Stylistically, this small portrait looks to have been painted by one of the itinerant Dutch artists working in England in the mid-17th century. The blue background is a nod to watercolour portrait miniatures, or limnings, which were painted with a plain azurite background. Outmoded in England by the middle of the seventeenth century, this feature was often still prevalent in miniatures painted on the continent.

The locket case, dating also to the mid-seventeenth century, displays a coat of arms in the interior. Research by the College of Arms has suggested that this belonged to the Ernle family and that the portrait may represent John Ernle (or Earnley) (c.1620-97) of Burytown, Blunsdon, Wiltshire. A member of Parliament, he seems to have owed his own knighthood to the ‘costly preparation’ which he made to entertain the King on the progress to Bath in 1663.

The pale blue enamelling on this locket is consistent with other enamels, including enamelled...

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Stylistically, this small portrait looks to have been painted by one of the itinerant Dutch artists working in England in the mid-17th century. The blue background is a nod to watercolour portrait miniatures, or limnings, which were painted with a plain azurite background. Outmoded in England by the middle of the seventeenth century, this feature was often still prevalent in miniatures painted on the continent.

The locket case, dating also to the mid-seventeenth century, displays a coat of arms in the interior. Research by the College of Arms has suggested that this belonged to the Ernle family and that the portrait may represent John Ernle (or Earnley) (c.1620-97) of Burytown, Blunsdon, Wiltshire. A member of Parliament, he seems to have owed his own knighthood to the ‘costly preparation’ which he made to entertain the King on the progress to Bath in 1663.

The pale blue enamelling on this locket is consistent with other enamels, including enamelled watch cases, of the period. Technically challenging, enamel work was also highly prized for its resilience and bright colours. Similar colouring can for example be found on the Fairfax Jewel, the name given to a series of three mid-seventeenth-century enamel roundels presented by Parliament to Sir Thomas Fairfax, known as ‘Black Tom’, 3rd Baron Fairfax (1612-1671) [Fairfax House, York]. They celebrate his victory against Royalist forces during the Civil War at the Battle of Naseby on 14 June 1645. The enamels were originally set in a gold locket in the form of a watchcase with a diamond border, suspended from a blue ribbon worn around the neck.

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500 Years of British Art