John Tradescant Jr in his Garden

John Tradescant Jr in his Garden

Portrait of John Tradescant the Younger (1608-62), , c. 1648-53, possibly by Thomas de Critz (1607-53). Dimensions: (Canvas) Height 107 cm, Width 86 cm; (Frame) Height 128 cm, Width 109 cm. Source: Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, Accession no. WA1898.10 (1685 A f.47 no. 71). Presented by Elias Ashmole, 1683. 
Description. Three-quarter-length, dressed as a gardener. He stands a quarter to the spectator's right, against a landscape background. Dark brown bushy hair and full beard; his tired and baggy brown eyes look to the left of the spectator from a creased and melancholy face. He wears a black cap, and a white shirt, open at the front beneath a loose-fitting black coat lined down the front and at the forearms with grey fleece, the ends of the white shirt-sleeves showing. His right hand holds the front of his coat; his left hand grasps the wooden handle of what is probably a garden spade. On the middle joint of his little finger is a gold ring. A rocky eminence behind him; beyond on right, a landscape with receding elms, beneath a partly clouded sky. Inscribed on left in yellow, Sr John Tradescant Junr: in his Garden. Oil on canvas (relined), in a broad black and gold frame, with gilt cherubs at corners and leaf motifs applied at centres.
Inventory: 1685 A f. 47, no. 71: Pictura Joh: Tradescanti junioris Cimeliarchæ celeberrimi, Botanici habitu 685 [the last digit later corrected to 4]
Commentary. An unequivocal likeness of the saddened owner of the closet of rarities and gardener of Oatlands Palace. If an occasion is to be found for representing him in this working attire in open country it should be sought in the period after the destruction of the gardens at Oatlands in 1648 when his royal appointment and career ceased. He has had himself shown as a disappointed man, still holding on to the essentials of his profession. The painting was attributed to Dobson in 1836, an opinion questioned by Bell and guardedly repeated by Mrs. Lane Poole. In a very sympathetic and important reappraisal, Sir Ellis Waterhouse suggested that Emanuel de Critz might have painted it. The most recent reference to the problem is also non-committal. A look at the whole evidence, including the dependence of the landscape on the tradition of Van Dyck, and the similarities in the handling of the paint with the Thomas de Critz group, suggests that the painter was not Emanuel, but Thomas, de Critz, with no decisive evidence to the contrary
Credit: Gerald Taylor, ‘Catalogue of Paintings from the Foundation Collection of the Ashmolean Museum’ in Arthur MacGregor (ed.),Tradescant's Rarities: Essays on the Foundation of the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford, 1983), pp. 308-9, No. 274.

Further reading: Arthur MacGregor in ODNB; P. Leith-Ross, The John Tradescants (1984).

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