Posts filed under Date: Sixteenth Century

Attributed to The Unknown Follower of Custodis (Fl. 1531-1607)

Attributed to

THE UNKNOWN FOLLOWER OF CUSTODIS (fl. 1590-1612)

Painted 1597

 ‘Sir John Fortescue (c.1531-1607)’

Oil on panel: 42 x 32 inches

Inscribed upper right with date and sitter’s age ‘Ano Domini. 1597/ Aetatis Suae.64.’ and upper left with family coat of arms. 

Provenance: Gabriel Goodman (1529-1601), Dean of Westminster, The Warden, Christ’s Hospital, Ruthin, Private collection, England

Literature: John Steegman, A Survey of Portraits in Welsh Houses, Vol. I, Houses in North Wales, National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, 1957, p.91 Thomas, Lord Clermont, A History of the Family of Fortescue in all its Branches, London, 1880, p.94

Sir John Fortescue (c.1531-1607), Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (1601-1607), was descended from a distinguished West Country family of administrators and lawyers. He was the eldest of three sons of Sir Adrian Fortescue (c.1481-1539), who was executed for alleged treason on 9th July 1539, most likely because of his close kinship to Anne Boleyn (1500-1536). Nonetheless, the family’s fortunes changed for in 1540 Fortescue’s mother married the royal household administrator, Sir Thomas Parry (1515-1560) and subsequent to this, the family estate was restituted to her eldest son, John Fortescue, by an act of Parliament in 1551. Probably on the instigation of his step-father, sometime around 1555 John Fortescue entered Princess Elizabeth’s household at Woodstock, Oxfordshire, where he was appointed clerk of the library in 1556 and was later appointed Superintendent of the Princess Elizabeth’s studies. Subsequent to Elizabeth’s accession to the throne in 1558, Fortescue was made Master (or Keeper) of the Great Wardrobe, a post he held until his death. On 10th February 1588, Fortescue’s loyal and long-standing service was rewarded with his appointment as Privy Councillor to Elizabeth I.  Considered a very able administrator, he rose to prominence as Chancellor of the Exchequer to both Queen Elizabeth I and King James I. Whilst the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer can be traced from the twelfth century, its significance as an administrative and financial office is generally dated to the late sixteenth century, during Fortescue’s tenure

Our painting has been attributed to an anonymous artist identified as the Unknown Follower of Custodis (fl. 1590-1612). It is characteristic of the artist’s style with an iconic, two dimensional format and limited palate. Hieronimo Custodis himself was a protestant émigré from Antwerp who had fled to England after the capture of the city by the Duke of Parma in 1585. His dated works are from 1589 until his death in 1593, therefore our painter seems likely to have been an assistant of Custodis and perhaps even inherited his pattern book.

 Identification of our sitter is based on the elaborate family armorial displayed top left on a red marble pillar. Sir John Fortescue is shown three-quarter-length, wearing a black doublet, white ruff, a high-crowned beaver hat and resting his right hand on the knob of a walking cane. Suspended on a gold cord around his waist, he wears a cameo jewel depicting a bust-profile of Elizabeth I. A noted scholar, Fortescue counted Sir Thomas Bodley (1545-1613), the founder of the Bodleian library, and Sir Gabriel Goodman (1529-1601), Dean of Westminster, among his friends. It is likely that the portrait was painted as a gift for Goodman and it is almost certain that Goodman gave the painting to Christ’s Hospital or the Grammar School at Ruthin, both of which institutions he founded. For many years our painting of Sir John Fortescue hung in the Cloisters of St Peter’s Church at Ruthin. The Cloisters also held a portrait of his good friend, Sir Gabriel Goodman, painted in 1600, and these portraits most likely hung together at Ruthin.

John Fortescue (d. 1432) of Holbeton in Devon, was an administrator in the service of the Courtenay family. His eldest son, Henry (d.1490)  held the post of chief justice of the king's bench of Ireland between 1426 and 1429, whilst his second son, Sir John (c.1397–1479), was revered as a justice and political theorist.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, accessed 18/05/09. Arnold, J ( 1988)  ‘Queen Elizabeth’s Wardrobe Unlock’d’, pp.163-165.  Maney and Sons: Leeds.

As Keeper, Fortescue was responsible for the care of the Queen’s royal attire, textiles and jewellery as well as armour, furniture, state documents and the occasional detention and interrogation of prisoners.

Even after that date, the chancellorship remained a comparatively administrative position, concerned more with the daily administration of the realm rather than parliamentarian policy. However, it grew in importance in line with a shifting balance of power between the crown and parliament and key resolutions passed by the House of Commons in 1706 and 1713 endowed the executive, rather than the monarchy, with the authority to initiate and approve financial legislation. These changes meant that the office of chancellor, formerly administrative, became increasingly political. Since the early nineteenth century, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been the cabinet minister responsible for finance and the head of HM Treasury.

The artist was first identified by Sir Roy Strong on the basis of an identical form of inscription used. See: Strong, R. (1963) Elizabethan Painting: an approach through Inscriptions – Hieronimo Custodis, Burlington Magazine, CV, 1963, p.104. The small corpus of work by this artist was latter published in his seminal work, Strong, R. (1969)  The English Icon, pp.207-214

Our thanks to Timothy Duke, Chester Herald, College of Arms for his assistance in identifying the sitter. He confirms that the quarterly Arms and Crest on this portrait are also recorded (with some minor differences) in the funeral certificate of Sir John Fortescue

John Steegman, A Survey of Portraits in Welsh Houses, Vol. I, Houses in North Wales, National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, 1957, p.91

 

Michiel Jansz van Mierevelt (1567-1641)

Michiel Jansz van Mierevelt or Miereveldt, Miereveld (1566-1641)

Portrait of a Man, 

Signed and dated, Oil on Canvas, 60 x 52cm / 78 x 71cm

SOLD to a Private Collector UK 

An exquisite example of this well known portrait painter's work. It being signed and dated makes this of great interest as often his works went unsigned due to the prolific output of his studio and the high demand for his portraits. 

With typically detailed and skilled rendition of the lace ruff, the luminous skin tones and the direct gaze of the sitter, this portrait is truly an exceptional piece. 

Van Mierevelt (1566-1641) was a pupil of artist Anthonie Blocklandt of Utrecht. After a two-year apprenticeship, he returned to his native Delft. He received commissions for portraits from the stadholder court in The Hague: including Prince Maurice and members of the Orange family. This led to commissions from other wealthy families and diplomats. To meet the demand, Van Miereveld employed assistants, including his sons Pieter and Jan. His portraits became even more widely known when his son-in-law Willem Delff copied them as prints. 

Pietro Fachetti (Mantua c.1535- Rome 1619)

Pietro Fachetti (Mantua c. 1535-Rome 1619)

Portrait of Eleonora Orsini Sforza, c 1605-1610

Oil on Canvas, 112 x 85cm, 134 x 107cm, in a Cassetta style frame.  

A notable work of art of a member of the prominent Medici dynasty. This painting has been attributed to Pietro Fachetti after academic research and, comparisons with portraits of Eleonora Orsini Sforza, confirm her as the sitter along with the inscription in the upper left corner that reads: 'Eleonora Orsini Sforza, Duchess of Segni and Countess of Santa Fiora ('D(onn)a Leonora Orsina Isforzza'). 

It is known that her personal life was somewhat turbulent, her mother being supposedly murdered by her father, and upon her marriage was forced to escape the jealousy and violence of her own husband on several occasions until seeking refuge in the Orsini Castle at Bracciano with an army of 100 men until papal approval to divorce her husband was obtained in 1621. Despite this volatile family history Eleonora cultivated her interest and skills in the arts, both as an artist and a collector, a composer and musician, she was admired for her elegance and as a protagonist of the Roman cultural panorama until her death in 1634. 

Stylistically this painting shows the influence of the acclaimed portraitist Scipione Pulzone, who had died in 1598, as well as the work of Ottavio Leoni. These considerations, the taste for details, particularly evident in the description of Eleonora's dress and laces, and the realism of her portrait points to the attribution to the painter Pietro Fachetti. 

Fachetti entered the service of the Gonzaga family, was sent to Rome to improve his skills and update his style in 1575, and he then entered the service of Paolo Giordano I Orsini, Eleonora's father. His reputation was established as evidenced  by a commission of a portrait of Sixtus V with the Architect Domenico Fontana, an official portrait of the pope to be displayed in the newly built Biblioteca Vaticana. In the span of a few years Fachetti distinguished himself as a skilled portraitist of the Roman aristocracy. Despite the appreciation of his contemporaries Fachetti's production is now little known. Only a few of his paintings are signed and thus constitute a solid starting point to reconstruct his production, while the attribution to him of some portraits is still controversial. Also a fact noted is that Fachetti, according to Dr Barbara Furlotti, in her academic research on this painting, (09/15) states that to the best of her knowledge, Fachetti is the only artist who is recorded in documents to have portrayed Eleonora Orsini in painting.