Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Portrait of a Man, Said to Be John Cecil (1628–1678), Fourth Earl of Exeter

Attributed to Richard Gibson (British, 1605/15?–1690 London)
ca. 1670
Vellum laid on card
Oval, 2 7/8 x 2 3/8 in. (72 x 59 mm)
Credit Line:
Bequest of Mary Clark Thompson, 1923
Accession Number:
Not on view
The miniature was received in the Metropolitan Museum with a clearly erroneous attribution to Samuel Cooper (1608?–1672), which was changed in 1961 to Nicholas Dixon(?) (active by ca. 1660–died after 1708). Verbally, Daphne Foskett (1972) and Hermione Waterfield (1978) suggested that the miniature might be by Richard Gibson. John Murdoch (1979), who has reconstructed the career of Gibson (John Murdoch and V. J. Murrell, "The Monogrammist DG: Dwarf Gibson and His Patrons,” Burlington Magazine 123 [1981], pp. 282–89), expressed the opinion that the miniature is by Gibson, about 1670, which is probably the case.
Richard Gibson was a dwarf who became a page to Philip Herbert (1584–1650), fourth earl of Pembroke, the lord chamberlain. He acquired a knowledge of miniature painting and was employed as a portraitist and copyist by Charles I and his court. In the 1670s he was drawing master to the daughters of the future James II (1633–1701), the princesses Mary (1662–1694) and Anne (1665–1714), both later queens of England. Gibson's style was influenced by that of his friend the painter Sir Peter Lely (1618–1680). One of Gibson's five surviving children, Susan Penelope Rosse, became a miniature painter.
A photograph of this miniature is filed under Exeter's name in the archives of the National Portrait Gallery, London, and the likeness is consistent with an earlier Hoskins miniature, signed and dated 1647, in the collection of the descendants of the earls of Exeter at Burghley House (no. M/53).
[2015; adapted from Reynolds and Baetjer 1996]
There are two discolored marks in the sitter's hair; otherwise the miniature is in very good condition. The vellum is slightly cockled. On the card to which it is attached are traces of goldbeater's skin. The glass has been reset.

[2015; adapted from Reynolds and Baetjer 1996]
Mary Clark Thompson, New York and Canandaigua, N.Y. (until d. 1923)
Brooklyn Museum. "Five Centuries of Miniature Painting," April 3–June 1, 1936, no. 8 (as "Portrait of the Earl of Exeter," by Samuel Cooper).

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Four Centuries of Miniature Painting," January 19–March 19, 1950, unnumbered cat. (p. 3, as "The Earl of Exeter," Attributed to Nicholas Dixon).

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "European Miniatures in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," November 5, 1996–January 5, 1997, no. 29.

John Murdoch. Letter. 1979, attributes it to Richard Gibson and dates it about 1670.

Graham Reynolds with the assistance of Katharine Baetjer. European Miniatures in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1996, p. 83, no. 29, ill., call it probably by Richard Gibson; find the identification of the sitter as Exeter plausible.

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