Is this King James II?

A reader has kindly alerted me to a late 17th century miniature that is coming up for auction.

Painted by Peter Cross (1645-1724), it dates from around 1685, and apart from a few minor wear issues, appears to be in very good condition for its age.

Miniature said J2

He looks like a typical late Restoration gentleman, but on the reverse it is written that he is not just an ordinary man, but royalty, in the form of “James, Duke of York”, later King James II. Who wrote the label is unknown, but doubts exist about the claim thanks to, of all things, the size of his nose.

King James II was known to have a rather large and unflattering nose, while this man’s is quite ordinary and inoffensive.

Here’s James’s…

James II nose

I would have to agree that the miniature is unlikely to be James, and the label most likely added by some unknown scribe in hope more than certainty, but it is a lovely picture all the same! I hope it finds a good home when it sells in a few days.

Camden New Journal

Hampstead Auctions 


Now showing at NPG London

I had a happy morning in London today (not something I can often claim…), on a visit to the National Portrait Gallery to see a very special painting.

You might remember that William Dobson’s earliest self-portrait, which had been in private hands since it was painted, reappeared last year at auction and was sold for nearly £1m. I had been concerned that it would go abroad and into another private collection, never to be seen again, but thankfully that didn’t happen, and the owner has now generously lent it to the NPG so that everyone can go and see it.

WD at NPG2

It really is a remarkable portrait when seen in person, and easily grabs your attention thanks to the intricate gold frame and those expressive Dobson eyes that follow you around the room. What I find most fascinating, and I’ve never seen this before, is that if you look closely at the left side of his face (the viewer’s left, Dobson’s right), you can see the slight distortion that appears when you look at a face in a mirror. You know how the symmetry is always slightly ‘off’ when you view someone’s reflection? Dobson seems to have added this to his portrait, so that one side – particularly the nose – is ever so slightly tilted, giving an intriguing little hint into how he worked. I can just see him, sitting at his easel with paint brushes and a mirror…

Maybe I’m imagining things? If you have the chance to visit the gallery,  let me know if you see it too!

An Unhappy Lady?

This portrait caught my attention on an auction site, because of the sitter’s unusually sombre expression. Is she sad? Bored? Annoyed? Whoever the artist was – an unnamed painter of the English School, acording to the website – they’ve really captured a mood, whether it was genuine, or merely a case of artistic licence.

Often, sitters’ expressions can easily be discerned as proud, arrogant, or uncertain (think of the worried face of Charles I, captured by Dobson), but this lady’s face is quite enigmatic, so that it’s hard to know whether the painter wanted to convey a sense of melancholy over some unexplained sadness in her life, or if she was just in a grumpy mood on the day she sat for the portrait and the artist merely painted what he saw.

There is also something strange about the canvas. It is described as an oval, but it looks more like two pieces have been glued together, and the join inexpertly painted over, possibly by a different (later?) painter. Could the portrait have started life as a more regular square or rectangular canvas, and been cut down for some convenience of the owner? If so, perhaps there were originally more clues as to her identity, and to the cause of her sadness.



Adopt a Painting!

Ferens Art Gallery in Hull have been promoting a wonderful project that allows the public to  support and preserve the treasures in its collection.  The “Adopt a Painting” scheme means art-lovers can help fund the repairs, cleaning and conservation of their chosen work.

In honour of William Dobson’s birthday on 4th March, art critic and super-fan, Waldemar Januszczak, has adopted Ferens’ Dobson portrait of the musician, William Lawes.


The gallery’s press release says that the picture has already been sent away for restoration, and the newly conserved canvas will be returned to display in the summer.

Schemes such as this are a fantastic way to help preserve our artistic heritage, especially in times when funding and support for the arts are seriously under threat.  Well done to Ferens for championing it! If only more institutions would consider similiar ideas, how much more of our nation’s artworks could be given that much-needed lifeline.

What a great birthday present for Mr Dobson!

Press Release

NT Knole Conservation Team Blog

An insight into the weird and wonderful life of a National Trust Conservation Team at one of England's greatest houses.

Cryssa Bazos

17th Century Enthusiast

Warring Words

Writing about the English Civil War

Painted Eloquence

An art history blog

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