Edmund Ashfield (1640-1678)

I’m always looking to add new names to my list of 17th century artists, so I was particularly excited to stumble across the works of Edmund Ashfield, a late 17th century talent who, unusually, did not have paint-stained fingers like most of his contemporaries, but specialised in portraits using pastels.

Edmund Ashfield Charles II

This beautiful picture of King Charles II was completed on paper over canvas, somewhere around 1675. The quality of the execution is such that, on first glance, the viewer could easily believe this to be a painted work by an artist with access to the King himself, or at the very least high quality images of him (in this case, by Peter Lely).

It would seem that Ashfield did indeed have a reach other artists might not, having allegedly worked in the studio of the painter John Michael Wright, and later operating from his own studio near the home of the restorer of the King’s Pictures, who may have been his way in to viewing the Royal Collection.

More on the above portrait can be found here.  If you’re interested in Ashfield himself, read this blog entry by art historian Neil Jeffares, who has conducted extensive research into the pastellist and his origins.

Anne Killigrew Discovery

Readers may remember an entry from 2016 about the remarkable Anne Killigrew, one of several members of a successful 17th century family that were, among other things, courtiers, dramatists, poets and artists during the reigns of both Charles I and Charles II.

At a time when autonomy and independence for women was still a rare and suspiciously-received aspiration, nevertheless several names have come down through the centuries as females who refused to yield to accepted conventions, and carved their own path as cultured, educated and talented women in their own right.

Anne Killigrew was one such pioneer, remembered as a poet, artist and, most importantly for us, a portraitist. Very few of her paintings are known to survive, and we looked at them in the earlier post, but a previously unknown work has come to light after it was identified last year in a minor Italian auction.

Anne Killigrew new

Labelled “Portrait of a Lady”, and thought likely to be the artist herself, this lovely picture was apparently painted in the 1680s, shortly before she died of smallpox in 1685.  It’s a fascinating composition, from the bare foot peeking out from under her dress, to the tilted urn full of fruit, and the tiny (tiny!) little dog almost hidden beneath her right knee.

I can’t help but contrast this with other British portraits of women from the mid to late 17th century, in particular, and most obviously, with those of the superstar court painter of the age, Sir Peter Lely. Most of us will have seen at least a few of Lely’s ‘Painted Ladies’, and will recognise the standard look of the women he captured on canvas: the loose, low-cut gowns that often left little to the imagination, the rich, shimmering silks, and the trademark sultry expressions. While beautifully produced, they can often appear formulaic and by rote, beautiful women painted to a specific and rather repetitive order. This is understandable, given that Lely was painting for the court of King Charles II, a man notorious for his pursuit of the fairer sex, and a man who would hardly have wanted warts-and-all likenesses in his royal apartments.

Our sitter here is quite different. She still wears beautiful drapery, and her expression challenges the viewer as much as Lely’s ladies’ do, but here, Anne (if it is indeed her) is no mistress or sultry courtier. She seems demure to the point of boredom, sitting in an unidentified, allegorical landscape, with a slim, boyish figure one imagines Lely would certainly have enhanced with extra curves in the most strategic of places.

Is this really how she looked? Was she aiming for a more ‘real’, less fantastical, idealised image of herself than a man such as Lely would have painted? Her scenery is fantasy,  yes, but was the likeness her true self, or was it how she wanted or believed herself to be? It’s a shame there are so few surviving paintings from the time, of women, by women, as we could learn much about the public and private attitudes surrounding the female image as interpreted by women themselves. Most of what remains is by men, giving unequal emphasis on the male viewpoint, as was ever the case.

Can readers suggest any other female portraitists from the late 1600s? I only know of Mary Beale and Joan Carlile. Let me know in the comments section below.

Lyon and Turnbull exhibition

John Graham, 1st Viscount Dundee

Our first reader favourite is this lovely miniature of  John Graham of Claverhouse, by David Paton.

John_Graham,_visc_Dundee_David_Paton
©National Galleries of Scotland

Born in 1647 or 1648, the future 1st Viscount Dundee was a soldier and nobleman, known mainly for his actions against the Scottish Covenanters during the 1670s and 1680s, and his role as a Jacobite leader during the uprising of 1689.

The Edinburgh artist, David Paton (active c.1660-1700), is less well-known than his near-contemporary, Samuel Cooper, and I think this is a shame. His work was brought to my attention by reader Susanne, with whom I agree that his work deserves a much bigger spotlight. Despite being considered one of the best draughtsmen of the 17th century, it is  Cooper’s name that first jumps to mind when we mention miniatures, even with Paton producing works such as these:

William Murray
William Murray, 1st Earl Dysart (©National Trust)

 

Catherine Bruce
Catherine Bruce, Mrs William Murray (©National Trust)

 

unknown by Paton
An unknown man, drawn 1674, graphite on vellum (©V&A)
Archibald Campbell by Paton
Archibald Campbell, 1st Duke of Argyll, Indian ink on vellum (©National Trust)

 

Charles II Paton
King Charles II, 1688, Indian ink on vellum (©National Trust)

This last image is, to my mind, superb. It’s dimensions are only 175mm x 153mm x 20mm, yet Paton has captured the King perfectly, in a way many other artists would struggle to do even on a full-sized canvas.

Thanks to Susanne for suggesting her favourite picture of Graham, and I share her wish for Paton’s name and works to become better known. Hopefully this post will help!

 

*If others readers would like to see a special portrait featured here, please see the previous blog entry for details.

Dobson exhibition on the way!

Exciting news! Tate Britain in London will be holding an exhibition on William Dobson from 29th October 2018 to 28th April 2019.

Endymion Porter c.1642-5 by William Dobson 1611-1646

The show, called “William Dobson: Artist of the Civil War” will apparently focus on the impact of the conflict on his work, looking at how conditions in the King’s Oxford headquarters showed in the paintings Dobson produced during the four years he lived there among the Royalist court. The Tate promises to display pictures from its own collection – presumably to include those of Endymion Porter (above) and Dobson’s wife Judith – as well as works from private collections.

There have been a handful of small displays of Dobson’s works over the years, usually with no more than two or three canvases together at any one time, but nothing of this size has been held since the major exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in 1983. The Tate haven’t said exactly which pictures are included, but as a large number of known works are in private hands and haven’t been seen in public since the NPG event, this is a rare and unmissable chance to see some of the pictures we’ve only ever seen in black and white in a catalogue (unless you were lucky enough to visit in 1983!).

Naturally, as one of Dobson’s biggest fans, I’m intending to visit as soon as possible – hopefully more than once! –  and will post a review as soon as I can. If any readers are able to pay a visit,  please get in touch and tell us what you think. We’d love to hear reviews!

In the meantime,  I’d like to add a shameless plug for my Dobson biography,  “The King’s Painter” (pub. 2016), which is available from the publisher Tyger’s Head Books,  HERE.  The current print run has almost sold out, but more copies are on the way.  Before ordering, please drop THB an email or DM via Twitter, to ensure availability. 🙂

Mr Brune

This mysterious portrait has just arrived online. It’s attributed to Gilbert Jackson, and the sitter is identified only by a hand-written name on the back of the canvas. Sadly nothing is known of Mr Brune, but from the richness of his clothing, and the fact that he could afford to commission a portrait, he must have been a man of some wealth and importance.

MrBrune1

The seller has very helpfully provided larger images, including a close-up of the beautifully painted lace, something I know our clothing-expert readers will appreciate.  I’d also be fascinated to know whether his nose was always that crooked or if someone else broke it….!

MrBrune2

MrBrune4

MrBrune3

It’s currently selling for £6,500 on Ebay, but I’m afraid if you’re seriously interested in bidding and live in Russia, you’ll have to collect it yourself….

Mr Brune on Ebay

UPDATE:

I’ve done some quick research and found the below portrait of Charles Brune of Athelhampton, by Sir Peter Lely (©National Trust). Could he be the same man? The nose certainly fits! The first portrait, if a confirmed Jackson, would probably date to around the 1630s/1640s, whereas the Lely was painted c.1660-1665. What do readers think?

Charles Brune

Exhibition update

I promised a reader I’d review the Charles I exhibition, which I was lucky enough to see on its opening day last Saturday. It has taken more than 350 years, but we are at last able to see for ourselves just why the loss of King Charles I’s art collection is so lamented. The Royal Academy and the Royal Collections Trust have put together a truly magnificent show, and no written review can really do justice to the effort that has gone into bringing these works together.

The cast-list for Charles’s collection includes many of the greatest names in art history. The 17th century is represented by, among others, Titian, Orazio and Artemesia Gentileschi,  Rubens, Mytens, Velasquez, and, of course, Charles’s favourite, Sir Anthony Van Dyck, whose works take up an impressive amount of wall-space. The great equestrian portraits of the King, brought together – possibly for the first time – convey the majesty and power Charles wanted his court painter to convey.

Also present, from the 15th and 16th centuries, are greats such as Titian, Mantegna,  Raphael, Tintoretto, Correggio, and Veronese.

C2

For an extra special bonus to all the wonderful artworks, one room is dedicated to the huge tapestries created at the Mortlake tapestry factory on the banks of the River Thames in London.

As a representation of the greatest European artists, you’ll be hard pushed to see another of this scale and quality, so you have until April to make it to this one!

20180205_194628

Richard Gibson (1615-1690)

Whenever people talk of miniaturists, the first names that jump to my mind are usually Samuel Cooper or Nicholas Hilliard, but I’ve been learning about another who flourished in the  17th century, born under the reign of James I, and enjoying a career that survived Charles I, Oliver Cromwell, and Charles II, before ending in the time of William and Mary at the turn of the next century.

220px-Richard_Gibson_by_Sir_Peter_Lely
Richard Gibson by Peter Lely, painted 1658, ©National Portrait Gallery, London

Known as “Dwarf Gibson”,  standing at just 3’10” tall,  Richard was a lifelong courtier, and also a talented artist who studied under Francis Cleyn,  director of design at the Mortlake Tapestry Works.¹   As something of a celebrity in the court of Charles I, he married one of Queen Henrietta Maria’s serving ladies, Anne Shepherd (also a dwarf),  who was given away by King Charles himself. Gibson was also the subject of poems by Andrew Marvell and Edmund Waller. Richard and Anne would have nine children, three of whom also became painters. The best known, daughter Susan, also painted miniatures.

In later years, Richard remained an important figure at Court, being appointed drawing-master to Princess Mary and Princess Anne, and travelling to the Netherlands with Mary on the occasion of her marriage to William of Orange.

Anne Shepherd 1638 vd
“Portrait of Mary Villiers, Duchess of Richmond and Lennox, with her dwarf Mrs. Gibson”, by Anthony Van Dyck, 1638. ©Los Angeles County Museum of Arts

While Richard and his wife appear in several large canvases by other hands, his own works were primarily miniature portraits, his technique “characterized by the thick pigment and parallel striations that give his work an impastoed quality”.² His sitters included the highest members of English Court and society.

Barbara Villiers
Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland (1640-1709)

 

Anne Hyde
Anne Hyde, Duchess of York (1637-1671)

 

Unknown gentleman by Gibson
An unknown gentleman

 

unknown woman by Gibson VandA

Unknown woman, perhaps Elizabeth Capel, Countess of Carnarvon
©V&A

Unknown boy by Gibson
Unknown boy, ©V&A

 

¹) Cleyn is also said to have had a hand in training William Dobson, who was curiously claimed as the painter of a Cromwell portrait sold at a late 17th century auction, under the name “Dobson the Dwarf”. Clearly there was a bit of a mix up in attributions here, but as Royalist Dobson is unlikely to have ever painted Cromwell, and Gibson painted primarily miniatures, it’s doubtful the said painting had anything to do with either.

²) Richard Gibson, Grove Dictionary of Art

William Parker, 4th Baron Monteagle

With November 5th just around the corner, and early fireworks already being heard across the UK, I wanted to go back to the beginning of the 17th century and take a look at one of the central figures in the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

To summarise for those not familiar with this infamous event in British history, Lord Monteagle was an English peer and member of the House of Lords at the beginning of King James I’s reign. At a time when Catholicism was outlawed and Catholics persecuted for their faith, a plot was raised by a group of men to blow up the House and everyone in it, including the King. However, shortly before the gunpowder was due to be lit in the undercroft beneath, Lord Monteagle received an anonymous letter warning him of the threat, the plot was quickly unravelled and the conspirators hunted down and killed.

Monteagle

The question of who sent the letter has been debated ever since, with some suggesting he sent it himself in order to win favour with James, while others believe it came from his own brother in law, Francis Tresham, who was himself one of the conspirators.

Whoever sent the letter, for his actions in protecting the crown, Parker received rewards of money and land from the King. He continued to hold influence, despite his own lifelong Catholic connections, and became Baron Monteagle in 1618.  He died in 1622.

This portrait of Parker was painted in around 1615 by John de Critz.

Dobsons reunited at Tate Britain

Great news from Tate Britain this week! For the next three years, the gallery will be hosting William Dobson’s earliest known self-portrait alongside his own portrait of second wife, Judith.

WandJatTate

From at least the late 1700s, both portraits were hanging together at Howsham Hall, a stately home in Yorkshire. When the house and its contents were sold in 1948, the couple went their separate ways. They briefly came back together for the 1983 National Portrait Gallery exhibition of Dobson’s work, with Judith purchased by the Tate in 1992. William’s picture remained in private hands until it came up for auction last year, and although it was once again sold to a private collector, the current owner (in contrast to the previous one, who never lent it anywhere), has already shared it with viewers at the National Portrait Gallery, before moving it to the Tate for the new loan.

I’ll definitely be visiting the Tate soon, and look forward to seeing the Dobsons back together at last!  My only concern is that, last time I visited the gallery, specifically to see the artist’s wife, she was poorly displayed, high up on a wall with a shaft of light obscuring her face. Hopefully the curation will be better this time….

Judith was born Judith Sander, some time around 1609, in London. She became Dobson’s second wife in 1637, and their only surviving child, Katherine, was born in 1639.  Judith outlived her husband by a number of years, remarrying in 1648 and surviving until at least the Restoration of Charles II, when she was said to have discussed the King’s coronation outfit with antiquarian and friend, John Aubrey. It is not know when she died.

Tate are also planning a special display on Dobson next year. Hopefully they’ll have more details on that soon.

Portraits at the Tate

 

John Greenhill

We’ve all heard of Sir Peter Lely, celebrated court painter to Charles II, and one of the most famous artists of the 17th century, but who has heard of his pupil, John Greenhill? I hadn’t, but after a little research I think he’s worthy of a discussion.

Here he is, in a self-portrait from late 1660s/early 1670s.

John Greenhill self portrait

Born in Salisbury sometime in the 1640s – source dates differ from 1642 to 1649 – he was the eldest son of John Greenhill, the registrar of the diocese of Salisbury, and Penelope Champneys of Orchardleigh, Somerset. Through his paternal uncles he was connected to the East India trade.

Greenhill came to London in around 1662 and began work as Lely’s pupil. He is said to have been a fast and talented student, learning much of Lely’s style and skill, with one commentator claiming his copy of Van Dyck’s portrait of “Thomas Killigrew and his dog” was so good it was hard to distinguish from the original, making his master jealous.

Although he began his career with such promise, and took a wife, the talented painter became very fond of the theatre, poetry and dramatic entertainment, gaining him a reputation for ‘irregular habits’. He died tragically young,  either in his late 20s or early 30s, after stumbling home drunk from the theatre. Falling into the gutter he was helped home, but did not survive the night.

I can’t help noticing that Greenhill’s life holds a curious parallel with that of his predecessor some 20 years before. As court painter to the previous king, William Dobson was said to have had similiarly ‘dissolute’ habits while enjoying a privileged lifestyle in Oxford, and would also die young after returning to London, his true potential lost.

Greenhill’s artistic style shows the clear training and influence of Sir Peter, and one can see how, had he lived longer and developed his art further, he could certainly have approached his master’s quality.

Here are some more of his works:

Seth_Ward_by_John_Greenhill
Seth Ward, Bishop of Exeter and Salisbury, c. 1673/4, © The Royal Society

 

Greenhill, John, c.1649-1676; John Clements (d.1705)

John Clements, 1673, ©National Maritime Museum, Greenwich

 

Greenhill, John, c.1649-1676; Portrait of a Lady as a Shepherdess
Portrait of a Lady as a Shepherdess, c. 1665, ©Dulwich Picture Gallery

 

Greenhill, John, c.1649-1676; James II (1633-1701), as Duke of York
James II as Duke of York, c. 1660, ©Dulwich Picture Gallery

 

Henry Fermor
Henry Fermor, date and location unknown

 

1676-lady-twisden-by-john_med
Lady Twisden, 1676, (pastel)  ©British Museum

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Fairness, candour & curiosity – from finance to art history

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

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