The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
An Unknown Man
  • Samuel Cooper (1609 - 1672)
  • An Unknown Man
  • England
  • c. 1660-1665
  • Miniature
  • Painted on vellum
  • Image size: 4.7 x 3.8 cm
    Frame size: 5.2 x 4.4 cm
  • M205
  • Boudoir Cabinet
Commentary
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Samuel Cooper, the foremost miniature painter of his generation, learned his art with his uncle, the London miniature painter John Hoskins (c.1590-1664/5). Cooper’s earliest signed miniature is of Van Dyck’s mistress, Margaret Lemon (Paris, Fondation Custodia), and indeed Van Dyck’s influence on Cooper’s work is obvious and was commented upon by contemporaries. The young Cooper could have known the Flemish painter personally.

    Cooper set up an independent studio in c.1641-2, right at the beginning of the Civil War, and by 1650 was a financially successful artist. His career survived all regime changes. During the Commonwealth, he painted official miniature portraits of Cromwell and in 1663 was appointed miniature painter to Charles II. By the end of his career he was wealthy, famous and well-connected and regarded as the most important European portrait miniature painter.

    While Cooper’s earlier works directly follow Van Dyck’s model in their combination of psychological understanding and easy elegance, his later miniatures seem to focus even more on the individuality of the sitters. The present miniature is a good example of Cooper’s outstanding ability to capture the character of his sitter through an unflattering, but sympathetic rendering of the features. The man’s alertness is balanced by his courtier’s pose. The sitter of the miniature is unknown. The style of the miniature is closer to Cooper’s work of the mid to late 1660’s.