Unknown man of the Van Nierop family

1 portrait of Unknown man of the Van Nierop family

Unknown man of the Van Nierop family, attributed to Isaac Claesz van Swanenburg, 1587 - NPG 1306 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Unknown man of the Van Nierop family

attributed to Isaac Claesz van Swanenburg
oil on panel, 1587
18 1/8 in. x 14 3/8 in. (460 mm x 364 mm)
Purchased, 1901
Primary Collection
NPG 1306

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This portraitback to top

The picture has recently been identified as a Netherlandish man from the Van Nierop family although his exact identity remains a mystery. The identification was made on the basis of the coat of arms. The two carnations (or pinks) held by the sitter were a popular symbol of love during the sixteenth century. It is possible that this painting may have been created as a commemorative marriage portrait.
Initially this picture was purchased by the National Portrait Gallery as a portrait of the English botanist John Gerard. This identification was based on a superficial resemblance to the engraving of Gerard by Williams Rogers (1598). However, neither the dates in the inscription nor the coat of arms match those of the renowned author of Great Herball, published in 1597.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Cooper, Tarnya (introduction) Banville, John (character sketch) Chevalier, Tracy (character sketch) Fellowes, Julian (character sketch) McCall Smith, Alexander (character sketch) Pratchett, Terry (character sketch) Singleton, Sarah (character sketch) Trollope, Joanna (character sketch) Waters, Minette (character sketch), Imagined Lives: Portraits of Unknown People, 2011 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from December 2011 - June 2012), p. 53
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 688
  • Strong, Roy, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 1969, p. 127

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Subjects & Themesback to top

Events of 1587back to top

Current affairs

Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots for conspiring to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I. Elizabeth signs the death warrant of her cousin with considerable misgivings. Queen Elizabeth I forces Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester to resign his post as Governor-General of the Netherlands. Sir Francis Drake sacks the Spanish port Cadiz thereby forcing Philip II of Spain to postpone his planned invasion of England by a year.

Art and science

First performance of Christopher Marlowe's Tamburlaine the Great. The property developer Philip Henslowe builds the Rose Theatre in Southwark, London. The Protestant reformer John Knox's History of the Reformation in Scotland is published posthumously.


Birth of Virginia Dare, the first English child to be born in America. She is granddaughter to John White, the governor of the second colony to be established on Roanoke Island (in present-day North Carolina, USA). Pope Sixtus V calls for a Catholic crusade against England to depose the Protestant Queen Elizabeth.

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