Catalogue entry

British School 17th Century

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

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

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


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.