1593 – 1661
Maria de Fraeye (1605 – 1682)
Oil on panel: 31 1/2 x 25 1/16 inches, 78.7 x 62.7 cm
- Cowdray Park, Sussex,
- thence by descent to Michael Orlando Weetman Pearson, 4th Viscount Cowdray (b.1944).
This elegant pair of portraits is a testament to the fusion of Dutch and English artistic taste in a golden age of northern European portraiture. Painted in 1634 at the apogee of the Anglo-Dutch artist Cornelius Johnson’s English career, the quality and characterisation of the portraits mark them as among the finest examples of his work. His subtle use of softly blended sfumato brush-work gives the paintings an almost translucent surface, and the faces a vivid realism. As seen most notably in the portrait of Willem Thielen, Johnson is capable of masterfully achieving an almost porcelain-like finish for his works on panel. The sitters very probably knew Johnson personally, and like the artist, were prominent members of the immigrant Dutch community in London. Willem Thielen was the Reverend Minister of the Reformed Dutch Church in Austin Frairs between 1624 and 1638, and it can be assumed that Johnson, his contemporary by three years, was a parishioner there; Johnson was certainly baptized at the church on 14 October 1593. The original church was an Augustine monastic foundation established in 1550 when King Edward VI gave Protestant refugees from the Netherlands permission to establish their own parish. As such it was the oldest Dutch-language Protestant church in the world. Willem Thielen was the son of Joachim Cornelisz. Thielen and Josina Willemsdr. Haack. In 1623 he was a minister at Grijpskerke and from 1624 onwards in London. He married Maria de Fraeye, daughter of Jan de Fraeye and Maria Radermacher, in Middelburg in November 1625.
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