ABOUT 17TH CENTURY PORTRAITURE



The beginning of the seventeenth century was disctinctly marked with a changing of monarchal style from the death of Elizabeth I and the coronation of James VI & I in 1603. Not only did it present the beginning of a new royal dynasty but it also introduced a new  form of intellectualised culture in the royal court. Portraitists such as Robert Peake, John de Critz and Marcus Gheeraerts carried forth the stylised mannering of their sitters that had been fashionable in the late Elizabethan era, whilst the newly arrived wave of Flemish artists, like Paul van Somer and George Geldorp, as well as the English-born William Larkin, characterised the newly installed courtiers in a more naturalistic, though still strictly formal, fashion.


 


The artist Cornelius Johnson, whose paintings line the walls of all the great English country houses, began his working life just as the leading Elizabethan and early Jacobean painters, such as those mentioned above, were at the end of theirs. He was the first British-born artist working 'in large' to sign his paintings as a matter of course, and his sensitive likenesses helped shift portraiture in a direction that Antwerp artist Anthony Van Dyck would ultimately perfect. In 1632, Van Dyck was named as Charles I's 'Principalle Paynter in Ordinary', and ennobled with a knighthood. His prodigious genius ushered in a seismic artistic shift to the status quo. He so brilliantly captured the necessary ingredients of the noble portrait, in pose, gesture, costume and self-assurance, that his influence can be seen ever since. He invented an apparently relaxed image of grandeur, though the quality of the costume depicted remained as critical for his sitters then as for the preceding generations of their families.