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Portrait of a Man, possibly Sir John Gresham the elder (c.1495-1556)

attributed to Steven van der Meulen (? Antwerp fl.1543 – 1563)

Category

Art / Oil paintings

Date

1550

Materials

Oil on panel

Measurements

914 x 660 mm (36 x 26 in)

Order this image

Collection

Dunham Massey, Cheshire

NT 932369

Caption

The inscription on this portrait identifies the sitter as Sir Thomas Gresham, but it is more likely that it is his uncle, Sir John Gresham, depicted here. A virtually identical portrait, first recorded in Sir Robert Walpole’s possession in 1722, was also then called Sir Thomas Gresham, but has now been reidentified as Sir John Gresham (now in the Pushkin Museum, Moscow, ascribed to Anthonis Mor). His ring, worn on the index finger of his right hand, is inscribed: NOSCE TE IPSUM [‘Know Thyself’].

Summary

Oil painting on panel, Portrait of a Man, possibly Sir John Gresham the elder (c.1495-1556), attributed to Steven van der Meulen (? Antwerp fl.1543 – 1563), 1550. A just over half-length portrait of a man, standing behind a marble ledge, turned slightly to the right, gazing at the spectator, bearded and, wearing a white slashed shirt, buff slashed waistcoat and black cap, holding his gloves in his left hand, his right hand resting flat on the marble ledge with a ring on his index finger inscribed: NOSCE TE IPSUM [‘Know Thyself’].

Full description

The portrait is associated with a virtually identical composition of 1550 ascribed to Antonis Mor (Antonio Moro) (1519-76), first recorded in 1722 in the collection of Sir Robert Walpole (1676-1745), later transferred to Houghton Hall, Norfolk, and then to the Hermitage, St Petersburg, and now in the State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow (inv. no. 2611). When in the Walpole collection the picture was considered to be a portrait of Sir Thomas Gresham (1519-79). The facial similarities between the Mor and an earlier portrait of Sir Thomas Gresham in The Mercer’s Company, London, inscribed ‘1544 THOMAS GRESHAM’ appear to corroborate Walpole’s identification (Morel, Moore et al 2013, cat.no. 1, p. 220; Dukelskaya and Moore 2002, cat.no. 114, p.212). In 1992 Dr Joanna Woodall (Courtauld Institute of Art) identified the subject of Mor’s portrait as Sir Thomas Gresham’s uncle, Sir John Gresham (1495-1556), Lord Mayor of London (1547), member of the Mercer’s Company and founder of the Russia Company, on the basis that in 1550, Sir Thomas would have been thirty-one years old and thus a younger man than the subject of Mor portrait (Moore 1992). An alternative, earlier identification by Woodall (1989) proposed that Mor, in the summer of 1550, had left Brussels for Spain, and was in Portugal by 1551, thus the subject of a 1550 portrait would most likely be a member of the Hapsburg court, who were in Brussels from late 1549 to early 1550 and in Spain by the autumn of that year. The sitter also wears the colours of Philip II, a yellow camisole and black cap (Woodall 1989).

Marks and inscriptions

1550 (inscribed and dated)

Makers and roles

attributed to Steven van der Meulen (? Antwerp fl.1543 – 1563), artist

References

Woodall 1989: Joanna Woodall, The Portraiture of Anthonis Mor, PhD dissertation, Courtauld Institute of Art, London, 2 vols., 1989 Moore 1992: Andrew Moore (ed.), Family and Friends, a regional survey of British Portraiture, London 1992 Dukelskaya and Moore 2002: Larissa Dukelskaya and Andrew Moore (eds.), A Capital Collection, Houghton Hall and The Hermitage, State Hermitage Museum and the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, New Haven and London 2002 Morel, Moore et al 2013: Thierry Morel, Andrew Moore et al, Houghton Revisited: The Walpole Masterpieces from Catherine the Great’s Hermitage, exh.cat. Houghton Hall, State Hermitage Museum, Royal Academy of Arts, London 2013

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