circle of Gilbert Soest, Unknown Man

Photo courtesy of Tom St Aubyn (All rights reserved)


Country House
Raynham Hall
Unknown Man
Late 1640s–50s
The Red Saloon
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
Overall height: 73.5 cm, Overall width: 61.5 cm
circle of Gilbert Soest (c.1605-1681)
Catalogue Number


The sitter in this portrait is unknown. The painting is close in style to that of Gilbert Soest (c.1605–1681): sweeping curves of hair lick at the side of the sitter’s face, and the black cloak shows hints of Soest’s distinctive ‘crumpled zinc’ quality of drapery.1 The serious, even tense, expression is also typical of Soest’s male sitters. In these ways, and also in the loose handling (or state of unfinish) of the hair, the portrait has much in common with Soest’s portrait of Aubrey de Vere, 20th Earl of Oxford at Dulwich Picture Gallery (DPG 573). The pose, plain backdrop and mood can also be found in other portraits by Soest, such as that of Sir Henry Vane the Younger in Dulwich Picture Gallery (DPG 592) and Christopher Thursby in the collection of Northampton Museums and Art Gallery.

Although the sitter’s long face and flowing locks bear some resemblance to the Earl of Oxford, his eyes are brown, not blue, and his lower lip is fuller. The portrait is also similar to Soest’s own likeness of William Fairfax, 3rd Viscount Fairfax of Emley belonging to the National Portrait Gallery (NPG 754) and Lely’s portraits of Thomas Fanshawe (Valence House Museum, Essex, LDVAL 10 and LDVAL 5).

Gilbert (also known as Gerard) Soest trained in the Netherlands, where he was probably also born, although it has been claimed that he was from Westphalia. According to Horace Walpole, writing some time later, Soest’s ‘draperies were often of satin, in which he imitated the manner of Terburgh, a Dutch painter of conversations, but enlarged his ideas, on seeing Vandyck’. Walpole also stated that he was ‘capricious, slovenly, and covetous, often went to the door himself; and if he was not in a humour to draw those who came to sit, or was employed in the meaner offices of his family, he would act the servant, and say his master was not at home’.2

by Emily Burns


Prince Frederick Duleep Singh, Portraits in Norfolk Houses, ed. Rev. Edmund Farrer, vol. 2, Norwich : Jarrold and Sons, 1928, vol. 2, p. 233, no. 49 (‘MAN’)


  1. Ellis Waterhouse, The Dictionary of 16th & 17th Century British Painters, Woodbridge: Antique Collectors Club, 1988, p. 250.

  2. Horace Walpole, Anecdotes of the Lives of the Painters, 3 vols, London: Henry G. Bohn, 1888, vol. 2, p. 4777.


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