c. 1615 – 1620
An Unknown Gentleman in a gorget
Painted circa 1615 – 1620
Oil on canvas: 20 1/8 x 13 5/8 in. (50.8 x 34.4 cm.)
The Hon. Geoffrey Howard (1877 – 1935), Castle Howard;
with Spink & Co., London, 1934; bt. by
The National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London;
Christie’s, London, 15 December 1993, lot 4, as ‘Circle of Paul van Somer’ (£16,100);
Private collection, USA.
E.H.H. Archibald (ed.), Portraits at the National Maritime Museum – Series I: 1570 – 1748, London 1954, pl. II, unpaginated, as ‘Sir Martin Frobisher’.
E.H.H. Archibald (ed.), A Preliminary Descriptive Catalogue of Portraits in Oils, London 1961, unpaginated, as ‘Sir Martin Frobisher’.
This evocative portrait of an unknown gentleman in a richly embroidered doublet, a soldier’s gorget and fashionable dropped collar and pointed beard would suggest a date to around 1615 – 1620. The sitter was erroneously identified in the 20th century as the naval commander and explorer, Sir Martin Frobisher (c. 1535 – 1594), however by costume it was painted some twenty odd years later.
The fine handling of the sitter’s face bears notable comparison to the work of the artist, Cornelius Johnson, and we are grateful to Karen Hearn for confirming that the artist for our portrait is indeed most likely to be an Anglo-Netherlandish painter working in England at the same time. It would appear the present portrait was once in a feigned oval, just visible in the lower corners of the painting, but that it has since been reduced. The effect created is of striking intimacy.
 Karen has also suggested that the very stylised rendering of the embroidery on the doublet may be the work of another hand.
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