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Luce Foundation Center for American Art

Painting: Pre-18th century: Portrait of a Gentleman
Portrait of a Gentleman


Portrait of a Gentleman
about 1635-40
Cornelius Johnson
oil on canvas
sight 29 1/2 x 24 1/2 in. (74.9 x 62.2 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Bequest of Mabel Johnson Langhorne
1956.11.27
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When this portrait entered the Smithsonian it was thought to be a posthumous image of Henry, Prince of Wales, who died in 1612. Curators questioned this identification after comparing it to life portraits of the prince, whose features differ noticeably from those of this man. But the sitter’s long hair, lace collar, and elaborate sleeves mark him as a cavalier, a supporter of the king in the civil war that eventually drove Cornelius Johnson to Holland. When the portrait was painted, Johnson was still in England, where he held the distinction of “his Majesty’s servant in the quality of Picture drawer.” (Shaw, The Seventeenth-century Gaze, 1987) This painting came to the Smithsonian through Ralph Cross Johnson, who worked as an attorney in Maine and in Washington. Johnson built an impressive collection of European and American art, which he bequeathed to the National Collection.

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