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Oliver Cromwell

2 of 224 portraits of Oliver Cromwell

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Oliver Cromwell

by Samuel Cooper
watercolour on vellum, 1649
2 1/4 in. x 1 7/8 in. (57 mm x 48 mm) oval
Purchased, 1983
Primary Collection
NPG 5589

On display in the Room 5 miniature case at the National Portrait Gallery

Sitterback to top

  • Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), Lord Protector of England. Sitter associated with 224 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Samuel Cooper (1609-1672), Miniature painter. Artist associated with 111 portraits, Sitter in 4 portraits.

This portraitback to top

Samuel Cooper, the miniaturist who was described by the Grand Duke of Tuscany as 'a tiny man, all wit and courtesy', produced this fine portrait of Oliver Cromwell in 1649, the year of Charles I's execution. Cromwell at the time was in the process of becoming the effective leader of the Parliamentarian forces and is depicted looking callous and determined but not yet disfigured by the pimples and warts that were the distinguishing features of later portraits of him.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Cooper, John, A Guide to the National Portrait Gallery, 2009, p. 25 Read entry

    This is the earliest authenticated portrait of Cromwell, dating from the year the English Republic was set up. Its identification as Cromwell was established only in the 1980s. Plain and direct, it conveys the simple force of the man.

  • Cooper, John, Visitor's Guide, 2000, p. 34
  • Cooper, John, Great Britons: The Great Debate, 2002, p. 60 Read entry

    Cooper painted both the earliest and the most intense portraits of Cromwell. His 1649 miniature has not been a source for other versions, but the c.1650 image has proved fertile.

  • Cooper, John, Oliver the First: Contemporary Images of Oliver Cromwell, 1999, p. 23
  • John Cooper, National Portrait Gallery Visitor's Guide, 2006, p. 34
  • Rogers, Malcolm, Master Drawings from the National Portrait Gallery, 1993 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 5 August to 23 October 1994), p. 25
  • Saumarez Smith, Charles, The National Portrait Gallery: An Illustrated Guide, 2000, p. 63
  • Saumarez Smith, Charles, The National Portrait Gallery, 1997, p. 63 Read entry

    Samuel Cooper, the miniaturist who was described by the Grand Duke of Tuscany as 'a tiny man, all wit and courtesy', produced this fine portrait of Oliver Cromwell in 1649, the year of Charles Is execution. Cromwell at the time was in the process of becoming the effective leader of the Parliamentarian forces, and is depicted looking callous and determined, but not yet disfigured by the pimples and warts that were the distinguishing features of later portraits of him.

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 155
  • Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 74
  • Walker, Richard, Miniatures: 300 Years of the English Miniature, 1998, p. 30

Events of 1649back to top

Current affairs

Charged with subverting the nation's laws and liberties and cruelly making war against Parliament and the English people, Charles I is found guilty by a court of 159 commissioners, and beheaded outside the Banqueting House, Whitehall.
England is declared a commonwealth and power is entrusted to a Council of State.

Art and science

Eikon Basilike, a self-exonerating account of Charles I's rule, is published days after his death. Allegedly written by the king himself, John Gauden, Bishop of Worcester, claimed authorship after the Restoration. Other tributes followed the king's death giving rise to a royalist cult of Charles the Martyr.

International

Oliver Cromwell, as lord lieutenant of Ireland, begins his campaign in Ireland to subdue royalist support, and leads English Parliamentarian forces against the Royalist-Confederate coalition. The campaign's bloody massacres, in particular, the Siege of Drogheda and Wexford where Cromwell's troops slaughtered soldiers and civilians alike, became notorious.



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