‘Painting for the English’, the English portraits in the oeuvre of Michiel van Mierevelt

Anita Jansen, Art historian and Curator, Het Prinsenhof, Delft and project leader of ‘The Factory of Van Mierevelt’
Johanneke Verhave, Art historian and paintings restorer, researcher of painting technique for ‘The Factory of Van Mierevelt’

Making Art in Tudor Britain

Abstract of a paper presented at Tudor and Jacobean Painting: Production, Influences and Patronage
Funded by the British Academy and The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art

As one of the leading portrait painters of the Northern-Netherlands, Michiel van Mierevelt (1567-1641) managed a very flourishing portrait business in his hometown of Delft. After he became court painter to the House of Orange in 1607 English Royals became interested in his work as well. Efforts made by Prince Henry in 1611, and King Charles in 1625, to persuade him to come to England were in vain. Nevertheless Van Mierevelt influenced the English market in different ways. 

One of his alleged pupils, Daniel Mijtens, made the journey to the English court and painted numerous portraits of Charles I and Henrietta. English ambassadors, governors and supreme commanders who were stationed in the Netherlands travelled to Delft to sit for Van Mierevelt. Returning to England they imported numerous portraits – originals and copies. In the presentation we discuss how this network of English clients developed. On the basis of a unique bill, exacting nine portraits that Van Mierevelt delivered to Ambassador Dudley Carleton, we will examine details about the type of portrait, the sitter, the patron and the difference -both in description and in price - between portraits ‘nae ‘t leven’ (after life) and ‘copij’ (copy). At least six portraits of Carleton related to Van Mierevelt have survived, of whom two versions belong to the collection of the National Portrait Gallery. In the presentation we will discuss if, and in what way, the English paintings match or deviate from Van Mierevelt’s standard painting style and technique.