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Cornelius Johnson 1593-1661
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Cornelius Johnson 1593-1661

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Head and shoulder length portraits of Sir George Juxon of Canterbury and his second wife Anne, nee Digges.

Oil paintings on canvas, each 30 x 25 inches, and contained in matching early Georgian carved giltwood frames.

The former signed with initials “CJ” and dated 1643; the latter signed with initials and dated 1634. Inscribed in an early (? 18th century) hand with the identities of the sitters, and further extensively inscribed with the biographies of the sitters on 19th century labels on the reverse

Provenance: by descent from the sitter at St. Alban's Court, Nonington, Kent until sold in the 1930's  ; private collection, England until the present.

Literature: Topographical Miscellanies “Volume 1” (London 1792) sub St Alban's Court in Nonington, in the Hundred of Wingham. (unpaginated; no further volumes were published ).
E.W.Brayley Beauties of England and Wales, volume VIII, Kent (1808) sub St Alban's Court
A .J.Finberg, Chronological list of portraits by Cornelius Johnson Walpole Society, volume X (1921-2) pages 24 and 34.

Sir George Juxon was the son of Richard Juxon of Canterbury and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Charles Chiborne of Messing Hall, Essex. His first marriage was to Dorothy, daughter of Robert Purdy of an old Suffolk family. By this wife he had one child, a daughter.

After the demise of Dorothy Juxon, he married as his second wife in 1662 Anne Hammond, nee Digges, daughter of Sir Dudley Digges (1582/3-1639) of Chilham Castle, Kent. She was the widow of Anthony Hammond who was the eldest son of Sir William Hammond of St. Alban's Court, Nonington, Kent. She had been born in 1608 and had married Anthony Hammond on July 6th 1633, the year before her portrait was painted by Johnson. The Hammonds had a family of twelve children, four boys and eight girls and lived at Wilberton, Ely, until the husband died 24th September 1661. She was the ancestor of James Hammond (1710–1742), the elegaic poet and politician.

Her marriage to Sir George Juxon took place the following year. They resided at St. Albans Court until her death from smallpox. She was buried in Nonington Church August 25th 1664.

St Alban's Court

“…..........This mansion contains a large collection of family portraits, some of which are remarkable as examples of the best style of Cornelius Jansen, who, about the year 1636, resided at Bridge, for the purpose of painting the family of Sir Dudley Digges, of Chilham Castle; Sir Anthony Aucher of Bourne Place; and Sir William Hammond, of St Alban's Court; between which families a close degree of consanguinity existed: the Hammond portraits are, Sir William and Lady Hammond (daughter of Anthony Aucher, of Bishopsbourne) by Dobson; Colonel Francis Hammond, commander of a regiment in the first Scottish expedition under the earl of Northumberland in 1640; Colonel Robert Hammond who commanded a body of foot raised in favour of Charles the first, in the insurrection of 1648, and was shot in the Wars in Ireland; Lieutenant colonel John Hammond; Lady Dormer, Lady Thynne and Lady Ady, by Cor. Jansen, daughters of Sir William Hammond; and Mrs Hammond by Gainsborough: the portrait of of Lady Thynne has the date of 1636; that of Lady Dormer, who is depicted in her weeds, with her faced muffed up in sables, is dated 1642; these portraits are particularly fine. The other portraits by Jansen, are those of Lady Bowyer (first cousin to Lady Thynne, and daughter of Sir Anthony Aucher) who possessed such exquisite beauty as to be called the “Star of the East”; Lady Juxon, daughter of Sir Dudley Digges, first married to Anthony Hammond Esq., Sir George Juxon; Sir John Dormer and Sir Dudley Digges, Master of the Rolls in the time of Charles the First............Extracted from E W Brayley, Beauties of England & Wales Vol. VIII (1808)

Cornelius Johnson was baptised in London on 14 October 1593 at the Dutch church, Austin Friars, the son of Johanna le Grand and Cornelius Johnson (d. in or before 1605), an exile from Antwerp whose own grandfather, Peter Jansen, had originated in Cologne. The family sometimes used the name Jonson or Jansen van Ceulen. After his baptism no documentary reference to Johnson is found before 1619, when he witnessed the baptism of his nephew Nicasius in London. According to the antiquarian and engraver George Vertue, who knew Johnson's great-nephew Anthony Russell, the painter had come to England from Amsterdam the previous year (although Vertue was incorrect in stating that he had been born in that city; Vertue, Note books, 2.23, 5.90) . From his style it is possible that Johnson did receive at least part of his training in the Netherlands in this interim period.

Johnson's earliest portraits depict the sitters at head and shoulders within a feigned stone oval, for example An Unknown Elderly Lady (1619; priv. coll.). From the outset Johnson signed and dated his works—generally, with the monogram ‘C.J.’—making his œuvre comparatively easy to establish. Later, following his emigration to the Netherlands, he was to sign his works ‘Cornelius Jonson van Ceulen’, an allusion to his family's origins in Cologne. On 16 July 1622, Johnson married Elizabeth Beck or Beke (d. after 1661), of Colchester, at the Dutch church in London, by which date he had settled beside the River Thames in the Blackfriars area, where their son James (who presumably died young) was baptised on 30 September 1623 at St Anne's Church. Another son, Cornelius (later also a painter), was baptised there in 1634.

Throughout the 1620s Johnson produced numerous portraits of gentry, professional, and court sitters, to a consistently high technical standard. Perhaps his most assiduous patron was Thomas, first Baron Coventry, who was appointed lord keeper by Charles I, and who evidently sat to Johnson on various occasions. Signed portraits of him survive of varying dates: a three-quarter-length of 1623, another of 1627 with a signed replica of 1629, and, possibly the finest, the one dated 1631 (priv. coll.); there is another half-length of 1634 and a final image of 1639. In January 1625 the artist took on an apprentice called John Evoms. His nephew Theodore Russell is also said to have trained with him. Johnson may also have worked in collaboration with the Dutch-born royal portraitist Daniel Mytens, for in 1631 he signed a version of Mytens's full-length official portrait Charles I (priv. coll.). In 1632 Johnson was himself appointed ‘his Majesty's servant in the quality of Picture drawer’. In the same year, however, Sir Anthony Van Dyck arrived at the English court and soon monopolized the top portrait commissions. This may have been one reason why Johnson moved to Kent during the mid-1630s, where he is said to have taken up residence at Bridge near Canterbury, with a wealthy merchant of Flemish descent, Sir Arnold Braems. His clients included many sitters from Kentish families, including the Campions of Combwell, the Filmers of East Sutton, and the Oxendens of Deane. In 1638 Sir Thomas Pelham of Halland House, Sussex, paid £4 for his portrait by Johnson (accounts book, Pelham family papers, BL, Add. MS 33145, fol. 107). Johnson was himself portrayed, as a prosperous family man with his wife and son Cornelius, about 1637 by the Dutch painter Adrian Hanneman (Rijksmuseum Twenthe, Enschede). At this period Hanneman was working in Britain, and indeed, according to Vertue, unsuccessfully courted Johnson's niece.

In 1637 Johnson painted a small full-length Charles I, again based on a Mytens pattern, included in a perspective setting painted by Hendrick van Steenwick (now in the Staatliche Kunst Sammlungen Dresden, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister), and collaborated with Gerard Houckgeest on a similar small full-length Queen Henrietta Maria (priv. coll.); as these two works entered the king's collection, they were presumably commissioned by him. In 1639 Johnson produced three small individual full-length portraits on panel of Charles I's eldest children (NPG). He was still listed among the servants of Charles I in 1641.

Alongside his head-and-shoulders, half-length, three-quarter-length, full-length, and large group portraits, on panel or canvas, Johnson produced portrait miniatures, painted in oil on metal. This was not a combination of medium and support that miniaturists working in England had previously generally used; they worked in water-based media on vellum over card. Johnson may have learned this technique overseas. He did not always sign these miniatures, but his handling of them is extremely characteristic. A pair of about 1637 depict a London-based couple of Netherlandish descent, Peter Vandeput and Sarah Hoste (priv. coll.), indicating that Johnson also had clients among his own immigrant community.

Johnson was one of the artists questioned in London by the Swiss-born physician Dr Theodore Turquet de Mayerne, who included Johnson's comments on how to use the poisonous yellow pigment orpiment in his manuscript ‘Pictoria sculptoria et quae subalternarum artium’ (BL, Sloane MS 2052). Technical advice from Johnson on methods of painting draperies also cropped up in an English manuscript compiled in the 1650s by a minor graphic artist, Daniel King.

According to Vertue, at the time of the civil war it was at the persuasion of his wife that Johnson left England for the Netherlands late in 1643, taking with him ‘such pictures and colours, bedding, household stuff, pewter and brass as belonged to himself’ (Finberg, ‘Chronological list’, 6). In October 1644 Johnson and his wife were recorded in Middelburg, in which city he became a member of the guild of St Luke. In 1646 he was in Amsterdam, and the following year painted the large group Magistrates of The Hague (Oude Stadhuis, The Hague). In 1650 he portrayed members of the St Sebastian guild—the archers' guild—of Middelburg, a composition of seventeen figures (Middelburg town hall), and was recorded in that city again in 1652. In November 1652 he was also in Utrecht where, at his house in Heerenstraat, he made a will (private information). In 1657 he painted William of Orange (the future William III of England) as a boy (various versions; a signed and dated one is at Knole, Kent).

Johnson is thought to have died in Utrecht on 5 August 1661.

Johnson painted many portraits of the local gentry and nobility in Kent; that he should have been chosen by both the Hammonds and the Juxons to paint their portraits is hardly surprising, since Johnson's house in Kent, at Bridge outside Dover, was only some six miles from St. Alban's Court.


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