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  The Catalogue: Portrait of John Tradescant the Elder  
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Attributed to Cornelis de Neve (c.1609-78)
(Canvas) Height 79 cm, Width 62 cm; (Frame) Height 97 cm, Width 80 cm
Head and shoulders, half to the spectator's left against a dark greenish ground. Greyish hair brushed back to show his left ear; moustache and full beard. His brown eyes look at the spectator. He wears a black skull-cap and has a gold ring in his ear; a broad limp white collar falls over the shoulder of his black buttoned tunic. Inscribed in yellow to left of the head Sr John; to the right, Tradescant Sen. A trompe-l'œil surround of thick scrolled lead, through the upper volute of which is a ribbon hung on the left side with fruit (grapes, a pear, peaches, plums) and on the right side with vegetables (parsnips, turnips, onions). On the lower volute, four exotic shells, into the outer of which have been inserted tulips. Oil on canvas, relined in a black frame with gilt bevel and with applied gilt winged cherubs at the corners and leaf motifs at the centres.
The portrait is evidently posthumous. The surround seems to have been based on cartouche designs of the type engraved about 1653-5. The still-life element, allusive to the sitter's horticultural and conchological interests, but not in any specific way, was possibly painted by another. No native still-life painter was up to the standard of this skillful piece, but Sir Ellis Waterhouse has suggested that Alexander Marshal should be considered. The type is simplified from Flemish compositions of the mid-century.
Museum Id. No:
1685 A no. 659: Pictura Dñi Johis Tradescanti senioris Cimeliarchæ egregii, in margine bullis aureis ornatâ