Cornelius Johnson

Portrait of a Lady

Portrait of a Lady by Cornelius Johnson

Artwork Detail

This is the earliest British painting in the collection. For nearly twenty years, Johnson was the fashionable painter of the English aristocracy and the court of James I and Charles I, and the only painter working in England in the seventeenth century who signed and dated a considerable number of his works. When Anthony van Dyck returned to England from Flanders in 1632 at the invitation of Charles I, Cornelius Johnson had just been sworn in as 'his Majesty's servant in the quality of Picture drawer'. Although initially influenced by Daniel Mytens, through working alongside van Dyck, he developed the delicate colouring and silvery tones that we see in Portrait of a Lady. These are especially distinctive and are characteristic of Johnson's style during this period. The majority of his works are portrait busts, often using a trompe l'œil oval 'painted stone' frame, a format favoured by other artists of the period such as Mary Beale, who is also represented in the Gallery's collection. Such a device serves to distance the spectator, whereas the lady in this portrait sits tight against the picture plane, so that the spectator's relationship to her is more immediate and intimate. In 1643, prompted by fears of a civil war, Johnson emigrated to Holland, becoming known variously as Jonson, Janssens or Janson van Ceulen. (from The Guide, 2001)

Portrait of a Lady
Cornelius Johnson
Production date
oil on panel
784 x 657 mm
Credit line
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased with funds from the M A Serra Trust, 1977
Accession no
No known copyright restrictions
International Art
Display status
On display

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