Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait miniature of a young Gentleman, wearing armour with brass rivets, white lawn collar, his brown hair worn loose to his shoulders, 1649 

Samuel Cooper (1609-72)

Portrait miniature of a young Gentleman, wearing armour with brass rivets, white lawn collar, his brown hair worn loose to his shoulders, 1649, Samuel Cooper
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Watercolour on vellum
17th Century
Oval, 2.4 in. (62 mm.) high
 
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Painted in 1649, the year of the the execution of King Charles I (1600-1649), this portrait miniature by Cooper is evidence of the artist’s smooth transition between patrons during and after the English Civil War. Cooper set up as an independent artist in 1642, breaking from his uncle, John Hoskins, and his studio. The same year, Civil War broke out in England, pitting neighbours and families against each other. Cooper remained in London during this time, painting both supporters of the King and Cromwell.

Although it is not possible to be certain, it is likely that this portrait of a young man depicts a supporter of Cromwell. Many Royalists would have fled London during this treacherous year, fearing their fate intertwined with that of their fated King. Typically for the period, he is shown in armour, doubtless to show the participation of him or his family in the many battles fought during the war.

Cooper was the undisputed British master of portraiture during this period, painting some of the most psychologically penetrating images of the seventeenth century. Most memorably, these included the portraits he painted of Oliver Cromwell during the 1650s, through which was coined the phrase ‘warts and all’. Cooper’s portraits of Cromwell begin in 1649 , the same year as this portrait, and show the ‘Lord Protector’ wearing almost identical armour and white lawn collar to this unidentified gentleman.
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