after Unknown artist
oil on canvas, late 17th century, based on a work of circa 1620
29 in. x 24 1/4 in. (737 mm x 616 mm)
This portraitback to top
One of the most important playwrights in Jacobean London, Fletcher is particularly known for his extremely successful collaborations with Francis Beaumont, including Philaster (c.1609), The Maid's Tragedy (c.1610) and A King and No King (1611). Fletcher also wrote several plays himself, and collaborated on works with other playwrights, including Shakespeare for Henry VIII and The Two Noble Kinsmen (both 1613). This portrait shows Fletcher holding a laurel branch, a traditional attribute of writers and poets. The laurel, a symbol of eternity owing to its evergreen properties, is used to suggest that while no man is immortal, great works survive for posterity.
Linked publicationsback to top
- Charles Nicholl, Shakespeare and his Contemporaries, 2015, p. 56
- MacLeod, Catherine, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery Collection at Montacute House, 1999, p. 24
- Nicholl, Charles, Character Sketches: Elizabethan Writers, 1997, p. 27
- Nicholl, Charles, Insights: Shakespeare and His Contemporaries, 2005, p. 46
- Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 222
- Strong, Roy, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 1969, p. 122
Events of 1620back to top
Current affairsThe beginning of a severe economic depression in England is widely blamed on the East India Company whose export of bullion on each voyage financed their trade. Additionally, despite efforts by Lionel Cranfield, Earl of Middlesex, to reduce the royal household's expenditure, James I's debt is historically high.
Art and scienceFrancis Bacon publishes his major philosophical work Novum Organum, which presents his account of the correct method of acquiring natural knowledge using inductive reasoning.
Inventor and mechanical engineer, Cornelis Drebbel builds an early type of submarine which he demonstrates on the Thames.
InternationalThe Catholic League's invasion of Bohemia and victory at the battle of the White Mountain, forces Frederick V, king of Bohemia and his family into exile in the Hague, after less than a year reigning.
The Pilgrim Fathers sail for America in the 'Mayflower', escaping religious persecution in England.
Recommended Exhibitions & displays
- 1517: Martin Luther and the English Reformation
Until 2 December
- John Fletcher
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- Return to Life: A New Look at the Portrait Bust
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