Although the identity of the lady in this portrait is unknown, she was clearly someone of great wealth and status shown by her pearl necklace and earrings and her silk gown adorned with the intricate lace collar and cuffs which were extremely expensive items in the 17th century.
Our thanks go to dress historian Jacqui Ansell for her expertise in dating the portrait to circa 1635 due to the style of dress showing the influence of Van Dyck and the slightly longer shoulder length hair which had become popular at this time.
Cornelius Johnson (or known as Cornelis Jonson van Ceulen in Holland) was an English painter of portraits of Dutch or Flemish origin. He was born in London in 1593 to a German and Flemish immigrant family and baptised in the Dutch church. He probably trained in the Northern Netherlands before returning to England where he was active from 1618 onwards. He had a very successful portrait practice based in Blackfriars, with his sitters coming from the various levels of upper society and in 1632 he was appointed 'picture-drawer', to King Charles I.
In 1643 following the outbreak of the Civil Wars in Britain, and the consequent decline of court patronage, Johnson and his family he moved to Middleburg in the Netherlands. There he joined the Guild of St Luke, the painters' guild and continued to work. He lived in Amsterdam between 1646 and 1652 and in the Hague for some time before finally settling in Utrecht where he died in 1661.
Johnson's scale of portraits varied from tiny miniatures to full-lengths and large group portraits. His earliest works were on wooden panels but he began to work on canvas in the 1620's. His portraits are often instantly recognisable with the sitters head sitting low in an oval and the pose is often the same. He had a meticulous precision in the handling of jewellery, lace and fabrics, in particular the intricate lace collars which were such signifiers of wealth and status in 17th century Britain and Holland. Johnson's handling of his sitters' eyes, with often enlarged, rounded irises and deep curved upper lids is particularly distinctive.
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British and European paintings and sculpture from the 16th To 19th century