Sir John Baptiste de Medina (1659-1710)
The large scale of this portrait and the highly decorative quality suggests that the portrait was commissioned by a wealthy individual...
This recently discovered portrait by John Baptiste de Medina highlights the artist’s distinctly energetic style. A highly successful portrait painter, particularly in Scotland, Medina rivalled the work of Sir Godfrey Kneller, the already established and most sought-after portrait painter of this period.
Little is known about Medina’s early life other than that he was born in Brussels in 1659 to a Spanish officer serving in the Southern Netherlands and briefly trained with François Duchatel. In 1686 he travelled to London, a city where foreign artists such as Kneller had flourished over the century, where he lived for at least eight years and ran a portrait workshop on Drury Lane. Medina’s earliest known works are a series of illustrations made for Milton’s fourth edition of Paradise Lost which was published in 1688.
Unlike Kneller’s extremely expensive portraits, Medina’s cost a third of the price attracting a wider range of clients, many of whom were Scottish. It was George Melville, first Earl of Melville and his network of influential Scottish aristocrats that persuaded Medina to relocate to Edinburgh with his wife Jeanne Marie Vandale and their six children, including John who later became a painter.
Medina’s most ambitious works are a series of 29 portraits depicting the members of the Royal College of Surgeons, dating between 1697 and 1708. At the request of the members, Medina added his own self-portrait to the collection which totalled the number to 30.
Medina is also known to have informally trained William Aikman, a minor landowner who wished to pursue a career as an artist. In 1706 Medina was knighted; he was one of the last Scottish knights to be honoured before the Act of Union was passed in 1707 joining Scotland with England and Wales as the United Kingdom.
The identity of the sitter in this portrait is presently unknown but the large scale and highly decorative quality suggests that the portrait was commissioned by a wealthy individual. The boy’s clothing can be closely dated to the end of the 1690s and is quite similar to that worn by Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington in a portrait with his three sisters at Chatsworth.