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