An Interesting Mid 17thC Oil on Card Devotional Fragment Portrait of Christ c.1654

Origin: English
Period: Cromwellian
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1654
The Portrait: 5.5 x 4.5 inches
The Whole: in Frame: 10 x 8.75 inches

The mid 17th Century devotional fragment painted in oils on card with a gold ground, the now partial portrait of Christ, inscribed verso “JE Talis (?) 74” and dated ‘anno domo 1654’, the whole presented in a glazed 19thC ebonised and giltwood frame survives from Cromwellian England.

The portrait has become only a partial portrait over its three hundred and sixty year existence and as such is wonderfully intriguing, the absence of much of the figure, leaves us with a partial image of the head of Christ, with one eye staring at us, like a beacon from what is otherwise now mainly the gold ground, the whole preserved just in time to save its impact as a picture. One can also make out a section of lower arm and some other highlights of Christ’s figure. The frame has knocks and wear making it decorative and is ready to hang. The reverse shows the date and what is presumably the artists name which is hard to distinguish and we have no reason to believe the date is spurious.

The year of 1654 in England saw Oliver Cromwell creating a union between England and Scotland, with Scottish representation in the Parliament of England, whilst Peter Vowell and John Gerard are executed in London for plotting to assassinate Cromwell. Cromwell was one of the signatories of King Charles I's death warrant in 1649, and, as a member of the Rump Parliament (1649–53), he dominated the short-lived Commonwealth of England. Cromwell was a Puritan and to keep the population’s mind on religion, instead of having feast days to celebrate the saints (as had been common in Medieval England), one day in every month was a fast day.

This oil was created at a time of upheaval and one can see why it was painted at the time it was, when devotion was being questioned and religion being made to take itself more soberly, and seriously.

This artwork has a very certain and defined resonance in so much as we are left in awe of as much as what isn’t visible here as what is; a hugely intriguing fragment of devotion and a wonderfully mysterious portrait.