Two children, said to be Emily and Robert Cecil

Johann Kerseboom
1680 – 1780

Two children, said to be Emily and Robert Cecil

Painted circa 1690

Oil on canvas: 29 13/16 x 28 3/8 inches, 74.5 x 71 cm


  • Private collection, England

This charming portrait is by the accomplished late-seventeenth century/ early 18th century portraitist, Johann Kerseboom, who initially worked in Germany before coming to England in the 1680s with his uncle, the artist Friederich Kerseboom. He set up a practice in London as a painter of portraits, where he met with greater success than his elder relative. A number of his works were engraved in mezzotint, of which eight are known. Though the postures and designs of Johann Kerseboom’s portraits often follow the formulaic patterns first seen in the works of Sir Peter Lely and Sir Godfrey Kneller, the characterisation of his heads have an individuality all their own. Collins Baker remarked that they have a ‘temper of… a certain austerity and sadness… marked characteristics that (he)… found in the work of not other painter’.2 He is best known for his portrait of Robert Boyle, which became the standard image of the scientist. 


The introduction of a faithful hound into our composition, looking keenly upwards at his young master in anticipation of some treat, is also found in the full-length portrait painted circa 1685 of Edward Russell, 5th Earl of Bedford (Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire). The artist’s finest work is considered to be a portrait dating from circa 1689 of The Hon. Robert Boyle (Royal Society, London).


1 Following William Wissing’s death in 1687, his uncle Friedrich Kerseboom is believed to have worked in collaboration with the painter John Vandervaart.

2 Collins Baker, Lely and the Stuart Portrait Painters, 1912, vo.II, p.50.

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