The Somerset House Conference, 1604

The Somerset House Conference, 1604, by Unknown artist, 1604 - NPG 665 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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The Somerset House Conference, 1604

by Unknown artist
oil on canvas, 1604
81 in. x 105 1/2 in. (2057 mm x 2680 mm)
Purchased, 1882
Primary Collection
NPG 665

On display at Museum Leuven, Leuven, Belgium

Artistback to top

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This portraitback to top

This group portrait commemorates the peace treaty between England and Spain in 1604 which brought an end to a war which had dragged on for almost twenty years. Between 20 May and 16 July 1604, eighteen conference sessions were held at Somerset House, and the treaty was signed on 16 August. While those depicted were not all present at the same time, the painting may well record the appearance of the room in Old Somerset House where the negotiations took place. On the left are the members of the Hispano-Flemish delegation, on the right, the English commissioners. Although it apparently bears the signature of the Spanish painter Juan Pantoja de la Cruz, this painting also bears an impossible date, 1594. It is generally thought that both signature and the date are false and that it is by a hitherto unidentified Flemish artist. It may be associated with John De Critz the Elder, whose paintings were probably the source for the portraits of Robert Cecil and Thomas Sackville.

Related worksback to top

  • NPG 5289: Sir Roy Strong (includes the portrait)
  • NPG x12533: Sir Roy Strong (includes the portrait)
  • NPG D23070: Charles Blount, Earl of Devonshire (appears within the portrait)

Linked publicationsback to top

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Events of 1604back to top

Current affairs

James I summons the Hampton Court Conference to ease tensions between Puritans and Anglican bishops. The conference is attended by the Archbishop of Canterbury, John Whitgift, who dies soon afterwards; he is succeeded by Richard Bancroft.
Parliament assembles and debates James I's desire for administrative and parliamentary union with Scotland.

Art and science

Robert Peake the Elder is appointed picture maker to Prince Henry.
A table Alphabeticall, created by lexicographer and clergyman, Robert Cawdrey, is the first English dictionary to be published.
First recorded performance at Whitehall Palace of William Shakespeare's tragedy Othello.


James I of England ends the Anglo-Spanish War with Spain after twenty years of intermittent hostilities, resulting in the Treaty of London. A series of conferences are held at Somerset House, London, between members of the Hispano-Flemish delegation and the English commissioners to negotiate the treaty.

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