Hester Wase was the daughter of Christopher Wase of Upper Holloway, Middlesex. Her first husband, Sir William Mainwaring of Chester, was killed at Chester, during the Civil War. In 1647 she married traveller Sir Henry Blount (1602-1682). Blount had gained a BA in 1618 from Trinity College, Oxford, before entering Gray's Inn. He then travelled on the continent visiting France, Spain and Italy, and later journeyed through Bosnia and Serbia, to Turkey and on to Egypt. In 1636 he published ‘A Voyage to the Levant’. He was knighted in 1640 and sided with the royalists in the Civil War. Blount held several appointments on trade commissions during the Commonwealth and Restoration periods. After 1669, he and his wife settled at Tittenhanger in Hertfordshire (his birthplace). The couple’s children included politician and writer Sir Thomas Pope Blount (1649-1697) and freethinker and author Charles Blount (1654-1693).
This early portrait by Johnson dates from about c.1640-60; the earliest known dated portrait by the artist is 1617. It may have been painted as an engagement or marriage portrait, forming a pair with a portrait of Hester’s first husband. The feigned sculptured oval surround is a favourite device of the artist.
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.
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