This portrait has been described as one of the most ‘celebrated works’ of portraitist Cornelius Johnson. In his ‘Anecdotes of Painting in England’ (published 1762-64), author, politician, and patron of the arts Horace Walpole commented on the work of Johnson:
‘One of his best works was the picture of Lady Bowyer, of the family of Auger, called, for her exquisite beauty, ‘The Star in the East’.’
Lady Bowyer was the daughter of Sir Anthony Aucher, who was Sheriff of Kent during the reign of James I. She was the wife of Sir Edmund Bowyer of Camberwell.
In October 1593, Cornelius Johnson was baptised at the Dutch Church, in the City of London. His parents were refugees from Antwerp, although the family originally hailed from Cologne. Johnson may have studied in the Netherlands, but worked in England from around 1618. He married Elizabeth Beck of Colchester at the Dutch Church in 1622. Between 1618 and 1643 he produced portraits on panel and later on canvas, always preferring the feigned oval. After van Dyck's arrival Johnson adjusted his style and even produced some full-length portraits. In 1632, he was appointed ‘his Majesty's servant in the quality of Picture drawer’. Fears of the imminent English Civil War caused Johnson to retire to Holland in October 1643. He died in Utrecht in 1661.
tr: Lady Bowyer. / Corn:s Jansen.; label on verso, top centre of stretcher, in brown ink and 19th-century hand: Hes[part of label missing] daughter of Sir Anthony Aucher of B[illegible] / M[illegible] & neice to Lady Hammond - She was called / the Star of the East given[?] her beauty and married / Sir Edmund Bowyer - of Camberwell in Surrey / See Ldy Hester [illegible] of / paintings[?] [illegible] by Sir E / Bridges in his topography[?]
Collection of the Hammonds (cousins of the sitter) of St Alban’s Court, Nonington, Kent; possibly sale of contents of St Alban's Court in c.1937; with J. A. Tooth Ltd., London; from whom purchased by Colnaghi, London, on 19 September 1950; by whom presented to the Ministry of Works on 12 May 1952
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