Forward British 16th and 17th C, except portraits, Continental European before 1800, Dress and Textiles, Scotland: Artists and Subjects 63 Who painted this portrait of a child in a red gown with a coral teething rattle and a wreath? Who is the sitter?

Portrait of a Young Boy, Perhaps a Prince
Topic: Subject or sitter

This painting is quite interesting as there are copies extant in public and private ownership, suggesting that the sitter must have been an important individual, yet the artist is unknown and the child remains unidentified. The jewelled motif in his cap may indicate that he was a prince. The coral teething rattle and the pomander hanging from his belt were considered talismans against infection and evil spirits. It is reproduced in E. Black, 'A sesquicentennial celebration: art from the Queen's University collection', exh. cat., Belfast 1995, no. 79.

There is a version in the collection of the Alfred East Art Gallery, Kettering. https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/portrait-of-a-child-46127

Another version was sold by Sotheby's, ‘Two Great Scottish Collections: property from the Forbeses of Pitsligo and the Marquesses of Lothian’ sale, 28 March 2017, lot 457. According to the sale catalogue, the 18th-century Newbattle Abbey inventory identified the sitter as Jeffrey Hudson, the court dwarf to Charles I and Henrietta Maria. Sotheby’s listed it as a copy with variations after the work in the collection of Queen’s University, Belfast, which is the subject of this discussion. https://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2017/two-great-scottish-collections-l17317/lot.457.html

There is a fourth version in private ownership, although the owner has no information on the provenance. Photo courtesy of the owner. https://d3d00swyhr67nd.cloudfront.net/_source/20191115-203639.jpg

Liz May, Entry reviewed by Art UK

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63 comments

The Dutch and Flemish portraiture tradition to which this picture belongs was the topic of a millennium exhibition, ‘Pride and Joy: Children's Portraits in The Netherlands 1500–1700’, Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem (2000) and Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp (2001). Images of all 85 paintings in the exhibition are reproduced on Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pride_and_Joy:_Children's_Portraits_in_The_Netherlands_1500-1700

A 2012 Art UK story by Alice Soulieux-Evans gives some historical context.
https://artuk.org/discover/stories/children-in-seventeenth-century-dutch-art-portrait-of-a-girl-aged-one-with-a-basket-of-strawberries

Jacinto Regalado,

It looks much more like a child than a dwarf, and the turban-like headdress with a feather seems rather exotic--perhaps eastern European?

Jacinto Regalado,

As to male vs. female, it could be either; the dress does not help in this context. The crown motif certainly suggests a royal child, as anything less would would probably be considered presumptuous.

Cherry Ann Knott,

Thanks to others for some interesting links!
Something a bit odd about this child – head quite large and arms seem short . . .

Elisabeth Lee,

This might be one of the sons of Sigismund III of Sweden and Poland. It is similar to a portraits of his daughter Anna Maria and son Wladyslaw 1596

Al Brown,

The presence of so many versions in UK collections would indicate the sitter was British - or at least thought to be so - unless a non-British infant linked to this country in some way.

A narrowing of the dating of the original would help: a couple of the records listed above have a narrower dating to late 16thc-early 17thc. But perhaps a continuing tradition of dressing children as here might make this difficult?

Could we perhaps see some details of the crownvand jewel in the headgear (for their exact form), and the coral teething-rattle, belt and pomander -just in case there are some telltale emblematic elements -though that may have been looked at long back. It is certainly very odd there are so many versions but no identity. Who was being flogged around on the royal child marriage market in the 1620s - if that's the date?

Louis Musgrove,

I am looking at the face of this child.And to me it doesn't look like a child- but the face of an adult. As there are several versions of this painting I was wondering if there is a secret to this painting.Has it some secret code? A copy held by people in the " know" ??

Al Brown,

Stating the obvious, the Alfred East Gallery version is clearly different from the others: the absence of the pomander and the child wearing blue. I would suggest from the van Dyckian highlighted shot silk that this could be a later version.

It might also be worth considering the significance of the wreath as far as the gender of the child is concerned. In the 17thc these are more familiar from Brueghel/Seghers paintings of the Virgin where they frame the subjects. In these cases they could be symbolic to fertility - which would suggest the sitter here is a girl.

Liz May,

Interesting that only some of the paintings have the crown motif on the headdress. The versions in the Alfred East Art Gallery, Royal Collection, and the privately owned painting do not have the crown motif. I wonder if the privately owned version and Alfred East version are copies of the Royal Collection version.

Al Brown,

This is an aside but thank you Andrew for the link. Saint-Simon mocked Louis XIV's son for insisting on being called Monseigneur, I suppose in aping the name traditionally accorded a king's eldest brother, Monsieur. This proves it was current a century before his diaries.

Laura Jacobus,

Some thoughts.... To summarise others first, you have a probable copy of a prototype, and there are many others in the UK based on the original, suggesting that it was probably a royal or close-to-royal child with British connections. Scottish seems most likely, given the provenances of some, and the fact that it doesn't correspond with any known English royal child. I agree that the garland of flowers means it's probably a girl. Quality is hard to assess from these reproductions, but in general the higher the quality the greater the chance of it being the prototype. The setting is workaday, whereas the prototype would have had grander surroundings (curtains, carpet, balustrade, furniture or whatever).There's the possibility of such surroundings being present but overpainted in yours or one of the other copies, but it seems unlikely since the plain background and tiled floor appear fairly early on in the sequence of surviving copies (they're quicker and cheaper to reproduce than a fully realised background). A costume historian could probably help out here (I'm not one), but from limited knowledge I'd suggest that the tight-fitting and dagged sleeves would make it firmly 16thC or very early 17thC as they'd have been going out of fashion. The gems and embroidery borders might also suggest an earlier sort of date. The interlace borders on some versions seem very late-Elizabethan or Jacobean. The fur trimmings on yours look like ermine (so royal/aristocratic sitter again, as lesser ranks wouldn't be allowed to wear it). The headress is a mystery to me- I can see why Jacinto was wondering about Eastern Europe, and the Queen's Collection once labelled its version as 'One of the Children of the Queen of Bohemia', though that might be coincidence. Height of waistline may also help to date it, but I'm not sure how!

Queen of Bohemia was the title assumed by Elizabeth Stuart (1596–1662), eldest daughter of James I (and VI of Scotland) and Anne of Denmark, when her husband, Frederick V, Count Palatine of the Rhine, was crowned King of Bohemia in Prague in 1619. Thirteen children are recorded, born between 1614 and 1632.

The website of Royal Museums Greenwich has this account of 'The Winter Queen'.
https://www.rmg.co.uk/discover/explore/elizabeth-stuart-bohemia-winter-queen

George Robartes,

The future James 6 of Scotland 1st of England before he reached breeching age . Ugly kid became ugly gay king .

Responding to Cherry Ann (24/11/2019) the head is large and the arms relatively short because this portrait depicts an infant. In the late 16th and early 17th century very young children were portrayed in formal clothing and standing up by themselves.

There are similarly dressed images of James VI/I as an infant but the likeness is not convincing, or for his daughter. Though no more than personal view (and not intending to start another divetrsion) it looks more Tudor than Stuart.

Al Brown,

So who are the candidates - assuming the child is British, female and royal?

Of James VI & 1's female issue only Elizabeth (b.1596) survived infancy. Two other daughters reached the age of around 2: Mary and Margaret, I doubt either would have been commemorated with so many portraits. The expectation would have rested therefore on Elizabeth and, I suppose, there would have been particular affection for her as the only surviving daughter.

Are there any appropriate Tudor children after Henry VIII?

Jacinto Regalado,

I suppose the most plausible attribution is "Dutch/Flemish School," since there were many Dutch and Flemish artists painting comparable portraits of children in the 17th century.

Al Brown,

It may be useful to investigate how so many versions were produced.

The preponderance of those in red suggests these were copies of an original with that colour - perhaps reproduced for diplomatic of other reasons. Which might indicate the two in green and blue came from a source where a colour was not indicated, ie a print. Andrew's suggestion above is one example of the type but is not close enough.

John Kennedy,

The picture in private hands (owned by a friend of mine) has been entered into The Adam Partridge Auction on 12th December,

I have attcahed a clearer photo. The quality of the gown in rich silk indicates an aristicratic connection and the overall presentation is very similar to the Duke of York at Inverness Art Gallery.
The motif on the headdress does not look like a crown. Can anyone identify it now that it is clearer?

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Monique Van Bolhuis/Heffelaar,

Looks likes this painting:
Spanish School, 17th Century
Portrait of Philip IV of Spain as a child, full-length; and Portrait of Anne of Austria as a child, full-length
the former bears inscription 'Don Felipe 4. Principe/ De spanaña, ano. 1608./etatis. 4,' (upper left) and the latter bears inscription 'Dona *** mauricia de Austria/ infanta maior Despaña, ano, 1608/ Etatis, 7' (upper left)
a pair, oil on canvas
106.5 x 57.5cm (41 15/16 x 22 5/8in).(2)
Footnotes
The portrait of Anne of Austria as Infanta of Spain is loosely based on the same figure in the double portrait of her and her younger brother by Pantoja de la Cruz (1554-1608) of 1607 now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.

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Liz Sitton,

The horizontal row of the lace collar almost looks like possible lettering?

Osmund Bullock,

I'm afraid it's much too early for James Edward Stuart, Angus. To be the Old Pretender as a very young child, it would have to date from c.1690 - I don't think our portrait can be any later than the 1620s at the outside, and is more likely to date from the 1590s-1610s.

Angus Milner-Brown,

Fair comment Osmund, although I think there is a strong possibility this is one of the Stuart family. There is quite a well known portrait of Charles II in a similar 'dress' and holding a rattle. Apparently a common theme it seems and the face is consistent with a number of Stuart children

Kath COOK,

Some years ago I bought a similar picture at auction (see attached image). Neither the auctioneeror the previous owner knew any details or provenance. It was suggested by the auctioneer it could be a boy. My picture has a teething rattle in his left hand and a ring of roses in his right. Any information would be very welcome.

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Osmund Bullock,

Astonishing - that makes no less than eight versions so far.

Andrew Barnes,

I have been fortunate to see Kath Cooks painting first hand. It needs a good clean but a good deal of detail can be picked out by 'zooming' in on the photo thats been uploaded. In many detail aspects it seems to be very close to the Alfred East Gallery version, although I can only find the small image of that posted earlier in this discussion thread. A visit to the Gallery for closer comparison might be well worthwhile.

Al Brown,

As the provenance reveals, this last version is the restore Heinz version that passed through Christies - mentioned earlier

E Jones,

Every year, the President of Queens College, Belfast wrote an annual report to Parliament. It presented the progress of the college during the previous academic year. In some of the reports, included in the Appendix is a a small section titled "Benefactors of Queens College, Belfast since it's foundation in 1845". The list includes all subscriptions, gifts of sculptures, paintings. This part is included in most, but not all of the annual reports.
 
Having cross-referenced the (1909) list of paintings, with the collection on ArtUK , the information still seems surprisingly accurate. 
The entry with regards to the portrait in discussion states:
 
1855 - Presented by Robert Lynn Esq., London, an oil portrait of James the First of England when a child, an oil painting of Johannes Carolus and an oil painting of John Milton.

John Milton. 
https://www.artuk.org/discover/artworks/pastor-johannes-carolus-15751634-168920/view_as/grid/search/keyword:johannes-carolus/page/1

Johannes Carolus
https://www.artuk.org/discover/artworks/john-milton-16081674-168921/view_as/grid/search/keyword:milton--venue:queens-university-belfast-6816/page/1

All three of these paintings are in the University and on ArtUK, and All three have the information on ArtUK of “Gift 1855”. Although, It does look like though there may have been a slight mix-up on ArtUK with regards to these two paintings:
The information for ‘John Milton’ is attached to the image of ‘Johannes Carolus’.
The information for ‘Johannes Carolus’’ is also attached to the image of ‘John Milton’.
 
From 1855, when it was given to the College, until at least 1909 the
‘Portrait of a Boy, Perhaps a Prince’ was known as ‘Portrait of James the First as a Child’.

I’ve wondered for a while, if the crown look similar enough to the crown of James the First, which was used in his personal heraldic badge and that can also be seen on the illuminated portrait of King Charles the First from the initial membrane of the Coram Regis Rolls for 1643 (in the National Archives).

Although, If this was a portrait of James the first/sixth as a child, and given his circumstances, would it not be more likely that he would be wearing a crown of Scotland rather than the crown of England? Unless of course it was added at a later point.

The crown of Scotland has been in it’s current form since 1540 and can be seen on the back of the 5p piece, above the thistle.

Even though it claims to be James I, I can’t help thinking that it feels a little later than that it would more like be an image of Charles I as a child perhaps rather than James I. There is also a greater facial similarity with Charles I. Just a thought.


I’m also wondering whether the roses in the painting are that of a variety of old rose that was cultivated to represent the unity of the House of York, and the House of Lancaster. The York and Lancaster rose was a hybrid and double layered rose. (Rosa Versicolor). They were varied in colour, from blush to mottled to striped. Essentially a damask rose that showed both colours.



In 1629 ‘Paradisi Sole Paradisus Terestris’, the botanist John Partington wrote:

“Rosa Versicolor. The party coloured Rose, of some Yorke and Lancaster.

This Rose in the forme and order of the growing, is neerest unto the ordinary damaske rose, both for stemme, branch, leafe and flower: the difference consisting in this, that the flower (being of the same largenesse and doublenesse as the damaske rose) hath the one half of it, sometimes of a pale whitish colour, and the other halfe, of a paler damaske colour then the ordinary; this happeneth so many times, and sometimes also the flower hath diuerse stripes, and marks in it, as one leafe white, or striped with white, and other half blush, or striped with blush, sometimes also all striped, or spotted ouer, and other times little or no stripes or markes at all, as nature listeth to play with varieties, in this as in other flowers: yet this I haue obserued, that the longer it abideth blowen open in the sun, the paler and the fewer stripes, markes or spots will be seen in it: the smell whereof is of a weake damaske rose sent.”

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E Jones,

I realise that the list states that Robert H. Lynn is from London, but according to Griffith’s Valuation for Ireland, the Lynn family owned a fair amount of Land in the Area. There were a number of individuals with the surname Lynn that studied in Queen’s College.

William Henry Lynn (the well known architect), whilst articled to Charles Lanyon was also responsible for preparing the drawings for the original building for the college in the late 1840’s. He was also the brother of Samuel Ferris Lynn RA who created a bust of the former President of Queen's College, Belfast. The Rev. P. Shuldham Henry, D.D. This is also in the possession of the College.

E Jones,

Sorry for the length... It really didn't look half as long as this in word.

Jacinto Regalado,

If it is James, the date is c. 1570 and the painter would be someone then active in Scotland, like Arnold Bronckorst, who is known to have painted James as a boy:

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/33/James_VI_as_a_boy_{LPARENTHESES} Arnold_Bronckorst).jpg

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arnold_Bronckorst#/media/File:King_James_I_of_England_and_VI_of_Scotland_by_Arnold_van_Brounckhorst.jpg

If it is his son Charles, the date is c. 1605 and there are more possible painters, one of Dutch origin being more probable,

Jacinto Regalado,

If it is Charles, possibilities include Paulus van Somer, Gheeraerts the Younger and John de Critz (who were all Flemish, and I should have said Flemish instead of Dutch in my prior comment).

It should be clear that the original picture may be lost or untraced, and that all known versions are copies.

Jacinto Regalado,

Here's a 1608 child's portrait by Gheeraerts the Younger:

https://www.artuk.org/discover/artworks/a-boy-aged-two-54720/search/makers:marcus-gheeraerts-the-younger-1561156216351636/page/2

Here's a 1611 portrait attributed to van Somer:

https://www.artuk.org/discover/artworks/a-child-with-a-rattle-38843/view_as/grid/search/makers:paulus-van-somer-i-15761621/page/1

Our picture seems relatively simpler, less sophisticated and older, possibly related to a more provincial court setting.

Mark Wilson,

If the original picture (possibly the QUB one, but more likely lost) is from c 1600, then rather than Charles (b 1600) it is more likely to be of Prince Henry:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Frederick,_Prince_of_Wales
who was heir to the Scottish throne from his birth in 1594 till his death in 1612 (and to the English one from 1603). He seems to spent his short life being pictured with a frequency that a Facebooking new parent or Instgramming teen would find a bit over the top:
https://www.google.com/search?q=Henry+Frederick,+Prince+of+Wales&rlz=1C1GGGE_en-gbIM442IM448&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjXiLabnvznAhVF_KQKHccCBh4Q_AUoAXoECBsQAw&biw=1217&bih=920
So numerous paintings of him as an infant would only be expected. Charles on the other hand was only the 'spare' and got a fraction of the attention of his golden brother.

That said I would think that if there is a royal and Scottish connection (and the distribution of the copies hints at that) then James VI at the age of about 2 or even less is more likely. After all he had ascended the throne at 13 months and you have to ask where the earliest royal portraits were that people would show their loyalty to James (rather than his mother) with. If it is James it would be from 1568 or so, so Bronckorst might be possible, especially given the c 1574 portrait already referenced by Jacinto:
https://www.nationalgalleries.org/art-and-artists/2853/james-vi-and-i-1566-1625-king-scotland-1567-1625-king-england-and-ireland-1603-1625-boy
and the lack of anything much showing him younger than that. If Bronckorst went to Scotland with Cornelius de Vos prospecting for gold the 1668 date might be possible.

Jacinto Regalado,

Bronckorst was certainly active in Scotland in the 1570s, and one of his portraits of James VI is dated to 1574, but he may not have been there early enough to paint James at the age of the child in our picture (according to a 1619 account, he arrived in Scotland during the regency of the 4th Earl of Morton, which began in 1572).

Jacinto Regalado,

If this is a royal Stuart child, it seems more likely to have been painted in Scotland than in London, which would tend to favor James VI or his son Henry, although a very young Charles is not out of the question.

Early portraits of James suggest he had a rounder, fuller face than either of his sons as children, whose faces seem longer and narrower. This is hardly conclusive, but James may be the most plausible.

Mark Wilson,

I suspect the Charles suggestion may have come about because of the Inverness version:

https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/the-duke-of-york-as-an-infant-166052

which is has "The Duke of York" painted on it. But that can't be contemporaneous because Charles wasn't made Duke of York till 1605:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duke_of_York#Fourth_creation,_1605

when he would have been 5 and too old for this portrait, and the title was dropped after he became Prince of Wales in 1616. So the inscription was probably added later, as it isn't on the other examples, when the exact identity had been lost or maybe to make it more notable as pictures of the young Charles were so much rarer than of Henry. It came to Inverness through the Stuart collector Prince Frederick Duleep Singh.

As Jacinto says it doesn't look much like the young Charles or indeed Henry, though you can never tell with babies or British School-type portraits. It does have that earlier feel as well.

I'm delighted to see interest sparked by a feature on this discussion in the 21 December 2019 edition of the Antiques Trade Gazette. A letter to the editor appears with the lovely heading 'Kind fairies fly in to bring a portrait puzzle'. https://bit.ly/2YGlKXU

Their reader suggests that the QUB portrait may have been cut down, and that the child's may have had a significant (and not entirely successful) makeover.

Please support your comments with evidence or arguments.

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