Early 19th Century
Portrait of a Merchant

Oil on panel
Image size  2½ x 2½ inches
Hand-carved gilt frame

Provenance:
Agnews

This rare and intimate Elizabethan portrait, dating from the 1580’s, depicts the head and shoulders of a wealthy merchant within a mottled-green painted circle.

In previous centuries in England, portraiture was almost exclusively confined to the nobility and it was not until the middle of the 16th century that there was a considerable rise in the commissioning of portraits by people lower down the social scale.

These new patrons, who are broadly categorised by Tarnya Cooper as the urban or middle elite, included wealthy merchants and successful member of the professional and artisanal classes, such as lawyers, physicians, scholars and goldsmiths. (see Cooper, T. Citizen Portrait: Portrait Painting and the Urban Elite of Tudor and Jacobean England and Wales, London, (2012), p.1.).

The sitter in this portrait is expensively dressed in a black coat and hat. Black was a fashionable colour which was costly to produce at the time, as it required an extensive process of dying to build up the required depth of shade.

Literature:
– Cooper, T. A Guide to Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, London, (2008).
– Cooper, T. Citizen Portrait: Portrait Painting and the Urban Elite of Tudor and Jacobean England and Wales,
London, (2012).
– Reynolds, A. In Fine Style: The Art of Tudor and Stuart Fashion, London, (2013).