An extremely fine portrait of James Butler, 12th Earl and 1st Duke of Ormonde
An extremely fine portrait of James Butler, 12th Earl and 1st Duke of Ormonde
An extremely fine portrait of James Butler, 12th Earl and 1st Duke of Ormonde

SAMUEL COOPER (c.1608-1672)

An extremely fine portrait of James Butler, 12th Earl and 1st Duke of Ormonde

c. 1670 United Kingdom

Offered by Ellison Fine Art


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James (1610-1688) in armour, lace jabot and blue ribbon of the Knight of the Garter
in silver coloured frame with pierced spiral cresting

A hand written inscription on the reverse erroneously described the sitter as Thomas Earl of Ossory. However, Thomas only received his knight of the Garter four months after Cooper's death in 1672. Comparison with other known portraits reveals that the sitter is more likely to be Thomas's father James, Butler, 12th Earl and 1st Duke of Ormonde, styled 5th Earl of Ossory.
The portrait bears strong facial features to the portrait of the Duke, 1689 by by Simon Digby. Digby was appointed the chaplain to the Duke of Ormonde and was an active amateur artist, being "a great master of painting in little watercolours and by that quality (he) recommended himself to men in power and ladies and so was made a bishop"

The miniature is in excellent condition and shows no signs of restoration, indicating how masterful Cooper could be at the end of his career. The long jabot and full-bottomed wig dates the portrait to circa 1670, which is a few years prior to William Wissing's three quarter oil portrait of James, to which is bears a strong resemblance.

James was an Anglo-Irish statesman and soldier, known as Earl of Ormonde from 1634 to 1642 and Marquess of Ormonde from 1642 to 1661.From 1641 to 1647, he led the fighting against the Irish Catholic Confederation. From 1649 to 1650 he was leading commander of the Royalist forces fighting against the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland. In the 1650s he lived in exile in Europe with Charles II of England. Upon the restoration of Charles II to the British throne in 1660, Ormonde became a major figure in English and Irish politics, holding many high government offices.

At 18 he went to Portsmouth with his friend George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham intending to join the expedition for the relief of Rochelle; a project abandoned upon the assassination of the Duke.

On the outbreak of the Irish Rebellion of 1641, Ormonde found himself in command of government forces based in Dublin. Most of the country was taken by the Catholic rebels, who included Ormonde's Butler relatives.

1642 the Irish Catholics formed their own government, the Catholic Confederation, with its capital at Kilkenny, and began to raise their own regular troops, more organized and capable than the irregular militia of the 1641 rebellion. he relieved the royalist garrisons at Naas, Athy and Maryborough, and on his return to Dublin he won the Battle of Kilrush against a larger force. He received the public thanks of the English Parliament and a monetary reward, and in September 1642 was put in command with a commission direct from the king. In November 1643 the king appointed Ormonde as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Ormonde's assigned mission was to prevent the king's Parliamentarian enemies from being reinforced from Ireland, and to aim to deliver more troops to fight for the Royalist side in England.

Ormonde attended King Charles during August and October 1647 at Hampton Court Palace, but in March 1648, in order to avoid arrest by the parliament, he joined the Queen and the Prince of Wales at Paris. In September of the same year, the pope's nuncio having been expelled, and affairs otherwise looking favourable, he returned to Ireland to endeavour to unite all parties for the king.

On the execution of the king (30 January 1649) he proclaimed Charles II, who made him a Knight of the Garter in September 1649. Ormonde was placed in command of the Irish Confederates' armies and also English Royalist troops who were landed in Ireland from France.

On the return of Charles II to England as king, Ormonde was appointed a commissioner for the treasury and the navy, made Lord Steward of the Household, a Privy Councillor, Lord Lieutenant of Somerset (an office which he resigned in 1672), High Steward of Westminster, Kingston and Bristol, chancellor of Trinity College, Dublin, Baron Butler of Llanthony and Earl of Brecknock in the peerage of England; and on 30 March 1661 he was created Duke of Ormonde in the Irish peerage and made Lord High Steward of England, for Charles's coronation that year. At the same time he recovered his enormous estates in Ireland, and large grants in recompense.

Ormonde's personality had always been a striking one, and he was highly regarded. However, Ormonde's almost irresponsible government of Ireland during troubled times was open to criticism. He had billeted soldiers on civilians, and had executed martial law. He was threatened by Buckingham with impeachment.

In 1670, an extraordinary attempt was made to assassinate the duke by a ruffian and adventurer named Thomas Blood. By 1677 he was restored to favour and reappointed to lord Lieutenancy
Excellent. There are no signs of restoration or retouching in this remarkable portrait
Peplow Hall Sale, near Market Drayton, 17th June 1963, lot 115

The full provenance of the piece is uncertain, what is known is that it was purchased at the Peplow Hall sale in 1963. For many years from the late 1950s Captain William Higgin was squire of Peplow Hall, in Shropshire, one of the loveliest houses in the county, with 3,000 acres of shooting, which he later sold to Lord Newborough in 1963. It is interesting to note that Higgin, the owner of the hall at the time of the auction, in His autobiography, Koi Hai, dwelt on his pride in his ancestor, the Restoration rakehell, the 2nd Duke of Buckingham. It is known that the 2nd Duke of Buckingham was the son of George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham- who was a friend of James Butler. Both Butler and Villiers held close ranks at the courts of Charles II.
Height 8.00 cm (3.15 inches)
Stock Code
watercolour on vellum stuck to table book leaf
Although not signed this miniature bears all the characteristics of a fine example by Samuel Cooper, the leading miniaturist of his time, painted at the end of his career. Traits such as strong contrast between light and dark areas, the strong deep lines around the eyelids, the dark red touches at the corners of the mouth and touches of blue in the shading are all signatures of Cooper’s hand.
Ellison Fine Art

Ellison Fine Art
United Kingdom

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