A gentleman formerly called John Milton (1608-1674) in black doublet and white lawn collar with tassels, with loose brown hair
oil on copper
oval, 2.5/8 in. (66 mm.) high, gilt-metal frame with spiral cresting
A paper label on the reverse reads 'Portrait of John Milton / Painted by Dobson. Once the / property of Mr. Richard Cumberland / (the friend of Sir B. Burges), who obtained / it at Rome'.
The Collection of Sir James Bland Burges, who acquired it in Rome in 1773 (according to the 1958 Dyson Perrins sale catalogue).
Richard Cumberland Collection.
John Lumsden Propert, in 1889.
The Late C. W. Dyson Perrins, Esq., D.C.L., F.S.A. (Sold by Order of the Executors); part I, Sotheby's, London, 11 December 1958, lot 2 (as a young man called John Milton, Dutch, circa 1650, 16 gns. to Spink).
London, Burlington Fine Arts Club, Exhibition of Portrait Miniatures, 1889, case XXXV, no. 27 (as John Milton by S. Cooper, lent by J. Lumsden Propert).

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Katharine Cooke
Katharine Cooke

Lot Essay

The sitter in the present miniature has traditionally been called John Milton, presumably because of the inscription on the reverse. It is not impossible that the Royalist Dobson may have painted Milton, as Milton was not a staunch parliamentarian in his youth, but the iconography of the present sitter, does not match that of Milton. Milton's eyes were grey, as depicted in one of the few authenticated portraits of him, in the J. Pierpont Morgan Library, New York. This also matches a contemporary description of him by John Aubrey (1626-1697), writer and antiquary, who wrote of Milton in his Brief Lives (1690), 'Oval face. His eye a dark grey. He of auburn hair. His complexion exceedingly fair.' The sitter in the present work has brown eyes and thick curling black hair, and as such is unlikely to be Milton.
A miniature described as 'John Milton' and attributed to Dobson, was in the collection of Lady Currie and sold Christie's, London, 3 April 1906, lot 47 (part lot).
We are indebted to Professor Campbell, Professor of Renaissance Studies, University of Leicester, for his assistance in the preparation of this catalogue entry.

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