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Oliver Cromwell

1 of 224 portraits of Oliver Cromwell

Early Stuart Portraits Catalogue

Oliver Cromwell

by Robert Walker
circa 1649
49 1/2 in. x 40 in. (1257 mm x 1016 mm)
NPG 536

This portraitback to top

No certain ad vivum portrait of Cromwell by Walker is known. To judge by the very thin technique, NPG 536 is perhaps a studio version, but it remains one of several good versions - as those at Leeds Art Gallery, dated 1649 (LEEAG.PA.1947.0019.0003) from Naworth Castle, [1] Althorp [2] and the Justitsministeriet Copenhagen (K. Pearson & G. K. Morant, ‘Portraiture of Oliver Cromwell’, Biometrica, XXVI, 1935, pl.xxxix bis). Other versions include those with the Duke of Grafton, formerly with Isaac Foot (D. Piper, ‘The contemporary Portraits of Oliver Cromwell’, Wal. Soc., XXIV, 1958, no.1e; exh. ‘A Loan Exhibition of of the Principal Contemporary Portraits of Oliver Cromwell’, NPG, 1958, no.4), at Gripsholm Castle, Sweden (K. Pearson & G. K. Morant, ‘Portraiture of Oliver Cromwell’, Biometrica, XXVI, 1935, pl.xl bis), in the Bodleian Library, Oxford (Catalogue of Portraits in the Bodleian Library by Mrs R. L. Poole completely revised and expanded by K. Garlick, 2004, p 95) and in the Leeds University Art Collection (LEEUAT 097). [3]
The figure of Cromwell resembles the reversed figure of Van Dyck’s Earl of Strafford of c.1636 (Petworth; Millar 2004, iv.215). The identity of the page on the left is not established: he echoes the (anonymous) page in Van Dyck’s Earl of Newport and Lord Goring of c.1639 (Petworth; Millar 2004, iv,172); the Althorp version was described in 1746 as showing Cromwell with his page Sir William Temple (see n2 below); a version formerly at Stowe named the page as Sir Peter Temple, [4] while Vertue (G. Vertue, Notebooks, Wal. Soc., XXIV, 1936, p 37) called him Stanyan. None of these suggestions can be substantiated, and the different features of the page in the various versions seem to confirm that he is probably (as Piper suggested), simply a pictorial adjunct.
Walker’s several variants of this composition include:

With page on the right, Government Art Collection (D. Piper, ‘The contemporary Portraits of Oliver Cromwell’, Wal. Soc., XXIV, 1958, pl.viib; no.1b; exh. ‘A Loan Exhibition of of the Principal Contemporary Portraits of Oliver Cromwell’, NPG, 1958, no.3), baton held up, helmet behind him. A variant sold Christie’s, 7 March 1958, lot 115.

Three-quarter length, left hand on helmet, the body based on Van Dyck’s Sir Edmund Verney of c.1639 (private collection; Millar 2004, iv.231). Versions formerly with Isaac Foot (D. Piper, ‘The contemporary Portraits of Oliver Cromwell’, Wal. Soc., XXIV, 1958, no.1c, pl.viic; exh. ‘A Loan Exhibition of of the Principal Contemporary Portraits of Oliver Cromwell’, NPG, 1958, no.2), Burghley House, and in the National Museum of Wales (400) from Greystoke Castle.

Three-quarter length, with Gen. Lambert (D. Piper, ‘The contemporary Portraits of Oliver Cromwell’, Wal. Soc., XXIV, 1958, no.1d). Lambert’s pose taken from Van Dyck’s Count van den Bergh of 1637 (Prado; Millar 2004, III, 69); engr. A. Miller 1745 (J. Chaloner Smith, British Mezzotinto Portraits, 11). Versions; exh. Worcester 1951, no.53 lent S. W. Trimnell; sold Christie’s, 30 October 1953, lot 161, 22 November 1974, lot 108 from the Earl of Bradford, 20-22 April 1998, lot 733 from Hackwood Park; Sotheby’s, 6 July 1983.lot 220, and 30 November 2000, lot 92.

Many later portraits copied Walker’s patterns with varying degrees of accuracy; engravings (F. O’Donoghue & H. M. Hake, Catalogue of Engraved British Portraits in the ... British Museum, 27-65) include one by Vertue 1736 (D. Alexander, ‘George Vertue as an Engraver’, Wal. Soc., LXX, 2008, 750) showing a Cooper head (cf. NPG 3065), reversed, on a Walker body.

Footnotesback to top

1) Illus. The Public Catalogue Foundation, W Yorks: Leeds, 2004, p 191.
2) K. J. Garlick, ‘A Catalogue of Pictures at Althorp’, Wal. Soc., XLV, 1976, p 88, no.681.
3) Illus. The Public Catalogue Foundation, W Yorks: Leeds, 2004, p 269.
4) A Description of Stowe, c.1797, p 49, recorded: ‘Oliver Cromwell by Old Richardson, said to be the original. The boy who is tying his scarf is Sir Peter Temple of Stanton Bury, in the county of Bucks, who gave this picture to Lord Cobham in 1686’; probably Stowe sale, Christie’s, 23rd day, 14 September 1848, lot 353. An attribution to the elder Richardson is not otherwise documented.

Referenceback to top

Ellis 1843
Sir Henry Ellis, List of Portraits suspended on the Walls of the Eastern Zoological Gallery, British Museum, 1843, no.9.

Piper 1958
D. Piper, ‘The contemporary Portraits of Oliver Cromwell’, Wal. Soc., XXIV, 1958, no.1a.

Piper 1963
D. Piper, Catalogue of the Seventeenth Century Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery 1625-1714, 1963, p 92.

Conservationback to top

Lined; thinly painted, numerous losses; cleaned 1982.

Provenanceback to top

Said to have been given by Cromwell to Col. Nathaniel Rich, given by his descendant, Sir Robert Rich, 5th Bt. (1717-85), to the British Museum;1 transferred to the NPG 1879.

1 An old painted wooden backboard gives this provenance.

Exhibitionsback to top

‘A Loan Exhibition of of the Principal Contemporary Portraits of Oliver Cromwell’, NPG, 1958, no.1; D. Foskett, Samuel Cooper and his contemporaries, NPG, 1974, no.245; Great Britons, Smithsonian, Washington, 1977.


This extended catalogue entry is by John Ingamells, one of a limited number of entries drafted in 2010 for the incomplete catalogue, Early Stuart Portraits 1625-1685, and is as written then. For the most up-to-date details on individual Collection works, we recommend reading the information provided in the Search the Collection results on this website in parallel with this text.

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