Tradescant Collection

 

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  The Catalogue: Portrait of John Tradescant the Younger with Roger Friend  
Introduction
The Cabinet of
Curiosities
The John Tradescants
The Tradescant
Collection
Musaeum
Tradescantianum
The Tradescant
Room
Further Reading
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About this Resource
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ARTIST:
Attributed to Thomas de Critz (1607-53)
DIMENSIONS:
(Canvas) Height 107 cm, Width 132 cm; (Frame) Height 129 cm, Width 155 cm
DESCRIPTION:
In the left foreground a table heaped with large sea shells, to the right of which stands the half-length figure of Tradescant, three-quarters to the spectator's right, and close behind him the apparently taller figure of his friend, half turned towards him, against a dark background in which there is, to left of centre, a masonry block protruding into a small rectangular window, with inward sloping sill; beyond, a blue sky with pinkish clouds. The table-top, shown by convenient misuse of perspective as though tilted forward, is completely covered with reddish cloth. Tradescant's hair is brown and bushy, his beard full. He looks sidelong and upwards, as though into his friend's face, yet his head is turned a little away. He wears a broad soft white collar; his black coat, buttoned in front, is largely concealed by a mid-grey cloak lined with buff velvet, from which his hands emerge, his left holding a close-ribbed bamboo cane, behind the silver knob of which his right hand grasps his companion's left hand. Friend has shorter curling grey-white hair, balding on top, and a full beard; his purplish nose is unusually large. He looks across at the shells. He wears a similar collar over a russet tunic buttoned at the front. The back of his left hand is shown. Inscribed in yellow above the shells Sr. John Tradescant Junr. & his frind Zythepsa of Lambeth, and in black above Tradescant, 1645. Oil on canvas (relined), in a flat black and gold frame with a cherub at each corner and a leaf at the centres.
COMMENTARY:
The painting has long been held as remarkable for the quaintness of the name ‘Zythepsa', and for the uniqueness in Carolean painting of such a still-life, as much as for its eccentric composition and the portrait of Tradescant. The extraordinary division of the painting into a double portrait on the right and a display of shells on the left cannot have merely been a costly whimsy. Tradescant turns from the shells, while his consciousness of them is indicated by his gesture with his cane in their direction, to look earnestly at, and grasp the hand of, Roger Friend, perhaps in thanks for such a splendid contribution to his closet of rarities. The willingness of Friend's generosity was evidenced by the embrace with his right hand, seen (under a strong light) clasping Tradescant's cloak just above the far edge of the table. The elimination of this hand has weakened the picture's explicitness: the feeble painting of his left hand is due to later repairs intended to remedy the ‘very bad state of canvas'. Traces of earlier paint loss are still evident.
Museum Id. No:
1685 A f. 50, no. 91: Pictura Joh: Tradescanti junioris cum amico suo... Friend Zythepsa Lambethano. 667
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