Steven van der Meulen

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An early full-length portrait of Elizabeth I by Steven van der Meulen, c. 1563

Steven van der Meulen (b. ?Antwerp – d. London, ?1563-64) was a Dutch artist active c. 1543-1564. He gained prominence in England in the first decade of the reign of Elizabeth I as one of many Flemish artists active at the Tudor court. He is best known for the "Barrington Park" portrait type of Elizabeth I and for three-quarter length portraits of members of the English court in the first half of the 1560s. A recently discovered will indicates that he died in London between October 1563 and January 1564.

Life[edit]

Little is known about van der Meulen's personal life. He was probably born in Antwerp, where he studied under Willem van Cleve the younger in 1543 and was admitted to the Guild of St Luke in 1552.[1][2] He was in London by September 1560, and he was naturalized on 4 February 1562.[3]

Erik XIV of Sweden, 1561

In 1561 the English merchant John Dymocke or Dymoch visited Sweden in connection with negotiations for a marriage between Elizabeth and Erik XIV, taking with him a Netherlandish painter (holländsk Konterfegare[4]) described as 'Master Staffan' to paint the portrait of the King. It is generally accepted that this was van der Meulen.[1][2] In 1935, W. G. Constable identified this portrait with a full-length of Erik XIV at Gripsholm Castle, Mariefred, near Stockholm.[5]

Scholar Elizabeth Drey has recently discovered van der Meulen's will, dated 5 October 1563 during an epidemic of the plague in London and proved on 20 January 1564.[3] His will indicates that his wife and children were resident in London with him at the time of his death.

Works[edit]

Van der Meulen's portraits in a simplified version of the sombre style of Anthonis Mor appealed to patrons at the English court in the early 1560s,[2] and works by him dating to that period are recorded in the 1590 inventory of the paintings of John Lumley, 1st Baron Lumley where he appears as "the famous paynter Steven".[1]

The recently discovered will, if accepted,[6] indicates that many of the portraits dated 1564-68 attributed to van der Meulen by Roy Strong in the 1960s must now be reassessed, including two portraits of Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester.

A portrait pattern of Queen Elizabeth dating to the mid-1560s is confidently attributed to van der Meulen. Called by Strong the "Barrington Park" type after a representative example, these sophisticated portraits are probably a response to a proclamation of 1563, which was designed to counter the existence of many unflattering images of the Queen.[1][7] A life-size (2 m or 7 ft) portrait of this type c. 1563 by van der Meulen (above), identified as the earliest full-length portrait of Elizabeth and possibly associated with the various marriage negotiations of the early 1560s, was auctioned by Sotheby's in November 2007 for £2.6 million, more than twice its expected price of £700,000–£1 million.[7][8][9]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Strong, English Icon, p. 119
  2. ^ a b c Grove Dictionary of Art
  3. ^ a b Hearn, Dynasties, p. 94
  4. ^ Hearn, Dynasties p. 93
  5. ^ Constable, "A New Work by 'The Famous Paynter Steven.'"
  6. ^ The National Portrait Gallery web site accepts a date death of 1563-64. A 2007 Sotheby's auction catalogue gives the traditional dates of "active 1543-1568", but a condition report on Sotheby's website retrieved 29 March 2008 notes "The correct dates for the artist are Fl.1543-1563."
  7. ^ a b Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, auction detail at ArtFact.com, retrieved 21 March 2008
  8. ^ FindArticles Portrait of a royal quest for a husband, The Independent, (London), Nov 1, 2007
  9. ^ BBC report 23 November 2007, retrieved 26 March 2008

References[edit]

  • Constable, W. G. "A New Work by 'The Famous Paynter Steven.'" In The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, Vol. 67, No. 390 (September, 1935), pp. 133+135-136, at JSTOR, retrieved 21 March 2008.
  • Hearn, Karen, ed. Dynasties: Painting in Tudor and Jacobean England 1530-1630. New York: Rizzoli, 1995. ISBN 0-8478-1940-X.
  • "Steven van der Meulen." In The Concise Grove Dictionary of Art. Oxford University Press, Inc., 2002, at Answers.com, retrieved 21 March 2008.
  • Strong, Roy: The English Icon: Elizabethan and Jacobean Portraiture, 1969, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London
  • Waterhouse, Ellis. Painting in Britain, 1530-1790. New Haven (CT): Yale University Press/Pelican History of Art, 1994 edition. ISBN 0-300-05833-0.