Matthew Snelling (1621-1678)
Matthew Snelling was described by Horace Walpole as a ‘gentleman’, and like other reasonably well-off men and women of this period appears to have been part way between a professional artist and learned amateur.
This portrait of an unidentified man shares close facial similarities with another portrait, sold Christie’s, 20 November 2007, lot 22. Here, the two men wear identical dress, their hair is worn loose and wavy and they share the same brown eyes and nose with a distinctive bump. It is possible that both miniatures portray the same man or members of the same family...
Matthew Snelling was described by Horace Walpole as a ‘gentleman’, and like other reasonably well-off men and women of this period appears to have been part way between a professional artist and learned amateur. There is no indication of an apprenticeship, either through documentary evidence or technique and he may have been self-taught. Snelling was close to the circle of Samuel Cooper (1609-72), considered to be the best miniaturist of the age, if not the best portraitist in any medium. Many of his techniques may have been gleaned from Cooper, who was ten years his senior. The connection between the two men goes back to the earlier part of Cooper’s career, when he drew the young man in 1644 (whereabouts unknown).
Snelling may have also earned a living as an artist’s supplier, as there is a reference in one of Vertue’s notebooks to him supplying ‘parcels of Pink’ to Mary Beale in 1654 and 1658. Via his family, he certainly knew the Beales well and shared East Anglian connections with them and Nathaniel Thach. He kept a house in the country (his family home of Little Horringer Hall in Suffolk, which still stands) but also had a residence in London: firstly in St Martin-in-the Fields, and subsequently (after his marriage in 1664) in Long Acre - the same street as John Hoskins the younger and close to Cooper’s house in Henrietta Street. The inclusion of one of his works in Michael Rosse’s sale of 1723 suggests that he was also acquainted with the Gibson and Rosse families and was therefore privy to the central hub of court artists and artisans clustered in London by the middle of the seventeenth century.
 This description could also apply to other artists in Samuel Cooper’s circle, such as Thomas Flatman (1635-88), who also held distinction as both a lawyer and a poet.
 This portrait is described by both Vertue and Walpole, sold by Michael Rosse, husband of the artist Susannah-Penelope Rosse, who notes ‘in Michael Rose’s sale, 1723, was a head of Snelling by Cooper, 1644, finely painted but the hands and drapery poor.’ (Walpole, Anecdotes, p.329). If drawn in chalk, as opposed to a watercolour miniature, this may indicate a close relationship between the two men as Cooper largely reserved his drawings for informal use.
 Vertue vol.4, p.168; Beale records some near-transactions with him in his ‘Notebooks’ (1671), where Snelling offers a rather disrespectful low price for a painting. His offer to buy a painting by the celebrated artist Hans Rottenhamer (1564-1625) may, however, suggest he had acquired some level of wealth by that date.
 Mary Edmond, ‘Limners and Picturemakers’, Walpole Society, XLVII, London 1980, p.107, discovered Snelling’s geographical connections to the Craddocks, Mary Beale’s family.