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Francis Bacon’s Portraits from Life

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Gallery image 10 of 14

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Date: 1618 Artist: Studio of Paul van Somer 1 (c. 1577 – 1621)
Location: Gorhambury Estate, St Albans, Hertfordshire
Medium: oil painting
Provenance: never sold
Image credit: Alamy Stock Photo

Uncertainty regarding authenticity and attribution is also attached to this full-length portrait.

Roy Strong (“Tudor & Jacobean Portraits” p.14) mentions that there is a version of this picture at Gorhambury, but claims it is posthumous and “not earlier than temp. Charles I (this can be argued on stylistic grounds and on the fact that the seal bag on the table beside him is of a post-Restoration and not a Jacobean variety).” However, if it is a posthumous copy, then it cannot be by van Somer who died in 1621. Nevertheless, it is consistently catalogued as belonging to the studio of Paul van Somer. The National Portrait Gallery has a copy of this full-length portrait painted “by an unknown artist after 1731, based on a work of circa 1618”, but when compared with the Gorhambury picture, it is inferior, especially in the rendering of the face of Bacon.

As for the purse of the Great Seal, an identical purse is depicted in the Gainsborough Old Hall portrait, as well as in the portrait of Francis without a hat. There are subtle distinctions between the two Gorhambury paintings. Aside from the obvious difference of format and position of the hat, in the full-length portrait the brocade of the chancellor’s robe is more brightly gilded. Also, the ruff is more transparent and the brushwork of the face is freer, unlike the head of Francis in the hatless painting whose complexion is smooth, without any trace of brush marks.