Continental European before 1800, Portraits: British 18th C, Portraits: British 16th and 17th C 46 Is this portrait Dutch or English? Who is the sitter?

Topic: Subject or sitter

This sitter looks a bit like Helena Fourment, the wife of Rubens. I'm pretty sure it isn't, but surely this alludes to it being a seventeenth-century portrait by a Dutch/Flemish painter probably working in England?

The collection say that, as far as they know, the painting is English School, specifically after Peter Lely.

Tim Williams, Entry reviewed by Art UK


Eddy Schavemaker,

Stylistically this has specifically much in common with the portraits by Govaert Flinck. See the attached examples. Pose and the type of outdoor setting are very generic but the pleating of the fancy dress is rather similar. The question is, is the quality good enough for Flinck? Tom van der Molen, a curator at the Amsterdam Museum is working on a Flinck monograph. Best to get in touch with him and send him a good quality photo.

Lady Townshend,

For some reason it looks French to me. But I have no evidence to back that up!

Karen Hearn,

On the basis of this digital image, this definitely does not look like an English 17th century portrait to me. Nor does it look at all like a work by Lely. Is there anyone with Scandinavian expertise out there who might have a view?

Karen Hearn

Tim Williams,

I just don't think it can possibly be English, and I feel this artist could be identified - I've thought Maes, Lievens etc and there are splatterings of their flavour, but definitely something else entirely: Scandinavian is an interesting suggestion. I wonder whether the collection could provide any more detailed photographs - particularly of the architecture in the background?

Osmund Bullock,

I am no architectural historian, but a quick investigation of classical building styles in Europe suggests that the Netherlands (and of course England, amongst other countries) is much more likely than Sweden for a classical building like that in the C17th (assuming it shows a real building). I agree with Tim that a clearer image of it would be most helpful.

Bernard Vermet,

Scandinavia, good thought. Since there might be Flinck influence, but it doesn't look Dutch to me and apparently not English to you over there. The kerchief (or how do you call it) reminds me of Gdansk painter Daniel Schultz's portret of Konstancji von Holten Schuman. (Dutch orientated architecture in Sweden is no problem).

Tom Van Der Molen,

At first glance this does noet seem to be by Flinck to me. The handling is too dry and stiff. My first intuition was Ovens, and it is strengthened by the ideas of Scandinavian authorship that other commenters have. I would love a better photo for some detailed comparison though :-)
For Ovens, you should contact Patrick Larsen, who works at the RKD.

Edward Stone,

This discussion is now also linked to the Portraits: British 16th and 17th C group.

The portrait formed part of the Howitt bequest in 1918. I wonder if the collection has any further information on this benefactor (beyond just surname)? There could possibly be links to Continental Europe in earlier generations of his or her family, which might help to narrow the search for an artist.

Tim Williams,

From NIRP:

Almost ninety paintings were bequeathed by Charles Sydney Howitt in 1918 to the city council, most of which were English works. Although Charles Sydney Howitt left a life interest in the paintings to his wife, she relinquished that in 1921-22, and gave them to Erewash Museum. It is thought that most of these paintings were collected by surgeon Enoch Dawson Howitt, the donor's father, though some may have been purchased by William Howitt (d.1840), his grandfather.

E. Berry Drago,

The rose offers an interesting possibility-- it appears to be a "cabbage" or centifolia type, given the bulbous appearance. This type of rose was characteristic of Dutch and Flemish still-life painting (as in the works of Nicolaes van Verendael (file below, labeled VA_PC...). Similar roses appear in this earlier portrait of a boy (, as well as this contemporaneous portrait of a young woman (

Other contemporaneous English-attributed portraits featuring roses (files labeled NY_YAG, SFK_CCM, WAR_SBT) have a subtly different treatment-- the flowers have a flatter appearance, closer to a gallica rose type.

Of course, this may be a case of an English artist looking elsewhere for precedent. But the rose type may suggest a Dutch or Flemish painter, or at least an English follower of the Dutch/Flemish school.

4 attachments
Osmund Bullock,

An interesting approach, Ms Drago - certainly the rose is of the 'cabbage' type beloved of C17th Low Countries artists. The first problem with your analysis, though, is that the English-attributed works you show us are much later - well into the C18th, in some cases perhaps as much as 100 years after ours. For a meaningful comparison we should really be looking at English (and Swedish, etc) rose depictions of, say, the 1640s-60s. Even then it may tell us little, as so many artists working all over Europe then were Dutch/Flemish - and those that weren't, heavily influenced by those who were (as you intimate).

Gina Furnari,

The style and pose are similar to portraits by both Sir Peter Lely and Anthony van Dyck. Though I would say this painting is more heavy-handed and stylized (less delicate) than their works.

I wonder if it's possibly a member of the Cavendish family since there is a Derbyshire connection.

Portrait of Lady Penelope Spencer, late 1660s - Sir Peter Lely
Portrait of Mary Hill, Lady Killigrew - Anthony van Dyck - 1638

Christophe JANET,

Not English, it seems Dutch, and, more specifically it bears a strong ressemblance to the works of Jan van Noordt (1623-1681).
However, a late Jan Lievens (1607-1674)can also be considered. A better photograph would be needed. Please note that Lievens went to work in England where he worked for a number of collectors including the Earl of Aruundel.
His late style is at complete odds with his earlier Leiden style.

Christophe JANET,

The flower she holds probably alludes to her recent bethrowal, thus a pendant is to be expected

Wendy Howard 01,

It looks like a windmill in the far distance behind her right shoulder. Might suggest it's a Dutch landscape.

Osmund Bullock,

Possibly a windmill, Wendy, though I'd taken it as a church tower or even part of the classical building. For any proper assessment of that, and indeed the whole painting, we really do need that higher-res image.

I agree with Christophe that a prominently-held pink rose commonly symbolizes betrothal (though floral symbolism is complicated, and can be multi-layered and indeed contradictory). I'm not remotely qualified to judge on Low Countries portrait painters, but I did notice that Lievens's English residence was brief and too early (c.1632-35) for this work.

Kieran Owens,

The Howitt Bequest, a collection of 18th and 19th century paintings, from which this painting comes, consisted of the possessions of Henry Howitt (1737 - 29th January 1816) and the subsequent generations of his family as referenced above. The Howitts lived at Howitt House, Long Eaton, in Derbyshire. The house, also know as the Old Hall, and The Hall, was built in 1778 by the Derby architect Joseph Pickford. Since 1921 the house and its subsequently-attached Civic Centre, has been used for civic purposes.

The Hampshire Chronicle of the 19th February 1816 recorded that "(Died) At Long Eaton, Derbyshire, aged 78, Henry Hewitt (sic), Esq." He was buried in the Parish of Sawley. Although within it there are no mentions of paintings, Henry's long will can be read here:

The Derby Mercury, of Thursday 23rd February 1797 noticed that "(Died) A few days ago, Mrs. Howitt, wife of Henry Howitt, Esq., of Long Eaton, in this county."

Two Derbyshire marriages are recorded for a Henry Howitt. The first, on the 21st January 1757, was to Ann Towle, which took place at St. Peter's, in Derby. The second, possibly after his 1st wife had died in February 1797, was in 1797 to Ann Start. If the husband in both cases is the same man, then perhaps the portrait under discussion is of Ann Towle, painted in celebration of her 1757 marriage to Henry. This might fit in with Christophe Janet's betrothal suggestion above.

Though the discussion seems to consider that this is a 17th century painting, the above is a suggestion that I hope is worth considering. Would the pediment on the building in the distance not suggest a Georgian-era building in the Classical style, rather that a 17th century edifice?

Dutch or English? Definitely Dutch: Flinck and van Noordt seem strong contenders and I don't think that the identification of a possible sitter has emerged during the discussions.

Martin Hopkinson,

Certainly Dutch. Could it be a painter from one of the lesser cities? Paulus Moreelse comes to mind.

Martin Hopkinson,

There are rather few comparable paintings in J W von Moltke's 1965 monograph on Flinck, but the costume could be compared with that in two paintings of Diana [cats no 87 and 88] and a 1652 portrait a lady [no 392] none of these in public collections

Martin Hopkinson,

Will it be identifiable by a print after it? Is this a portrait of a young wife - or a personification of spring?

Lely - and indeed the idea this is English at all - were effectively ruled out much further up this discussion. To arrive at least at nationality, it might be most productive to find parallels for the painting of the dress: its in a very distinctive manner of which other examples ought to spring to mind (though not mine) if the artist - or at least his drapery assistance - is still known from other surviving examples.

Martin Hopkinson,

The composition might suggest that this painting had a pair, or even former one element in a harmonious arrangement of a group of pictures in a particular room.

Martin Hopkinson,

There are two etchings by Hollar of Spring with which this could be compared as a subject of 1641 [impression in the British Museum 1871, 1209.2424] and of 1644 [1856,0607.1], both from sets of Seasons. A third set of Seasons by Hollar also exists.
I am not suggesting that Hollar is the artist.

Jacinto Regalado,

This is speculative and may reflect ignorance on my part, but doesn't the sitter in our picture appear more Scandinavian than Dutch?

Martin Hopkinson,

Would it be worth considering Jacob Backer [1608/9 -51] on whom Peter van den Brink and Jan van der Veen in 2008 wrote an exhibition catalogue for the Rembrandt Huis and the Suermondt Ludwig [copies in the British Museum Print Room and the Warburg and Wallace Collection]?

Martin Hopkinson,

There is a Courtesan of 1640 in the Museo Nacional de Arte Antiga in Lisbon and a portrait of a woman of 1647-50 in the Getty both of which can be found under Backer on

Jacinto Regalado,

Practically all of Backer's portraits appear to be set indoors; his handling of drapery is typically more expansive or less crimped than in the picture in question, and his painting of hands (for which he was especially admired) is usually better than it is here (even if a young woman provides less opportunity for virtuosity in that respect than an older subject). This picture is attractive but relatively formulaic or generic, and Backer's portraits tend to go beyond that. I am hardly prepared to declare he could not be the artist, but I have my doubts.

Martin Hopkinson,

Having seen the 2008 catalogue now, I am sure that is not by Backer

Simon Gillespie,

Is there a good high res image to see if what we are looking at is real?
What is the provenance? The handling of the different areas of paint seem to have been carried out by different people. The hands are very crude. The clothing and exaggerated folds and all the highlights are quite unlike the background painting where there is little detail. Even the sky looks early 20th century!
Over paint , fake??
Can we see a good image.

Martin Hopkinson,

Indeed it would be good to have a higher resolution image - and there must be a possibility that this was a much damaged picture that was heavily repainted

Maria Scruby,

The landscape in this image appears English with Palladian Mansion and possible Gothic church steeple

I'm sorry for the long delay in attending to this discussion. Tim (Llewellyn), I have seen your PCF recommendation, but the discussion seemed to get a new lease of life for a few weeks.

When I am back in the office next week I will attach the PCF image, which can at least be enlarged on screen. I'll ask Erewash Borough Council if it would be possible to send some clear close-ups.

Osmund Bullock,

Thanks, Marion. The rather higher dpi rating (versus the published Art UK image) does allow a slightly greater magnification, and from this it looks to me as if the background 'spire' in fact protrudes from the roof of the building with its classical pediment, and that there is a matching one on the other side (just peeping out from behind the sitter's shoulder). See attachment. They could be a pair of pinnacles, decorative chimneys or even statues, slightly reminiscent of the (much later) neo-baroque pediment of the Reichstag building: .

Similar elements are found in C17th Dutch classicism (e.g. Amsterdam Town Hall, as was, and Leiden's Lakenhal), as well as in France and England. I'm not sure it reached Scandinavia before the C18th, however. The shallowness of the pediment, if accurately shown, is unusual.

1 attachment
Howard Jones,

The details in the attachment from Osmund suggest that the pair of pinnacles appear large and metallic or gilded. Where the pediment meets the woman's dress it is shown overlapping and in front of the dress which is careless. Has the classical frontage been painted over a different earlier building which included the pinnacles?

Osmund Bullock,

Howard, I think at this low resolution it is hard (and unwise) to be certain about exactly what's there and how it's painted. Even the apparent gilding on the pinnacles may be my fault - I played with the contrast, tint etc when I was trying to get a clearer image, so the colour and brightness may not be reliable!

Please support your comments with evidence or arguments.

jpg, png, pdf, doc, xls (max 6MB)
Drop your files here
Attach a file Start uploading

Sign in

By signing in you agree to the Terms & Conditions, which includes our use of cookies.