Portrait of a Gentleman, traditionally called Andrew Marvell (1621-1678), wearing a olive green coat with a white lawn chemise and a black sash, pale blue background, his hair worn long

GBP 6,850.00

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Object Description

Oil on metal, silver-gilt frame.

Despite its illustrious provenance, doubt has been cast over the identification of this portrait as the Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth, Andrew Marvell. Aubrey described Marvell as ‘of a middling stature, pretty strong sett, roundish faced, cheery-cheek’t, hazell eie, browne hair’ – certainly a man with darker colouring to the face in the current portrait.[1] This physical description by Aubrey can also be matched to the portrait in the National Portrait Gallery, London, showing the poet circa 1655-60 (NPG 554), which descended through the family until it was gifted to the British Museum in the eighteenth century.

Although the sitter here must therefore lose his accepted identity, the portrait certainly represents a young man of the Commonwealth period. The lawn collar, the ties terminating in tassels, is typical of the period. The black sash is more unusual, and this combined with his green coat, embroidered with gold thread, suggests that he may have been a man of high office in Cromwell’s Protectorate government. The expensive black sash was a typical garment for Dutch sitters at this time, and combined with the style of the painting, which suggests a Dutch artist, the sitter may have been in the retinue of Walter Strickland (?1598-1671) and Oliver St John (1598-1673) who represented the interests of Cromwell’s government in the Netherlands. As this was a dangerous posting (most of the Dutch supported the Royalists), the salary was high.

Propert, a previous owner of this work, was a highly successful physician who ran a general practise in New Cavendish Street, London. A connoisseur of the arts, he was also a respected amateur etcher and painter, exhibiting at the Royal Academy between 1870 and 1882.

[1] Aubrey, Brief Lives (ed. Clark, 1898), vol. II, p. 53.

Object History

Provenance: John Lumsden Propert (1834-1902); Omnes de Nijenrode sale, Nijenrode Castle, 1933, lot 829; Anonymous sale, Christie’s London, 24 May 2000, lot 115; An Exceptional Eye – A Private British Collection, Sotheby’s, 14 July 2010, lot 8; Private Collection, UK.

Exhibited: London, Burlington Fine Arts Club, Exhibition of Portrait Miniatures, 1889, case XXIV, no.19 (as by Mary Beale)

Object Literature

J.L. Propert, A History of Miniature Art, 1887, illust. facing p. 66 (as by Mary Beale); J.J. Foster, Miniature Painters British and Foreign, 1903, vol.I, p. 123; J.J. Foster, Samuel Cooper & English Miniature Painters of the XVII Century, 1914-1916, Supplement, p. 5, no. 10

Object Details

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