Circle of Cornelius Johnson
(1593 - 1661)
Sir Edward Osborne, 1st Bart. of Kiveton (1596 - 1647)
Oil on canvas: 29 x 23 ¾ in. (73.7 x 60.3 cm.)
Painted circa 1645
If this Civil War-period portrait of the Royalist commander Sir Edward Osborne of Kiveton (1596 - 1647) exudes an air of melancholy, it accurately reflects not only the prevalent mood during one of the most turbulent periods in English history, but also a series of personal tragedies that befell the sitter.
Sir Edward was baptised on 12 December 1596, the only son of Sir Hewett Osborne (1566 - 99) and his wife, Joice. At the age of 3, he inherited the family estates in Yorkshire and Essex, and was created a Baronet on 13 July 1620. He was Member of Parliament for East Retford, 1628-9. A loyal supporter of Charles I, during the Civil War Osborne was Vice-President of the Council in the North and represented York in the Short Parliament. As a Royalist commander, and commissioner of array, he helped to provide supplies for the Duke of Newcastle's army which had invaded Yorkshire in November 1642. He also had secured the county for the King by the victory of Aldwalton Moor in 1643, until the subsequent Royalist defeat at the Battle of Marston Moor in July 1644. He was compounded in 1645 on a fine of £649 and his estates were confiscated. He died three years later on 9 September 1647.
Sir Edward married firstly on 13 October 1618, Margaret, eldest daughter of Thomas Belasyse, 1st Viscount Fauconberg and by her had a son, Edward, who was tragically killed in his youth by the fall of some chimneys at his father's house. Sadly Margaret then died in 1624 and Edward married secondly, Anne, daughter of Thomas Walmesley of Dunkenhalgh, Lancs., the widow of William Middleton of Lichfield, Staffs, by whom he had two sons.
At the Restoration his eldest surviving son, Thomas, was to inherit an estate of under £1,200 per annum, encumbered with debts of around £10,000. He was to have a successful career as a statesman, sitting as M.P. for York 1665-73, being Lord High treasurer of England (1673-9) and Lord president of the Council (1689-95). He was installed as a Knight of the Garter in 1674 and was created Duke of Leeds in 1694.
Cornelius Johnson was born in London, the son of Flemish emigrés. His parents were part of the great influx of Protestants from the Netherlands who fled the religious persecution that followed the Spanish conquest of Flanders and the fall of Antwerp. Waterhouse conjectured that Johnson may have trained in Holland, however Collins Baker was probably more accurate when he named Marcus Gheeraerts (c.1520 - c.1590) as his master in London. For not only do Johnson’s first signed and dated works, which appear from 1619 onwards, use a form of inscription identical to that of Gheeraerts, but stylistically they very much continue the Jacobean traditions encapsulated in that artist’s work. The early works that are done on panel are notable for their polished, almost porcelain finish.
Although in December 1632 Johnson was appointed as ‘his Majesty's servant in ye quality of Picture Drawer’ to Charles I, the arrival of Van Dyck (1599 - 1641) evidently had a major impact on his patronage. For Johnson’s art was best suited to the relative intimacy of the bust length portrait in which, with a certain detachment, he captured the reticence of the English landed gentry and minor aristocracy. By the 1630s, Johnson had perfected a style and pattern all his own for these half-length portraits with the figure being placed unusually low within the composition and the sitter portrayed in a characteristically gentle, almost wistful, manner.
However when he attempted to replicate the swagger and grandeur of Van Dyck’s full-lengths, as in the pair of full-lengths dated 1638 of ‘Thomas, Earl of Elgin’ and The Countess of Elgin’ (Ranger's House, Greenwich), Johnson’s qualities were dissipated. Unable to compete with the great master’s talents, Johnson retired to Bridge in Kent, where his clientele were members of the principal gentry families. In 1639, he received a royal commission to paint three portraits of the eldest children of Charles I in full-length. However, instead of trying to compete with Van Dyck, this commission gave Johnson the opportunity to show his undoubted virtuosity as a miniaturist. The resulting small-scale portraits, which are painted on copper, of Charles, Prince of Wales, James, Duke of York and Mary, Princess Royal (National Portrait Gallery, London) have an endearing charm all their own.
Johnson was still among the King's ‘servants in ordinary of the chamber’ in 1641. However, as Vertue describes, he ‘Stayd in England till the Troublesom civil war. being terrifyd with those apprehensions & the constant persuasions of his wife went to Holland’. Thus he and his family left for Holland in October 1643, where he continued to paint into his final years, dying in Utrecht 5 August 1661. He remains an undervalued artist today.
The sitter's son, Thomas, 1st Duke of Leeds (1632-1712) Thence by descent, the Dukes of Leeds, Hornby Castle, Yorkshire.