This charming portrait displays many of the features attributed to Jackson. In contrast to his foreign contemporaries Daniel Mytens, Sir Anthony Van Dyck and Paul van Somer, who were working at the court around this time, Jackson followed a more traditional English style, reminiscent of works from the Elizabethan era. The way that the sitter’s face quietly recedes into the background of this portrait is reminiscent of the naïve charm of earlier portraits, yet the face is saved from flatness or stiffness by the delicate, knowing expression which Jackson has brought to the eyes, and by the well observed line of the mouth, which brings life to the girl’s confident smile.
Other features of Jackson’s work are the detailed way in which he depicts costume and, in particular, his bold use of colour. Here the artist has chosen a teal background, which is strikingly bright next to the sumptuous scarlet of the sitter’s gown and the ribbon in her hair. Jackson’s skill is evident in his handling of the light as it catches the lace on the dress and passes through the fine material of the intricate collar, and in the way that he brings across the light, wispy texture of the girl’s hair in contrast to the hard, smooth surface of the pearls at her ears and around her neck.
An inscription at the top of the painting gives us part of the artist’s signature, as well as the initials and age of the sitter (age 14) . The sitter is most likely the daughter of a noble family, painted during one of the artist’s trips outside London.
(We are grateful to Sir Roy Strong for his assistance attributing this work.)
Gilbert Jackson was an accomplished English portrait painter, active between 1621 and 1643.
Little is known about Jackson’s life; he was probably a London based artist but he seems to have travelled around various parts of England, painting members of the local gentry and their families. He was made a freeman of the Painter-Stainer’s Company in 1640.