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