Image of Gallery in South Kensington
Not currently on display at the V&A
On display at Osterley Park House, London

An Unknown man (formerly called Lord Fairfax)

Oil Painting
17th century (painted)
Artist/Maker

Half length portrait of a man against a dark background. The figure is clean shaven with long hair, a t-bar moustache and beard. He wears a black doublet with a falling lace edged ruff and cuffs. He is shown placing his right hand on his chest.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Oil on canvas
Brief Description
Oil painting, 'An Unknown Man (formerly called Lord Fairfax)', British School, 17th century
Physical Description
Half length portrait of a man against a dark background. The figure is clean shaven with long hair, a t-bar moustache and beard. He wears a black doublet with a falling lace edged ruff and cuffs. He is shown placing his right hand on his chest.
Dimensions
  • Estimate height: 24.75in
  • Estimate width: 23.375in
Dimensions taken from Summary catalogue of British Paintings, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973
Style
Credit line
Given by Melmoth Walters
Object history
Given by Melmoth Walters, 1867



Historical significance: This painting was acquired as a portrait of Lord General Fairfax. It was believed to be a portrait of Ferdinando Fairfax 2nd Lord Fairfax (1584-1648) or Thomas Fairfax 3rd Lord Fairfax (1612-1671) of Denton, Yorkshire. A note on the object file from 1932 states that after comparing 28-1867 with known portraits of the 2nd and 3rd Lord Fairfax it was decided that the sitter in this anonymous work did not bear a close resemblance to either of these figures. The title of the portrait was subsequently changed to reflect this.



In this half-length portrait the sitter is shown against a neutral dark brown background looking out of the painting. He wears a black doublet and a falling ruff of thin layers of fine layers of linen which are edged with lace. The sleeves of his doublet are edged with broad cuffs of the same material and lace as that of the ruff. Ruffs of this style started to be worn in the 1620s and 1630s. This style can be seen in the portrait of Robert Hitcham by an unknown artist dating to circa 1620 (National Portrait Gallery, NPG 467). The doublet follows the line of the falling ruff with the shoulders cut in a steep slope in the fashion of the 1620s. The sitter wears a ring of a large square cut stone on the little finger of his left hand which is raised to his chest. It was customary during the first half of the seventeenth century for men to wear rings such as this and documents survive of gloves being cut in order to reveal rings worn below (see: Cunnington, p.79). He has a small "T-bar moustache and beard and wears his hair to just the length of his ruff, just below his ears. The type of ruff, cut of the doublet and hairstyle all support the date of this portrait to 1620-30.



This painting was acquired as anonymous British School and remains with this attribution. There is a softer observation in the depiction of the figure, which is introduced into British Portraiture in the opening decades of the seventeenth century through the work of the Dutch immigrant Mytens (1590-1647) who had arrived in London in 1618 and Scottish portrait painter George Jameson (1589-1644). This has been achieved partly through the artist's loose application of fine brushstrokes to build up the gradations of tone in the skin and show the fall of light on the lace trim. These qualities suggest that the artist was combining contemporary trends in portraiture in this painting.



References: Cunnington, W and Cunnington, P. The Handbook of English Costume in the Seventeenth Century, London, 1955
Subjects depicted
Collection
Accession Number
28-1867

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record createdFebruary 26, 2007
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