefigures death, becoming at once, therefore, an aid to religious devotion and a memento mori.
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