Flagmen of Lowestoft: Admiral Sir John Harman, d. 1673

A three-quarter-length portrait to left, turned away from the viewer and looking back over his left shoulder. He wears a long coat that is a version of the Persian vest introduced into the English court in 1666. It is heavily barred with gold and silver braiding and he also wears a loosely knotted linen cravat and a heavy leather sword belt. The background consists of rock and foliage with a ship in action on the left.

Harman served throughout the Dutch Wars. He was captain of James, Duke of York's, flagship at the Battle of Lowestoft in 1665, the first major action of the Second Dutch War, where James was in overall command. His defence of the 'Henry', 80 guns, when he was Rear-Admiral of the White squadron on the first day of the Four Days' Fight in 1666 is one of the epics of naval warfare. In 1667, as commander-in-chief in the West Indies, he sailed into Martinique, silenced the forts and destroyed 20 of the 24 French ships there, including the flagship. He also captured Surinam from the Dutch. In the Third Dutch War he fought as a flag officer in Sandwich's squadron at Solebay in 1672 and Prince Rupert's at the Texel in 1673, shortly before his death. The portrait is inscribed 'Capt. Harman'.

It is perhaps the most dashing of the 'flagmen of Lowestoft' series commissioned by James, Duke of York and was one of those seen by Pepys, either begun or finished, in Lely's studio on 18 April 1666. Lely, a Dutchman who arrived in England in 1641 after the death of Van Dyck, soon became his successor as leading portraitist of the day. He worked for Charles I, continued to flourish under the Commonwealth and Protectorate, and after the Restoration of 1660 was appointed Principal Painter to Charles II. The full 'flagmen' set consists of thirteen individual portraits, of which George IV presented eleven plus a copy of that of Admiral Sir John Lawson (BHC2833) to Greenwich Hospital in 1824. The originals of Lawson and of Prince Rupert were retained in the Royal Collection, although William IV presented an extended full-length copy of the latter (BHC2990) to the Hospital in 1835.

Object Details

ID: BHC2750
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Display - QH
Creator: Lely, Peter
Events: Second Anglo-Dutch War: Battle of Lowestoft, 1665; Second Anglo–Dutch War: Four Days Fight, 1666 Second Anglo-Dutch War; 1665-1667
Date made: 1666
Exhibition: Art for the Nation; Greenwich Hospital Collection
People: Harman, John; King George IV Greenwich Hospital Collection
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Greenwich Hospital Collection
Measurements: Painting: 1270 mm x 1015 mm; Frame: 1450 mm x 1200 mm x 100 mm

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