English School , Eighteenth Century
This skillfully painted enamel portrait depicts Cromwell as a more handsome, sanitised image than we are used to seeing...
This enamel portrait of Oliver Cromwell would appear to be an amalgamation of the head type by Robert Walker (d.1658), the body more likely derived from the costume shown by the medallist Thomas Simon (1618-65). Walker’s oil portraits of the Lord Protector were extensively engraved and distributed throughout the 17th and 18th century. The swag of expensive blue silk over his shoulder is reminiscent of the more ‘kingly’ attributes later adopted by Simon in his medals. The image can also be associated with a graphite drawing of Cromwell by the draughtsman and engraver Nicholas Blakey (1618-65), dated 1749, showing him in a similar pose and garb.
This skillfully painted enamel portrait depicts Cromwell as a more handsome, sanitised image than those portraits commissioned during his lifetime. Cromwell’s now famous instruction to Samuel Cooper (1607/8-72) to paint him ‘warts and all’ led to one of the most psychologically penetrating portraits ever painted in Britain. This enamel minimises those blemishes, giving Cromwell thick, dark hair in contrast to the thinning tresses streaked with grey observed in the ad vivum sittings by Cooper and Walker.
Most likely painted in the first half of the eighteenth century, Cromwell’s reputation as bloody tyrant (the ‘brave, bad man’ as described in 1667 by the Royalist writer Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon) was beginning to be reassessed in the light of new biographical and historical writings. He also began to evolve as something of a hero to some Whig figures as an icon of political liberty.
Stylistically, this enamel is close to the hand of Johann Heinrich von Hurter (1734-99). Von Hurter may have had access to portraits of the Lord Protector during his time in London. From 1777, he spent five years in the service of Lord Dartry (later Viscount Cremorne), during which time he made copies after portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds and exhibited from an address in Covent Garden. In a second visit to London in the late 1780s he also made copies after earlier portraits – for example, a portrait of Henry VIII after Joos van Cleve was dated 1788. This particular copy, after an original oil in Kensington Palace, was commissioned by Catherine II of Russia. The late Daphne Foskett (‘Miniatures Dictionary and Guide’), also noted that she had seen copies by Hurter after Van Dyck of Charles I and Henrietta Maria. This enamel not only represents the eighteenth century taste for historical portraits but also the access granted to Hurter to some of the most important portraits in British collections.
 British Museum 1983,0305.57
 Isaac Kimber’s (1692–1755) biography was published in 1724 and the first folio of Gilbert Burnet’s History of my own Time was posthumously printed in the same year.
 An enamel portrait of Dartry as Viscount Cremorne by Hurter was sold by Dreweatts & Bloomsbury, June 2007.
 Sold Christie’s London, May 2012.