Gilbert Soest c.1605–1681
Portrait of a Gentleman with a Dog, probably Sir Thomas Tipping
Oil on canvas
939 x 1149 mm
Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1986
…; Sir William Henry Cope Bt by 1853 (when listed as ‘Mr Tipping by Dobson’); by descent to Sir Anthony Cope Bt, Eversely Manor, Hampshire, by whose trustees and by Lady Grant sold through Sotheby’s, 19 April 1967 (5, reproduced) for £450, bought Creasy; ….; anonymous sale, Sotheby’s, 20 November 1985 (35, reproduced in colour), £17,600 bought Weiss Gallery from whom purchased by the donors.
The Age of Charles II, Royal Academy of Arts, London, December1960–February 1961, no.450.
Bramshill inventories, 1853 and post-1865, Cope family papers, Hampshire County Record Office, 43 M 48/2014-16; Sir William H. Cope Bt, Bramshill, London 1883, p.98; Christopher Hussey, ‘Bramshill – III’, Country Life, vol.53, 16 June 1923, pp.856–7, fig.9; Joan Penelope Cope, Bramshill, 1938, p.127 (as ‘Mr Tippings by Van Dyck’); Christopher Hussey, ‘Eversley Manor, Hampshire – II’, Country Life, vol.93, 26 March 1943, p.573, fig.3 (as ‘John Tipping … by Dobson’); Oliver Millar, ‘The Restoration Portrait’, Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, May 1961, pp.422–5, fig.14; Brian Allen and others, The British Portrait 1660–1960, Woodbridge 1991, pp.102, 104, pl.92; Tate Gallery: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions 1986–88, London 1996, pp.77–9; H.C.G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (eds.), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, vol.33, Oxford 2004, p.528.
Until 1937 this portrait hung at Bramshill in Hampshire, the large Jacobean house built by Lord Zouche, which from 1699 had been the seat of the Cope family. The sitter is traditionally said to be a member of the Tipping family of Wheatfield in Oxfordshire. In the 1853 inventory of Bramshill pictures, the portrait was listed as ‘Mr Tipping’ and attributed to William Dobson, a plausible attribution for a work by Soest at that time. A subsequent inventory stated that ‘It seems to be the portrait of John Tipping of Wheatfield Oxfordshire who died in the lifetime of his father Sir George Tiping of Wheatfield’. John Tipping, however, died in 1618, too early to be the subject of this portrait, which clearly dates from around 1660.
The sitter is more likely to be John Tipping’s son, Thomas, whose great-granddaughter, the Tipping family heiress Penelope Mordaunt (1712–1737), married Sir Monnoux Cope Bt (1696/7–1763) of Bramshill in 1726. The picture probably entered the Bramshill collection at that date.
Thomas Tipping, baptised in Wheatfield church, Oxfordshire, on 10 December 1615, inherited Wheatfield in 1626 and matriculated from Trinity College, Oxford in 1631, aged fifteen.1 In 1637 he married Elizabeth (died 1696), daughter of Sir White Beconshaw of Moyles Court, Ellingham, Hampshire, by whom he had sixteen children of whom, according to the inscription on his monument in Wheatfield Church, eight survived him.2 He died on 1 March 1693, aged 78.
On 15 June 1660 Thomas Tipping was created a Knight Bachelor by King Charles II at Whitehall, soon after Charles’s restoration to the English throne.3 It seems likely that the portrait was painted at about this time. The composition and style are similar to those of the portrait of John Verney at Claydon House, Buckinghamshire, documented as having been painted by Soest in April 1662; the Verneys had connections with the Tippings.4
The Tipping family, however, had hardly been devoted to the Royalist cause, for Thomas’s sole paternal uncle was the puritan and parliamentarian writer William Tipping (1598–1649), author of A Discourse of Eternity (1633). Thomas himself served on local commissions from 1647 and was brother-in-law to the regicide John Lisle MP (c.1610–1664). Both were associates of the Member of the Long Parliament and Keeper of the Seal, Bulstrode Whitelocke; the latter’s diary records that he dined with Thomas Tipping twice in April 1649.5
A companion portrait of the sitter’s wife, seated beside a beehive and proffering flowers to the bees, was also inventoried at Bramshill in 1853. By 1960 it had entered the collection of Mr David Minlore but its present whereabouts are unknown.6 It had the same unusual horizontal format and in its pose and composition was almost a reverse of this one. The beehive was a traditional symbol of the industry and diligence that creates a well-run, prosperous home; the weight of symbolism in the companion portrait suggests that the Tate’s picture offers an equally clear message.
The sitter, like the subject of the companion portrait, is set against a rocky background – a motif introduced to British portraiture by Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641).7 He lays one hand on a rocky projection, lower left, symbolising steadfastness, with the other hand he firmly grasps the ear of a brown-and-white dog. The gesture of a male sitter who places his hand on a dog (standing for fidelity) is traditionally one of command, deriving from sixteenth-century Habsburg court portraiture. It was frequently employed by Van Dyck for his English subjects. Soest’s use of it in this portrait, however, differs in showing a small spaniel rather than a large hunting-dog. Both Charles I and Charles II were known to be devoted to the type of dog portrayed – now called the Cavalier King Charles spaniel.8 It is possible that Sir Thomas, the former Parliamentarian, chose this accessory for his portrait not only as a timely demonstration of his loyalty to the restored Stuart monarchy, but also to suggest that it had been longstanding.
Sir Thomas Tipping’s heir, also Thomas (1653–1718), became Member of Parliament for Oxfordshire in 1685, and later for Wallingford. For committing a breach of trust by marrying his ward off to a mistress of his own, he was fined £5,000, but, rather than pay it, fled to Holland, returning with a regiment under William of Orange. Given a baronetcy in 1698, he was to die, childless, in a debtor’s prison.9 It was the marriage in 1726 of his brother William’s granddaughter that presumably brought the painting to Bramshill.
Soest tended to compose in large, elegantly flowing curves, which gives his draperies particular buoyancy. As this portrait demonstrates, he highlights his subjects’ cuffs and hands (which he makes rather puffy), and imparts a metallic shine and solidity to fabrics. According to Horace Walpole:
His draperies were often of satin, in which he imitated the manner of Terburgh, a Dutch painter of conversations, but enlarged his ideas, on seeing Vandyck. He was enlisted among the rivals of Sir Peter Lely ... Soest is commended by Vertue and Graham for his portraits of men; both confess that his taste was too Dutch and ungraceful, and his humour too rough to please the softer sex.10
Also characteristic of Soest is the use of the slender tree silhouetted against the blue and gold, slightly stormy, evening sky that is a commonplace of mid-seventeenth-century portraits.