Cornelius Johnson

Portrait of an Unknown Gentleman

1629

On display at Tate Britain

Medium
Oil paint on oak
Dimensions
Support: 435 x 318 mm
frame: 565 x 470 x 60 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1965
Reference
T00744

Display caption

This gentleman wears the crimson sash of the Order of the Bath but he has not been identified further. Like its paired portrait nearby, presumably of the sitter’s wife, this one bears Johnson’s monogram ‘C.J.’ and the date 1629. Three years later, Anthony van Dyck settled in Britain: his work was to influence Johnson’s style profoundly. These two earlier portraits, however, demonstrate Johnson’s characteristically intimate and pensive work, combined with the softened, rather brushy, technique of his mid-career.

Gallery label, February 2016

Catalogue entry

Cornelius Johnson 1593–1661

T00744 Portrait of an Unknown Gentleman 1629

Inscr. ‘C. J. fec [. . ?] 1629’ b.r.
Panel, 17 1/16 x 12½ (43.5 x 31.5).
Purchased from the Executors of Captain E. G. Spencer- Churchill (Grant-in-Aid) 1965.
Coll: Thomas Lloyd by 1811; George, 3rd Lord Northwick by 1864; his widow 1887; her grandson, Capt. Spencer-Churchill, 1912; listed in catalogue, Christie’s, 29 October 1965 (31, with no. T00745), but previously sold to the Tate Gallery.
Lit: A Catalogue of the Pictures, Works of Art, etc. at Northwick Park, 1864, reprinted 1908, p. 15, no. 85; T. Borenius and L. Cust, Catalogue of the Collection of Pictures at Northwick Park, 1921, p. 124, no. 314, as of Henry Cary, 1st. Viscount Falkland; A. J. Finberg, ‘A Chronological List of Portraits by Cornelius Johnson, or Jonson’ in Walpole Society, X, 1922, p. 17, no. 39, as ‘Called Lord Falkland’.
Engr: Charles Turner, published by S. Woodburn 1811.

Although traditionally known as a portrait of Lucius Cary, 2nd Viscount Falkland (1610?–1643), and engraved as such in 1811, the figure is shown wearing the crimson sash of the Order of the Bath, of which the 2nd Viscount, unlike his father, was never a member; otherwise both the age and the appearance of the sitter are reconcilable with portraits of Falkland. The sash has been painted over the costume but appears to be original; in any case it is difficult to see why anyone would add the Order of the Bath to a genuine portrait of Falkland. In addition, Falkland did not marry until 1631, and there seems to be no reason to reject the probability that Nos. T00744 and T00745 are companion pictures, showing man and wife. It has been impossible to identify the true sitter among the various members of the Order of the Bath under Charles I; the 1st Viscount Falkland (c.1576–1633) would have been far too old to be the young man portrayed.

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1965–1966, London 1967.

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