A miniature Self Portrait
A miniature Self Portrait

THOMAS FLATMAN (1635-1688)

A miniature Self Portrait

1678 United Kingdom

Offered by Ellison Fine Art


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in contemporary gold frame with monogram MAB

The monogram on the reverse may be those of the recipient of this portrait, which might be Mary Beale, the painter who was close friends with Thomas Flatman. Flatman painted portraits of her son Charles and Mary is known to have painted portraits of Flatman, although the where about of these portraits are unknown. Flatman first met Mary when he was studying law at the Inner Temple but he soon abandoned that to devote to his time to writing verse, at which he was quite proficient, and painting miniatures. Although he produced some of the finest miniatures of the period and was only exceeded by Samuel Cooper, he lacked the impetus to become a professional and chose to live on a meagre allowance from his family. In his letters he refers to Mary as both his "Valentine" and his "Scholar." He may well have instructed her in miniature painting as he certainly taught Mary's son Charles some year later. The intimacy between Mary Beale and Thomas Flatman endured in spite of many difficult situations arising from Flatman's bouts of depressions and his irrational behaviour.

Flatman's room mate at the Inner Temple, was Samuel Woodford, a clergyman of considerable repute, whom Flatman introduced to the Beale family. This introduction led to Samuel's marriage to Mary's daughter Alice Beale, 1661.

Flatman's variable and uncertain temper alternated between grave and gay. His roistering songs "The Bachelor's Song" is lively enough but his preoccupation with the thought of death is a note which is introduced early into his work and in the end becomes almost the predominating note:

"Unhappy Muse! employed so oft
On melancholy thoughts of Death"

There is another self portrait in the V&A Museum, dated 1673 which shows Flatman as a melancholic man, a man given to much brooding over mortality. This current self- portrait taken five years later than the one at the V & A shows Flatman with a glint of a smile and twinkle to the eye, reflecting his happier moods.

There were several editions of his Poems and Songs (1674). A miniautre portrait of Charles II is in the Wallace Collection, London. His miniatures are noted for their vitality.

Flatman was the son of a clerk in Chancery and was born in Aldersgate Street and educated at Winchester College. He went on to study at New College, Oxford. He was later called to the bar in 1662 although he seems never to have practiced as a lawyer. He was a staunch Royalist and one of his poems was to celebrate the return of Charles II in 1660 after the collapse of the Cromwellian Commonwealth.

Among his earliest verses are lines prefixed to Graphice (1658) by Sir William Sanderson (the Sanderson Baronets), a work containing a description of the art of miniature painting, based on Edward Norgate’s writings. Flatman divided his career between writing poetry (in which his earnest religious temperament is revealed) and painting portraits in miniature. A versatile man, he was made a Fellow of the newly founded Royal Society in 1668. A number of his friends were leading clergymen, and many of his sitters were drawn from the Church and other intellectual circles.
Christie's, London, July 8, 1987 lot 275
D.S. Lavender Antiques, Ltd., London
Bernard Quaritch Ltd., London, 1988
Robert S. Pirie Collection
Height 6.30 cm (2.48 inches)
Stock Code
gouache and watercolour on vellum
Signed and dated 1678
Ellison Fine Art

Ellison Fine Art
United Kingdom

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