Clostermania; the third man.

After posting this image yesterday, and my thought it might be by John Baptist Closterman, I was glad to have a comment from Malcolm Rogers whose word is gospel in these matters.

Dahl I, Michael, 1656/1659-1743; William Wright (1656-1735)
Dahl I, Michael; William Wright (1656-1735); National Maritime Museum;

Malcolm says, ‘An intriguing painting, which is certainly not by Dahl. The costume and wig are absolutely John Closterman in style and formula, but the execution looks a little simplified to me. The face-mask is not Closterman at all: too hard and unsophisticated…. Very few works by JBC are known, but, again, the painting of the face seems to rule him out. Perhaps “follower of John Closterman” is best.’

And today a reader has written with a similar opinion:

‘Compositionally, this is an interesting connection and suggestion. However the technique and finish of the NMM painting, particularly the handling of the fabric and hands, doesn’t seem quite right. Given the condition and image quality it’s impossible to say for certain though. Either way, it seems connected to Closterman. Perhaps something from his studio practice? It also got me thinking about JBC.’

Reluctantly I concede defeat on Captain Wright. Yes, a Closterman pattern without the Closterman touch. I do JBC a disservice.

The point about two Clostermans is very important. John Closterman (1660 – 1711), the top-flight painter whose selfie is looking at you from my header, had an elder brother John Baptist Closterman (1656 – 1713). JBC was also a portrait painter, and helped his brother on large projects. By the next century, people had forgotten that these same-name painters were two people. The Closterman brothers became a single artist, and everything painted by either of them was attributed to a John Baptist Closterman, with one brother’s name and the other one’s life. The mystery was only solved in 1964, when Professor Doug Stewart found John Closterman’s will, leaving everything to ‘My Dear and Loveing Brother John Baptist’.

For a moment this morning I wondered if I’d miscalled the Christie’s Gent in blue


and he’s really by John not John Baptist. My money is on JBC for him tho. I’ve got this idea of JBC as a stiffer version of John Closterman, where particularly with men, the faces guest-star in a portrait of clothes.

This portrait of George Goodwin, looks like JBC,


(c) Artnet

and this portrait of John Manners 2nd Duke of Rutland is signed and dated 1703.

IMG_5355 4

(c) National Trust, Hardwick Hall, illustrated Malcolm Rogers ‘John and John Baptist Closterman’ 1983

John Closterman is always more relaxed, and his sitters’ personalities are never overwhelmed by their accessories. The mood is completely different. In John Closterman’s portrait c.1700, Sir William Temple Bt has put on his clothes and then forgotten all about them, as a gentleman should.

(c) Fairfax House; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) Fairfax House

The NMM painting isn’t by John or John Baptist. I wonder who this painter is, with the Closterman patterns and hard technique. Closterman isn’t widely imitated, as Kneller is, but as far as I’m aware we know nothing about his studio. Perhaps a signed or documented example will appear one day. That would be marvellous.