Unknown man, formerly known as John Bull

1 portrait matching '4873'

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Unknown man, formerly known as John Bull

by Unknown artist
oil on panel, circa 1600-1620
14 1/8 in. x 10 1/8 in. (360 mm x 258 mm)
Bequeathed by (Robert) Thurston Dart, 1971
Primary Collection
NPG 4873

Sitterback to top

  • John Bull (1563?-1628), Composer. Sitter associated with 2 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Unknown artist, Artist. Artist or producer associated with 6578 portraits.

This portraitback to top

Stylistically, this portrait appears to be continental rather than English and the sitter's costume reflects late sixteenth and early seventeenth century Dutch or Flemish fashions. It is possible that it depicts the English composer John Bull who served as a royal musician to both Elizabeth I and James I. Bull may have travelled on the continent in around 1602 and he moved to the Netherlands from 1613 until his death. The facial features are remarkably similar to other known portraits of Bull, but without further evidence it is difficult to provide a certain identification. The lyrics on the musical score translate as 'I saw her, I love her, and I will love her', indicating that this portrait may have been a personal love token. Curiously, a large baton (or perhaps a bow) in the man's hand has been partly painted out. It can still just be seen and probably represents a change in the composition by the artist.

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. 29
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 690

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1600back to top

Current affairs

Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex is put on trial for failing to put an end to the rebellion in Ireland, attempting to negotiate a truce with the rebel leader Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, and deserting his post.
Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy, replaces Essex as Lord Deputy of Ireland.
The East India Company receives its Royal Charter by Queen Elizabeth I.
Birth of Prince Charles in Scotland (later King Charles I).

Art and science

William Shakespeare writes Hamlet.
The scientist William Gilbert writes De magnete ('on the magnet'), which pioneers research into the properties of the lodestone (magnetic iron ore) and introduces the terms 'electricity' and 'magnetic pole'.
The miniature painter Nicholas Hilliard works on his painting treatise The Art of Limning at this time.


Henry IV of France marries Marie de Medici from the powerful ruling family of Florence, Italy.
The Italian astronomer, philosopher and mathematician Giordano Bruno is sentenced to death by the Roman Inquisition and burned at the stake for heresy.
Following the death of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Tokugawa Ieyasu seizes control of Japan at the Battle of Sekigahara.

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