1561 - 1636
Full Length Portrait of a Gentleman

Oil on canvas
Image size: 78 1/4 x 44 inches (199 x 112 cm)



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This portrait transports us back to the grandeur and opulence of Jacobean England. The subject stands proudly dressed in exquisite court attire, he epitomises the elegance and refinement that characterised this era. The artist’s meticulous attention to detail is evident in every aspect of this masterpiece. From the elaborate collar to his finely crafted shoes, no element has been overlooked. As one explores its intricate details and vibrant colours, it becomes clear that this portrait was not simply meant for private admiration but also served as a symbol of status and power.

In the top right hand corner there is a small window depicted, that shows the house and surrounding grounds that we can assume is owned by the gentleman’s family. There is also a latin emblem – ‘nec somnolentus, nec officiosus’ which roughly translates as ‘neither sleepy or dutiful’. Whilst to a modern ear this seems a peculiar saying, at the time it would have perfectly described a balanced and equable person who could be steadily relied upon.

By the middle of the decade, the collar now appears weightless. He lifts his shoulders which he lets appear. This is the collar montage, a starched collar mounted on a metal frame. This is the main novelty and characteristic of the 1600s: the collar is suspended.


Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger

Marcus Gheeraerts was born in Bruges in 1561 or 1562, and was brought to England in 1568 by his father, a painter of whose work hardly anything is known. Trained by his father and perhaps also a pupil of Lucas de Heere, Marcus produced his first surviving inscribed portrait in 1593; by this date, however, he was already under the powerful patronage of the royal pageant master, Sir Henry Lee. In 1590 Gheeraerts married Magdalena, the sister of the painter John De Critz. The couple had six children, only two of whom seemed to have survived.

Gheeraerts was the most distinguished and most fashionable portraitist of the 1590s, and continued to be after Elizabeth’s death, becoming the favorite painter of James I’s queen, Anne of Denmark. He received a grant of naturalization in 1618, and was still royal “picture drawer” in that year, when he received his last recorded payments for royal portraits. During the second half of the 1610s, however, Gheeraert’s position declined as the result of competition from a new generation of immigrants. For the last twenty years of his life he was supported chiefly by the lesser gentry and by academic sitters. Gheeraerts was a member of the Court of the Painter-Stainers’ Company in the 1620s and had an apprentice, Ferdinando Clifton, who was made free of the Company in 1627. Gheeraerts died on 19 January 1636.