British School 17th century, attributed to Mary Beale

Portrait of Robert Colman

c.1690

Artists
British School 17th century 1600–1699
Attributed to Mary Beale 1633–1699
Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 762 x 635 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by Mrs Gilbert Cousland to celebrate the Tate Gallery Centenary 1997
Reference
T07240

Not on display

Summary

This work, together with portraits thought to depict the sitter's wife Dionesse and his kinsman Richard Colman (Tate T07241 and TO7113), comes from a group of family pictures which were formerly at Brent Eleigh Hall, near Sudbury in Suffolk. The antiquarian Rev. Edmund Farrer viewed the collection in 1903, shortly before it was partially dispersed.

Farrer identified the sitter as Robert Colman (1655 or 6-1730), the son of Robert Colman and his wife Elizabeth, daughter and co-heiress of Robert Mott of Colchester in Essex (G. Gery Milner-Gibson, Genealogical Notes Relating to the Family of Cullum, London 1928, p.20). Robert married his cousin Dionesse Cullum, probably only a few months before her death in 1697. An outdoor altar-tomb against the south wall of St Mary's church at Brent Eleigh formerly bore on its top surface an inscription giving the dates of her death, and that of the sitter 33 years later at the age of 74. His will (proved 30 May 1730) described him as 'Robert Colman gent, of Furnivalls Inn, London.'

A mid-twentieth-century attribution to the painter Mary Beale (1633-99) is not borne out by the handling of this work. The sitter's attire, notably the knotted neck cloth, is datable to around 1690.

Further Reading

Rev. Edmund Farrer, Portraits in Suffolk Houses (West), London 1908, p.46, no. 9

Karen Hearn
February 2001

Technique and condition

The support is a piece of plain-woven, linen canvas, which has a modern lining of linen canvas and paste with a beeswax barrier on the back. The pine stretcher is also modern. There is pronounced cusping in the canvas weave along the top edge of the original, but none on its other sides.

The canvas has a reddish brown ground, which is now visible through the harsh abrasion that has occurred in all the dark areas of the painting, that is the background and most of the costume and wig. The face is relatively intact, painted in warm, dense tones, with were worked into one another on the primed canvas with soft brushes.

A couple of old tears in the right background have been restored. The varnish is a modern synthetic resin with an addition of wax, probably microcrystalline. On arrival at the Tate, the painting was surface cleaned to remove loose grey dust. A thin layer of MS2A with a small addition of Tinuvin was brushed on over the matt varnish to liven the surface a little.

Rica Jones
December 2000

Catalogue entry

British School 17th Century

Portrait of Robert Colman
c.1690
Oil on canvas
650 x 530 mm
Presented anonymously 1996 to celebrate the Tate Gallery Centenary 1997
T07240

Ownership history
By descent, at Brent Eleigh Hall, Suffolk, in the Colman, Goate and Brown families, until presented to Tate in 1996.

References
Rev. Edmund Farrer, Portraits in Suffolk Houses (West), London 1908, p.46, no.9; Tate Report 1996–98, 1998, p.50 (as ‘attributed to Mary Beale’).

This work, together with portraits thought to depict the sitter’s wife Dionesse and his kinsman Richard Colman (now Tate T07241 and T07113) is from a group of family portraits formerly at Brent Eleigh Hall, near Sudbury in Suffolk. An attribution to the Suffolk-born, London-based artist Mary Beale (1633–1699) has been suggested, but the style of handling is not sufficiently close to be convincing.1

The sitter was identified by the antiquarian Rev. Edmund Farrer as Robert Colman (1655/6–1730) who married a cousin, Dionesse Cullum, probably only a few months before her death in 1697. An outdoor altar-tomb against the south wall of St Mary’s church at Brent Eleigh formerly bore on its top surface an inscription giving the dates of her death, and that of her husband thirty-three years later at the age of seventy-four.2 He was the son of Robert Colman and his wife Elizabeth, daughter and co-heiress of Robert Mott of Colchester in Essex.3 The sitter’s attire, in particular the knotted neck cloth, dates from around 1690.

Robert’s will (proved 30 May 1730) described him as ‘Robert Colman gent, of Furnivalls Inn, London’.

Karen Hearn
May 2006

Notes

1 Richard Jefree, personal communication with Karen Hearn.
2 G. Gery Milner-Gibson, Genealogical Notes Relating to the Family of Cullum, London 1928, p.20.
3 Ibid.

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