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THE ART OF PAUL VAN SOMER, c. 1577-1622


Eric Roberts

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9 hours ago, A Phoenix said:

Hi Eric,

Thank you - nothing much is kept in the head though it usually involves ODNB and scribbling down family trees to try and make sense of things. re: FB and Oxford. I presume by the £40,000 fine you mean the fine that was given to Bacon after his fall in 1621. If this is the case, Edward de Vere 17th Earl of Oxford was long dead by then (dying in 1604) so it wouldn't have been Edward that FB petitioned.  His son by his second marriage to Elizabeth Trentham Henry de Vere (1593-1625) however was alive and it is to him that he petitions.

The letter Francis Bacon to the Earl of Oxford 2nd February 1624 is held at the Lambeth Palace Library MS 936, art. 194.

See Spedding, Letters and Life, VII, pp. 454-55 and Lisa Jardine and Alan Stewart, Hostage to Fortune The Troubled Life of Francis Bacon (London: Victor Gollancz, 1998) p. 494 which I have reproduced below:

 

OX1.jpg

OX2.jpg

OX3.jpg

Hi Phoenixes

Thank you for correcting my mistake and explaining that SFB wrote to the 18th Earl of Oxford, and that he wasn't asking for money so much as influence at court to clear his name. Not a "begging" letter at all. Brilliantly crafted, it seems to me to show the real Bacon under adversity. Neither weak nor proud, he is asking for justice which has been denied him. Wonderful to read this letter. Again, thank you.

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13 hours ago, Eric Roberts said:

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"A Mirror for the Prince? Anne of Denmark in Hunting Costume with Her Dogs (1617) by Paul van Somer" 

Sara Ayres, Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art, June 2020

A_Mirror_for_the_Prince_Anne_of_Denmark_in_Hunting.pdf 718.2 kB · 2 downloads

Note: Paul van Somer received this major commission less that a year after he arrived in London from Brussels.

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9 hours ago, A Phoenix said:

Indeed! Maybe there was a family squabble. 'if she's had one, I want one!'

"Buy one, get one free". Some small details are different but ostensibly the same picture with different heads. Must have saved time at any rate. One for each castle. 

What about the slashed dress? Punks had nothing on the early British aristocracy in terms of hip anti-fashion statements. But why would both sisters agree to wearing the same dress? 

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29 minutes ago, Christie Waldman said:

I wonder why it is only http, not https which would be more secure.

That is usually neglect, as if whoever created the page and script moved onto other pursuits. Not always, but typically that is one sign.

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14 minutes ago, Eric Roberts said:

"Buy one, get one free". Some small details are different but ostensibly the same picture with different heads. Must have saved time at any rate. One for each castle. 

What about the slashed dress? Punks had nothing on the early British aristocracy in terms of hip anti-fashion statements. But why would both sisters agree to wearing the same dress? 

One difference that caught my eye were the creases in the drape and how they relate to the subject's heads. I wondered if they held a message.

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9 hours ago, Eric Roberts said:

"Buy one, get one free". Some small details are different but ostensibly the same picture with different heads. Must have saved time at any rate. One for each castle. 

What about the slashed dress? Punks had nothing on the early British aristocracy in terms of hip anti-fashion statements. But why would both sisters agree to wearing the same dress? 

Ah yes, perhaps a time saving device.

The slashed material I think is a very unusual feature of the period, I don't particularly recall it prominent in any other times in history. Maybe twins were dressed identically back then. Twins in my family from years ago were, however twins from more recent years weren't. 

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On 12/6/2023 at 11:19 AM, Eric Roberts said:

Hi A Phoenix

Thanks so much for clarifying the relationship between Diana and Elizabeth (Hatton) Cecil. I honestly don't know how you keep it all inside your head. The six degrees of Bacon site Rob mentioned is great, except there is no information, just names.  / Re: Bacon & Oxford, I read recently that when he was hit with the £40,000 fine, SFB wrote to the Earl of Oxford to ask for financial assistance. This shows, I think, how desperate he must have been.  /  Re: the relationship between artist and sitter. Van Somer must have had a charismatic personality and the tact of a diplomat in order to elicit from the High and Mighty their personal preferences in terms of how they wished to be portrayed. On the other hand, William Larkin seems to have imposed his style on his sitters to a much greater degree. 

 

Hi Eric,

It is generally accepted that Elizabeth Hatton (Francis Bacon's cousin and friend) was held in very high esteem at the royal court and was a particular favourite of James' wife Queen Anne of Denmark. The following general information is from Elizabeth Hatton's entry in Wikipedia with its sources:

Courtier of Anne of Denmark[edit]

When James VI of Scotland set out to claim the English throne after the death of Queen Elizabeth I in 1603, the Cokes immediately began ingratiating themselves with the new monarch and his family. Elizabeth travelled to Scotland to meet the incoming Queen, Anne of Denmark,[18] and it was said that the high-tempered beauty managed to please the withdrawn, strong-willed Queen. Hence, she and her husband were able to hold the affection and trust of the Queen as long as she lived. She petitioned Sir Robert Cecil unsuccessfully for the position of keeper of the queen's jewels and to help dress her.[19][20]

Lady Hatton was invited to perform in some of the queen's masques, including The Vision of the Twelve Goddesses at Hampton Court in January 1604, and The Masque of Beauty at Whitehall Palace in January 1608.[21] On 20 August 1613, Anne of Denmark was received at Wells, Somerset. The mayor William Bull hosted a dinner for members of her household including Lady Hatton, Lady Walsingham, and the four maids of honour.[22]

  1.  Eva Griffith, A Jacobean Company and its Playhouse: The Queen's Servants at the Red Bull Theatre (Cambridge, 2013), pp. 119-120: Barbara Kiefer Lewalski, Writing Women in Jacobean England (Harvard, 1994), p. 22.
  2. ^ HMC Salisbury Hatfield, vol. 15 (London, 1930), p. 388.
  3. ^ Nadine Akkerman, 'The Goddess of the Household: The Masquing Politics of Lucy Harington-Russell, Countess of Bedford', The Politics of Female Households: Ladies-in-waiting across Early Modern Europe (Leiden, 2014), p. 305.
  4. ^ Martin Butler, The Stuart Court Masque and Political Culture (Cambridge, 2008), p. 101.
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22 minutes ago, Eric Roberts said:

ScreenShot2023-12-07at9_27_24pm.png.ed41be2815e6705bb816f9ff2e6a4b5a.png

Portrait_of_King_James_I__VI_(1618-1620).jpeg.43ca03fe40b08d5cf222ffd45b89eee5.jpeg

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Absolutely stunning craftsmanship by van Somer who must have been an artist of not only extreme skill but must have been incredibly discreet and well trusted, placed as he often was in the presence of royalty and influential families of the day. I bet he knew a secret or two!

A modern day equivalent sprang to mind. It is said that hairdressers are often the confidantes to all sorts of secrets from their clients!

Thanks for bringing all these remarkable van Somer treasures to our attention Eric.

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19 minutes ago, A Phoenix said:

Hi Eric,

It is generally accepted that Elizabeth Hatton (Francis Bacon's cousin and friend) was held in very high esteem at the royal court and was a particular favourite of James' wife Queen Anne of Denmark. The following general information is from Elizabeth Hatton's entry in Wikipedia with its sources:

Courtier of Anne of Denmark[edit]

When James VI of Scotland set out to claim the English throne after the death of Queen Elizabeth I in 1603, the Cokes immediately began ingratiating themselves with the new monarch and his family. Elizabeth travelled to Scotland to meet the incoming Queen, Anne of Denmark,[18] and it was said that the high-tempered beauty managed to please the withdrawn, strong-willed Queen. Hence, she and her husband were able to hold the affection and trust of the Queen as long as she lived. She petitioned Sir Robert Cecil unsuccessfully for the position of keeper of the queen's jewels and to help dress her.[19][20]

Lady Hatton was invited to perform in some of the queen's masques, including The Vision of the Twelve Goddesses at Hampton Court in January 1604, and The Masque of Beauty at Whitehall Palace in January 1608.[21] On 20 August 1613, Anne of Denmark was received at Wells, Somerset. The mayor William Bull hosted a dinner for members of her household including Lady Hatton, Lady Walsingham, and the four maids of honour.[22]

  1.  Eva Griffith, A Jacobean Company and its Playhouse: The Queen's Servants at the Red Bull Theatre (Cambridge, 2013), pp. 119-120: Barbara Kiefer Lewalski, Writing Women in Jacobean England (Harvard, 1994), p. 22.
  2. ^ HMC Salisbury Hatfield, vol. 15 (London, 1930), p. 388.
  3. ^ Nadine Akkerman, 'The Goddess of the Household: The Masquing Politics of Lucy Harington-Russell, Countess of Bedford', The Politics of Female Households: Ladies-in-waiting across Early Modern Europe (Leiden, 2014), p. 305.
  4. ^ Martin Butler, The Stuart Court Masque and Political Culture (Cambridge, 2008), p. 101.

Thanks, A.P. for these tantalising 'snapshots' of the friendship between Anne and Elizabeth. Still no luck in the hunt for her portrait.

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It makes you feel there would be a portrait of Elizabeth though surely. She was spoken of as a great beauty and often took part in court masques. I don't think she would have been shy about having her portrait painted. There is a possibility of course that there does exist a painting in private hands, most probably the Cecil family as she was grandaughter of William Cecil, Lord Burghley.

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12 minutes ago, A Phoenix said:

It makes you feel there would be a portrait of Elizabeth though surely. She was spoken of as a great beauty and often took part in court masques. I don't think she would have been shy about having her portrait painted. There is a possibility of course that there does exist a painting in private hands, most probably the Cecil family as she was grandaughter of William Cecil, Lord Burghley.

Thanks for the tip. There may be a catalogue of the Burghley House art collection somewhere...

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Hi Eric,

Elizabeth's father was Thomas Cecil who was Burghley's son from his first marriage to Mary Cheke. Elizabeth's mother was Dorothy Neville. I say this because, although the Cecil family is a good starting place for portraits, the Cheke and Neville families from the female lines were also inluential so if one exists it may have ended up there. Another possibility is the Coke family, although I don't get the feeling Coke would have been particularly fond of art and his relationship with his wife Elizabeth (who refused to take his name) was often difficult so perhaps he wouldn't have wanted a permanent reminder of her gracing his walls!

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12 hours ago, A Phoenix said:

Absolutely stunning craftsmanship by van Somer who must have been an artist of not only extreme skill but must have been incredibly discreet and well trusted, placed as he often was in the presence of royalty and influential families of the day. I bet he knew a secret or two!

He was an amazing artist!

What has been impressing me is his incredible technique of using templates for oil paintings. If he had a PC and Elizabethan software it would still be amazing.

One thing I have learned on the B'Hive is that some poses and surroundings we know from Bacon portraits are not exclusive to him. And it appears the similarities weave a fabric as well.

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17 minutes ago, Light-of-Truth said:

He was an amazing artist!

What has been impressing me is his incredible technique of using templates for oil paintings. If he had a PC and Elizabethan software it would still be amazing.

One thing I have learned on the B'Hive is that some poses and surroundings we know from Bacon portraits are not exclusive to him. And it appears the similarities weave a fabric as well.

image.png.deef94da579cde55fa2ec225e5decac4.png

image.png.f3332483631262a2fd7cefedd2101373.png

 

 

I wonder if FB saw the portrait of James in van Somer's studio and said "I'll have one of those". To copy the pose of the King could be interpreted as being rather presumptuous. Or, could it be a subtle statement about his true identity? Certainly the poses are the same. Thanks for pointing this out, L-o-T.

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34 minutes ago, Eric Roberts said:

I wonder if FB saw the portrait of James in van Somer's studio and said "I'll have one of those". To copy the pose of the King could be interpreted as being rather presumptuous. Or, could it be a subtle statement about his true identity? Certainly the poses are the same. Thanks for pointing this out, L-o-T.

I think I remember seeing portraits of the Seal Keepers that were very similar, almost exact replicas except the faces. 🙂

 

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Hi Eric, what a stunning catalogue. I came across the Weiss gallery recently, this catalogue is so beautifully done. Just need FB alongside Essex, Elizabeth and Dudley for a family gathering. I was amazed that the costume from one of the sitters survives as well - what a work of art in themselves were the fashions of the day. Thanks for posting!

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