This portrait probably represents a young parliamentarian, wearing the lawn collar and plain armour of Cromwell’s commanders.[1] Painted relatively early in Cooper’s independent career as an artist, the influence of Sir Anthony van Dyck is clear in the dramatic but sombre tones of the portrait and in the naturalistic representation of the sitter’s features. Van Dyck’s inspiration for the young artist is most evident in Cooper’s self-portrait of 1645 [Royal Collection RCIN 420067], close in date to the present work. The sitter’s animated expression (and rather avant-garde hairstyle) sit somewhat at a contrast to the seriousness of purpose indicated by his protective armour. The present work is close to Cooper’s earliest dated portrait of 1642, the year in which he opened his independent studio, working separately from his uncle and instructor John Hoskins snr. (c.1590-1665). 1642 also saw the start of the battles which were to define the English Civil War and to some extent Cooper’s career. His political neutrality...

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This portrait probably represents a young parliamentarian, wearing the lawn collar and plain armour of Cromwell’s commanders.[1] Painted relatively early in Cooper’s independent career as an artist, the influence of Sir Anthony van Dyck is clear in the dramatic but sombre tones of the portrait and in the naturalistic representation of the sitter’s features. Van Dyck’s inspiration for the young artist is most evident in Cooper’s self-portrait of 1645 [Royal Collection RCIN 420067], close in date to the present work. The sitter’s animated expression (and rather avant-garde hairstyle) sit somewhat at a contrast to the seriousness of purpose indicated by his protective armour. The present work is close to Cooper’s earliest dated portrait of 1642, the year in which he opened his independent studio, working separately from his uncle and instructor John Hoskins snr. (c.1590-1665). 1642 also saw the start of the battles which were to define the English Civil War and to some extent Cooper’s career. His political neutrality served him well and he was able to paint both Royalists and Parliamentarians, bestowing both sides with equal humanity in his small likenesses. Such miniatures would have become particularly precious for families who lost loved ones in the bloody battles fought all over the country. Cooper’s meticulous observational powers, and his insistence on up to eight sittings from patrons in his London studio, left a legacy of some of the most honest depictions in the history of British portraiture. [1] See, for example, Cooper’s portrait of General Henry Ireton (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge) or General George Fleetwood (National Portrait Gallery) also painted during the 1640s.

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500 Years of British Art