- Samuel Cooper 1609–1672
- Watercolour on vellum
- Frame, circular: 70 × 60 × 3 mm
- Lent from a private collection 2012
On long term loan
This miniature depicting future Court official Sir Thomas Smith is signed in monogram and dated, lower left: ‘SC. / 1667’. Painted in the early years of Charles II’s reign, its young sitter is depicted against a royal blue background in a luxurious silk robe, probably made of fabric imported from the Far East, at a time when Britain’s overseas trade links were expanding. The sitter is identified by an inscription on the back of the miniature’s case.
Samuel Cooper opened a studio in London in 1642, just as Civil War was breaking out. Nevertheless, his career flourished and he became the leading portrait-miniaturist of the mid- to late seventeenth century, with an international reputation. His most celebrated sitter of the Commonwealth years was Oliver Cromwell. Cooper was able to convey a powerful sense of naturalism, which was clearly admired by a wide range of sitters, and was commended by poets of the time. Following the Restoration of the Stuart monarchy in 1660, Charles II appointed Cooper his official miniature-painter (the ‘King’s limner’) and numerous miniatures by Cooper of the monarch and other Court figures survive.
John Murdoch, Seventeenth-Century Miniatures in the Collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London 1997, pp.115–72.
Alison Smith (ed.), Watercolour, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2011, pp.52–5, reproduced p.55.
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