Unknown man, formerly known as Cornelius Johnson (Cornelius Janssen van Ceulen)

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Unknown man, formerly known as Cornelius Johnson (Cornelius Janssen van Ceulen)

by Cornelius Johnson (Cornelius Janssen van Ceulen)
oil on canvas, 1636
30 1/4 in. x 24 1/2 in. (768 mm x 622 mm)
Purchased, 1920
Primary Collection
NPG 1887

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This painting was purchased as a self-portrait of English-born artist Cornelius Johnson. However, the sitter's features bear little similarity to authenticated portraits of Johnson.
The sitter is presented simply and without decoration. His sober costume, broad shoulders and pointed beard conform to contemporary ideals of masculinity and fashion. The high quality satin doublet suggests that the sitter was reasonably wealthy. His gesture of pointing towards his chest may be intended to emphasise his virtue, strength of character and self-reliance. Similar gestures are occasionally found in other portraits of writers, artists and successful professional men.

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Current affairs

The third daughter of Charles I, Princess Anne, is born. She dies aged three of natural causes at Richmond Palace.
Severe outbreak of the bubonic plague closes London theatres. They remain almost continuously closed until the end of the year.

Art and science

Canvases by painter, Sir Peter Paul Rubens are installed on the ceiling of the Banqueting House. Commissioned by Charles I, the paintings celebrate the life and wise government of his father, James I.
The favourite portraitist of James I's queen Anne of Denmark, Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, dies.


Scottish army officer, Alexander Leslie, Earl of Leven, is appointed Swedish Field Marshal in Westphalia, and commands forces in a decisive victory over Imperial-Saxon forces at the Battle of Wittstock.
North America's first college, New College, is founded in Massachusetts; two years later, its name would be changed to Harvard.

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