Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector (1599-1658), c.1650 

Studio of Robert Walker (1599-1658)

Portrait of Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector (1599-1658), c.1650, Studio of Robert Walker
Oil on canvas
17th Century
50 x 40 inches 127 x 101.6 cm
P. Ellis, Petworth, West Sussex; The Berger Collection, Denver, Colorado.
600 Years of British Painting: The Berger Collection at the Denver Art Museum Exhibition Catalogue Denver Art Museum 1999 p.78
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This portrait is a variant of the autograph composition now in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London (NPG 36) which in execution demonstrates Walker’s typical debt to Van Dyck whenever attempting works that are grandiose in scale or conception. Borrowings from Van Dyck’s Sir Kenelm Digby have been remarked, especially in other portraits of Cromwell by Walker that are a variation on the present composition, such as the three-quarter length showing Cromwell holding a baton (example Burghley House). This latter type, showing Cromwell without attendant has been considered the earliest of the compositions, although the date of 1643 traditionally associated with the Burghley portrait may well be erroneous. A double portrait of repeating this figure and including Walker’s portrait of General Lambert (example Historical Portraits, London) was engraved in mezzotint by A, Miller in 1745.

Considering NPG 36 David Piper (Catalogue of the Seventeenth Century Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery NPG 1963 p.92) recognises that there exist ‘a considerable number of similar portraits’ among which there are examples of comparable quality at Althorp (Spencer Collection), Leeds Art Gallery (ex Naworth Castle) and at the Justitsminstiriet at Copenhagen. A contemporary inscription on the Leeds version gives the date 1649, and this is generally regarded as the most reliable terminus post for this type. The identity of the page – if any single person is intended by the generic representation, which recalls the page proffering the King’s helm in Van Dyck’s large equestrian portrait of King Charles I (National Gallery, London) – has not been established, and various candidates including Cromwell’s son Richard have been proposed. This composition was engraved as a whole length by P. Lombart between 1651 and 1653 (Piper loc. cit.), whilst later engravings of the type are numerous.
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