Continental European before 1800, Portraits: British 16th and 17th C 35 Who painted this portrait of George Villiers (1592–1628)?

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Topic: Artist

This portrait of the Duke of Buckingham at Gainsborough Old Hall is by an unknown artist – do you have any ideas as to who painted it?

35 comments

Jacinto Regalado,

It is reminiscent of the work of Miereveld, who is known to have painted this sitter, but probably not actually by him.

Grant Turner,

This bears striking similarities with well known portraits of the young King Charles I by Dutch painter Daniël Mijtens (Anglicised name Daniel Mytens) and I think this is probably by him.

Simon Gillespie,

I would say Mytens as well. It has suffered a little where some of the half tones/ glazes have been abraded thus it lacks that typical 3d and dark shadowy affect that Mytens is so good at. it compares well with many of the heads in the above collection.

Christopher Foley,

This seems to be a head and shoulders reduction depending from the half-length portrait of Buckingham wearing the Garter from the Earl of Clarendon Collection, which was engraved for Lodge's Portraits (1833):

http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details/collection_image_gallery.aspx?assetId=1590361001&objectId=3610489&partId=1

The Clarendon portrait was said to be by [Cornelius} Johnson on the engraving. I have only seen the engraving, not the actual painting, but that attribution seems doubtful if only because Johnson so seldom painted on that scale. Robin Gibson's 1977 (PMF Yale) catalogue of the Clarendon pictures is an exemplary scholarly guide to the vicissitudes of that splendid collection, now much dispersed.

Lincoln's picture also relates to the portrait engraved by Morconet in 1657, though the treatment of the costume is different;

http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw130578/George-Villiers-1st-Duke-of-Buckingham?LinkID=mp00614&search=sas&sText=george+villiers&role=sit&rNo=16

I collected as many fully documented or signed pictures by Mytens as I could find when working on his biography for the Dictionary of Art, and would have strong reservations as accepting this as an autograph work by analogy with those. My best guess is that this is by an anonymous, albeit skillful, British artist working in the early-to-mid 1620's and deriving his composition from another, better known, artist rather than an ad-vivum sitting. The museum should certainly be encouraged to have it cleaned and restored.

Simon Gillespie,

Chris
Did Mytens ever paint with within an oval? I don't remember. Although the oval is very circular and unlike one of Johnsons more oval-shape, it could have been influenced by Johnson. The collar is also very formulaic like Johnson. I agree it does look like another , and good,hand copying the style of both these artists.
It would be very interesting to see post restoration as to how the the three dimensions work.

Christopher Foley,

Simon, never say never, but I cannot immediately recall an undoubted Mytens in a painted oval. Painted ovals are very much a Johnson hallmark, but as you say this seems almost circular, and the tonality of the picture looks very warm for him. Could the museum say whether the shape and proportions of the image are correct, and is it this warm in tone ? If the oval were more elongated and the tonality much cooler, then an artist close to Johnson would fit much better. The painting Jacinto points out is of very similar date (from the costume (esp. the ruff) but the sitter seems much more youthful than in the Lincoln picture - but he is (correctly) wearing the garter which Buckingham received in 1616 aged 24 for, ahem, egregious service to King James.

Kieran Owens,

Of all of the available images of George Villiers to be found online, this head and shoulders painting is most similar in its composition to the 1825 engraving of him from the original by Cornelius Jansen, which was then in the collection of the Earl of Clarenden. Lady Teresa Lewis describes that Jansen portrait in detail on page 294 of her "Lives of the Friends and Contemporaries of Lord Chancellor Clarendon: Illustrative of Portraits in His Gallery - Volume III" (John Murray, 1852). The oval portrait being considered here could, therefore, be by or after Jansen.

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Christopher Foley,

The 1825/1852 image Kieran reproduces is in fact taken from the same ex-Clarendon picture as that engraved in Lodge (1833), but excludes everything but the head and shoulders.

Thank you to the Museum for the size of the picture. I am not clear whether this is the 'sight' size (ie what is visible in the frame) or the 'panel' size, which is inclusive of the rebate. From 1619-1621/2, Johnson painted quite a number of pictures for the Temple family, his earliest patrons, which are typically panel size 26 x 20, with minor variations.The Lincoln picture is given as 23 1/4 x 19 inches. If this were a sight size, it would bring it close to Johnson's standard size in his early years (most of his later pictures post 1625 are 30 x 25 inches)

So, if (a) the picture is cooler in tone and (b) the panel size is closer to Johnson's standard, than that would be a useful pointer towards Johnson as at least the source of the composition, and just possibly to his authorship.

In truth, Johnson's technique, especially in the early years, is highly idiosyncratic and easily recognisable. With only this JPEG to go on, I suspect it will not be possible to take this further without inspection 'in the flesh', preferably after cleaning and conservation.
.

Jacinto Regalado,

Even if the tonality is too warm for Johnson, that does not preclude this picture being after Johnson by a different hand, who could have preferred warmer coloring (and the same goes for the type of oval chosen by the actual executor of this work). The image is clearly very similar to that of the engraving noted above after the Johnson picture formerly in the Clarendon collection (although Mytens, or rather after Mytens, is still plausible). Here's a different engraving from 1839 after the Clarendon Johnson portrait of Villiers:

http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details/collection_image_gallery.aspx?assetId=1590345001&objectId=3610476&partId=1

Kieran Owens,

See the attached file below for the description of the Villiers portrait by Cornelius Jansen in the Clarendon collection, as mentioned by Lady Teresa Lewis on page 294 of her above-cited "Lives of the Friends and Contemporaries of Lord Chancellor Clarendon....". It matches the British Museum engraving as linked to by Jacinto Regalado above, but not the clean-shaven portrait that he referenced here:

https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/george-villiers-15921628-1st-duke-of-buckingham-80501/view_as/grid/search/keyword:george-villiers/page/1

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Kieran Owens,

For additional comparison, attached is a composite of the two engravings of the Jansen portrait from the Clarendon collection, the left hand side one, from the Royal Armouries collection, having been executed in 1825 and the right hand side one, from the British Museum collection, in 1839. The similarities to the Gainsborough Old Hall portrait are obvious, and one must conclude that it is either by Cornelius Jansen or is copied from his original work. A comparison with others of his oval style of painting might produce further evidence of its creation.

https://royalarmouries.org/visit-us/tower-of-london/things-to-see/line-of-kings-explore/line-of-kings-figures-of-the-line/single-object/295

Grant Turner,

Very interesting comments about the oval shape and the similarity with the Clarendon engravings and clearly this needs more investigation.

Just returning to the Mytens theory for a moment; there is another painting of the same subject wearing identical gold doublet and lace ruff as in the Gainsborough Old Hall painting, even down to the detail on the edge of the ruff. It is attributed to Gerrit van Honthorst who was a rival of Mytens. The style is quite different in each but the well known rivalry between these artists may provide a clue seeing that the dress is identical. Does knowing the identity of the one point to the identity of the other in this case?

Here is a link to an image of the Honthorst painting:

http://www.artnet.com/artists/gerrit-van-honthorst/portrait-of-georges-villiers-duke-of-buckingham-9AUkZE7UrvD4ItuVvKW9eQ2

Osmund Bullock,

Grant, although your painting is clearly after the same original as ours is - a long way after, perhaps even via a print - the attribution to van Honthurst is, as Jacinto says, wildly optimistic. It's the Artnet website that's at fault: the portrait you link to went through Christie's in 2004 (see http://bit.ly/2fAcqgh ), and was actually catalogued as "Follower of Gerrit van Honthorst", which means very little at all, and certainly not that they thought it had anything to do with him! Having said that, van Honthurst did work in the oval format.

Re the Clarendon portrait, Villiers's entry in the DNB says that what is presumably the same portrait is (or was) at the Palace of Westminster, "on loan from Clarendon collection" - its attribution is very uncertain, described only as "c.1623 (after B.Gerbier?)". I don't think it's in the Parliamentary Art Collection on ArtUK, however; and though Balthazar Gerbier was closely linked to Buckingham, being employed by him as a factotum, agent, and keeper of his pictures, I thought he only painted portrait miniatures.

Bruce Trewin,

Mytens did a portrait of the Duke of Buckingham c. 1620-1622 (https://www.royalcollection.org.uk/egallery/object.asp?maker=12289&object=403370&row=0)

now in the Royal Collection . It bears no resemblance to the Lincoln portrait, which is much closer to the School of Mytens portrait at Greenwich (originally attributed to Van Dyck!). Assuming the Royal Collection's Villiers to be correct, this one cannot (in my opinion) be a Mytens.

Adam Wahby,

Perhaps this view may be a little 'left field' but in its resemblance to Mytens, although not of his abilities, this portrait may be by George Geldorp. In style, although the oval format is uncommon, and given the social milieu that Geldorp moved in, it's not inconceivable that it may be attributable to this early 17th C 'jack of all trades'.

Jacinto Regalado,

Whatever the final attribution turns out to be for this picture, it really should be restored and preferably cleaned as well. Even if it is by a "follower of" or "circle of," at least the face is rather well done--much better than the Artnet picture by a "follower of Honthorst" linked and discussed above, which scarcely merits exhibition.

Valerie Munt,

What about Van Dyke? He was invited to England by George Villiers 1st Duke of Buckingham to the English court.

See: Ellis Waterhouse, Painting in Britain, 1530-1790, 4th Edn, 1978, pp. 70-77, Penguin Books, (Yale History of Art series)

Oliver Lane,

What do we know of the history of this painting?
Gainsborough Old Hall was given to the nation in 1970 by Sir Edmund Bacon, whose ancestors included the Jacobean amateur artist Sir Nathaniel Bacon, though I understand that in the seventeenth century the Hall was owned the Hickman family, also ancestors of Sir Edmund.

Terry Ernest,

Wildcard !... could it be that the portrait by Frans Hal's
"laughing Cavalier" is George Villiers too ...?

Osmund Bullock,

Re Balthazar Gerbier, Artnet is no authority, Jacinto, and I would take the attributions with a pinch of salt – it's just a list of works at auction with artists’ names as given by various auctioneers (and Artnet even gets that wrong sometimes, as I mention above re van Honthorst). Gerbier’s extensive DNB entry doesn't mention work in oils; and in 2012 the independent scholar Paula Woods (who'd been researching him for 15 years), wrote: "... while various portraits in oils have been attributed to him, none of the attributions seems very convincing ... the works definitely attributable to Gerbier all appear to be either painted miniatures or drawings, signed by him, and consistent in style." See https://balthazargerbier.info/

It’s possible he did some oils, but no solid evidence of it has yet emerged. Of the many entries on Artnet, just two that I can track down were given to him without qualification: (1) a pair of portraits of the Earl & Countess of Denbigh with (?)C19th inscriptions (not signatures) stating ‘Gerbier pinxt’: http://bit.ly/2wy7zmw . The Countess was Villiers’s brother, and the poor proportions of the Earl’s figure might point to an untrained gentleman amateur like Gerbier. (2) An unidentified gentleman at Sothebys – a superior work to the last two, but on what authority it is given to Gerbier is unknown: http://bit.ly/2xiI0W4

There is a common Villiers portrait type often attributed to Gerbier, though usually as 'Follower of', 'Circle of', 'After', etc. (see attachments). This is not unlike ours in pose, but with quite different clothing, etc - in fact it's clear that most or all of these are reduced copies of the full-length Mytens at the NMM.

Jacinto Regalado,

For what it's worth, there are two Gerbier works on ArtUK, neither of which is a miniature, but I suppose they could be misattributed.

Marcie Doran,

Is it possible that this work is by the Dutch artist Jan Anthonisz. van Ravesteyn (c. 1570-1657)? His works on Art UK are at this link https://tinyurl.com/pj95ad8u.

My first composite is based on “Portrait of Albert, Count of Nassau-Dillenburg” by Jan Antonisz van Ravesteyn (workshop of), 1622, at the Rijksmuseum. https://tinyurl.com/2ewuwxbs

Another painting of Villiers is in the second composite - “Portrait of George Villiers, 1. Duke of Buckingham (1592–1628)”, circa 1618, attributed to Jan Antonisz van Ravesteyn on the Koller auctions website. https://tinyurl.com/u8nakav5

Christopher Foley,

It is worth mentioning that there were a large number of portraits (including several signed by Cornelius Johnson) sold from the collection of Mr Speaker Lenthall's collection at Burford Priory by Christies on July 13th 1833. Lot 18 was "George Villiers Duke of Buckingham", but no size is given and the picture is unattributed. There was a further portrait of the same sitter (lot 34) attributed to [Paul] van Somer. It must be said that Christies' attributions at this date were highly erratic and speculative, and not to be relied upon. For instance, his portrait of Lady Temple (lot 30) is said to be by "Myttens" (sic), even though it is clearly signed and dated 1619 by Cornelius Johnson.

I mention this group because many of the Burford pictures were identified in the lower left corner in an early 18th century hand with the names of the sitters. Again, the identifications, done a century post-facto by - or at least ordered by - a member of the Lenthall family, are demonstrable inaccurate. Examples are the so-called "Gustavus Hamilton" and "Lady Arundel" which are by Johnson but not of the sitters inscribed on the panels. The pigment used in these Burford pictures was an ochre of similar tone to that on Gainsborough Old Hall's painting. Other paintings from Burford, not by Cornelius Johnson, are also identified with this style of inscription. It must be said that the fonts used on "Buckingham" is slightly different from that on some of the other pictures mentioned above.

It's a long shot, but even so, it might be worth investigating whether GOH's picture was one and the same as the Burford picture sold in 1833.

In case anyone wants to follow this up, the Christie catalogue can be found here:

https://www.google.co.uk/books/edition/A_Catalogue_of_the_Valuable_and_Highly_I/NTtbAAAAQAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&pg=GBS.PA46&printsec=frontcover

The Johnson portrait of Lady Temple aged 52, showing the "Burford" ochre inscription, is attached.

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I concur with Christopher Foley’s contribution of 28 September 2017, made on the second day of this discussion:

“My best guess is that this is by an anonymous, albeit skillful, British artist working in the early-to-mid 1620's and deriving his composition from another, better known, artist rather than an ad-vivum sitting.”

The style does not match that of any of the artists brought up in the course of this discussion. I suggest that the present attribution “Unknown artist” should be maintained. But coming more than four years after the beginning of this discussion, my contribution does not raise anything new.

Jacinto Regalado,

For search purposes, I would suggest British School.

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