Inigo Jones, 1573-1652

A head-and-shoulders portrait facing right, looking directly towards the viewer. The sitter, portrayed with dark hair and a white beard, wears a skull-cap. This life study is thought to be for the head-and-shoulders to half-length portrait at Chiswick House and was was formerly at Llanarth Court, Monmouthshire. Even allowing for increased transparency of paint layers due to their age, parts only appear sketched in. This is notable in the cap, while the bottom left corner is practically bare. It is likely Dobson was originally working on at least a slightly larger canvas, which was later cut down to remove unfinished or unpainted areas as acceptably as possible. The present unframed size (369 x 305mm) includes the modern lining and stretcher, which leaves a border round the original when out of the frame: the actual size of Dobson's remaining canvas is 335 x 285mm.

Inigo Jones was celebrated as a designer of entertainments for the courts of James I and Charles I but his posthumous reputation is based on his architectural work. He was one of the first Englishmen to make a detailed study of the buildings of ancient Rome and of the works of the Italian classical architects of the Renaissance, particularly Andrea Palladio. Jones introduced into England a rigorous interpretation of the classical language of architecture, including the hierarchical use of the architectural orders and their attendant details arranged through the appropriate use of number, measure and proportion. His influence was curtailed by the English Civil War, 1642-49, but enjoyed a great revival among Palladian architects of the 18th century. The most famous of his buildings are the Queen's House at Greenwich and the Banqueting House, Whitehall, London.

Dobson was of impoverished gentlemanly background, who had earn his living by painting but fortunately had extraordinary talent as a portraitist in less than full-length formats (which were not his strength). Though his career was short, and its early part overshadowed by van Dyck, he became court painter on the latter's death in 1641. He was the only English contemporary whose quality approached van Dyck's, though their styles greatly differed. He was with Charles I in Oxford in 1642 during the Civil War and between then and his early death in 1646 he painted many of the Royalists. Although he also painted the royal children he does not appear to have painted the king. This portrait may itself have been painted at Oxford while Jones was with the Court there.

Object Details

ID: BHC2809
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Display - QH
Creator: Dobson, William
Date made: circa 1642
People: Jones, Inigo
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Fund
Measurements: Frame: 586 mm x 522 mm x 100 mm;Painting: 369 x 305 mm

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