Cornelis was a successful English portrait painter: during four decades he captured the likeness of his models, adapting to the changes in fashion in portrait painting, especially to the arrival of Sir Anthony van Dyck in London in 1632. Our portrait dates from the early 1650s. Cornelis had moved to the Netherlands in 1643, at the start of the English Civil War against King Charles I. He adapted perfectly to Dutch fashion and Protestant taste, and he realised a second flourishing career. He painted this man either in Amsterdam, where he lived until circa 1652, or in Utrecht, where he had moved to.
About Cornelis Janssens van Ceulen I
(also known as Cornelius Johnson, Jonson or Janson van Ceulen I)
English portrait painter
London 1593 – 1661 Utrecht
Cornelis Janssens van Ceulen Flemish parents had fled to London circa 1568 to escape religious persecution of Protestants. His family originally came from Cologne (Ceulen), they had settled in the Low Countries during the 16th century, his father (Cornelius) was born in Antwerp. Cornelis was born in London in 1593. In England he is known as Cornelius Johnson (van Ceulen). He is said to have trained in Holland (one does indeed recognize the influence of Jan van Ravesteyn and of Jan Michiel van Mierevelt), although it is more probable that he was a pupil of Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger (Bruges circa 1561/62 – 1636 London) in London.
Around 1618 he established himself as a portrait painter in London. His signed or monogrammed portraits number several hundred; he is the first English-born painter known to have made so many.
His early portraits are clearly influenced by the Jacobean tradition: as with William Larkin he paints oval portraits set within a fictive marble surround, in a polished, almost porcelain finish.
By the mid 1620s he has perfected his style: the half-length figures are placed unusually low within the composition and the heads are notable for their gentle, almost wistful, character.
The arrival of Van Dyck in the spring of 1632 was an event that touched all portrait painters active in England. Anthony van Dyck's dazzling manner did influence him. Unable to compete with the great master's talents he moved to Bridge in Kent, where his clientele were members of the principal gentry families and minor aristocracy. His more straightforward style appealed to his new patrons. His sitters look directly out of the picture. His half-length and three-quarter-length portraits were notable for their elegance and for his characteristically precise rendering of his sitter's features and clothing.
In 1639 he received a royal commission to paint 3 portraits of the eldest children of king Charles I. He made 3 superb full-length miniature paintings, now in the National Portrait Gallery.
With the start of the English Civil War Janssens moved with his family to the Northern Netherlands by October 1643, where he helped to popularize van Dyck's airy, liquid touch. He stopped first in Middelburg and moved 3 years later, in 1646, to Amsterdam. He had commissions in The Hague and kept his contacts in Middelburg. Finally in 1652 he settled in Utrecht, remaining here until his death in 1661.
His green and blue backgrounds distinguish him from most other Dutch portrait painters. In Holland, from 1643 on, he signed his portraits "Corneli(u)s Jonson Van Ceulen".
Cornelis married in London in 1622. The couple had two children, two boys. The youngest son, Cornelis II (London 1634 – 1715 Utrecht), also became a portrait painter, strongly influenced by his father. He lived in Utrecht between 1652 and 1675, moved to London for three years until 1678 and returned to Utrecht where he remained until his death in 1715. He died in misery, ruined by a spendthrift second wife.
About our painting
The simple white ruff that our unidentified man is wearing is typical of circa 1650 and of the early 1650s. Our painter lived in Amsterdam between circa 1646 and circa 1652, when he moved to Utrecht where he remained until his death in 1661.
Why should you buy this painting?
Because it is an excellent example of a mid 17th century portrait, painted with a lot of sense for elegance and naturalism in subdued colours.