Edward Bower

Sir John Drake


Not on display

Edward Bower active 1629–c.1667
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 1244 × 981 mm
Purchased 1962

Display caption

Sir John Drake was a distant descendant of the famous Elizabethan commander Sir Francis Drake. He lived at Ashe, near Musbury in Devon. He is shown in armour, and may have seen active service during the Civil War, fighting for the Parliamentarians. Despite this, he was created a baronet at the Restoration of Charles II in 1660. The artist Edward Bower worked particularly for the Parliamentarians during the war, and probably painted this portrait in Bath in 1646. He would later paint the final portrait of Charles I, Charles I at his Trial 1648.

Gallery label, February 2016

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Catalogue entry

Edward Bower active c.1636–1667

Sir John Drake
Oil on canvas
1270 x 1020 mm
Inscribed by the artist ‘Bower fecit, 1646.’ lower right.
Purchased (Grant-in-Aid) 1962

Ownership history
Sir John Drake Bt (died 1669); according to family tradition by descent through the Hill Dawe family of Ditcheat Manor, Shepton Mallet,1 to Mrs J.M. Hayward by whom sold Christie’s, 30 March 1962 (162), where bought by Tate.

Tate Gallery Review 1953–1963, London 1963, p.47.

Sir John Drake (1625–1669) of Ashe near Musbury in Devon succeeded to his father’s knightly title in 1636, at the age of ten. Following the Restoration of the Stuart monarchy he was created a baronet by Charles II on 31 August 1660. The family was distantly descended from the celebrated Elizabethan commander Sir Francis Drake (c.1540–96).

The present work, painted when Sir John was twenty-one, is a companion to the portrait of his sister Elizabeth, also signed and dated 1646, which is now in York City Art Gallery.2 Both are portrayed in front of a diagonally hung red satin curtain. The paired portraits may have had allegorical significance, for Elizabeth is depicted holding an olive branch, a symbol of peace, while Sir John is shown here in armour, representing war. He may already have seen active service in the Civil War in Britain on the parliamentary side. In around 1646 – the date of this portrait – he married Jane, daughter of Sir John Yonge of Culleton in Devon. The couple’s son John was born in January 1647, but Jane died in 1652. The sitter became Member of Parliament for Bridport in 1660, and was buried at Axminster on 7 July 1669.3

Sir John’s sister Elizabeth (died after 1688) married Winston Churchill of Wootton Glanville, near Sherborne in Dorset, and their son, who was born at the Drake family home Ashe, was to become the celebrated general, John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough (1650–1722).

The portrait is dated and signed, bottom right above the sword hilt, by the English artist Edward Bower, who the same year also painted Ferdinando Fairfax, 2nd Baron Fairfax of Cameron (York City Art Gallery) probably while in Bath.4 Bower’s earliest known surviving work is dated 1636. During the British Civil War period he worked particularly for parliamentarians, and had a studio at Temple Bar, where the Cities of London and Westminster meet. Bower’s best-known image is his seated portrait of Charles I at his Trial, of which a number of versions survive, dated 1648 and 1649 (signed examples are in the Royal Collection, at Belvoir Castle in Lincolnshire and at Antony in Cornwall). These are thought to have been made from sketches drawn from life.

Karen Hearn
June 2009


1 Letter from Mrs J.M. Hayward to Tate Gallery, 30 May 1962.
2 York City Art Gallery, Catalogue of Paintings, Volume 2: English School 1500–1850, 1963, no.1006, pp.87–8; the portrait of Elizabeth Drake was sold (as lot 163) in the same Christie’s auction.
3 Basil Duke Henning, The House of Commons 1660–1690, vol.2, Members C-L, London 1983, p.235.
4 Oliver Millar, ‘Edward Bower’, in Jane Shoaf Turner (ed.), The Dictionary of Art, London and New York 1996, vol.4, 1996, pp.599–600.

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