Collecting our thoughts: The Cotterell Family

Beaverbrook Art GalleryNovember 8, 20170 Comments

The seventeenth century was the golden age for Dutch art, when the merchant middle class had increased in numbers and wealth to support a growing art market. Artists earned a living by painting landscapes, still lifes, portraits, and genre scenes that were bought to decorate homes. Portraits of prominent citizens, members of the nobility, and highly placed government officials were an important part of civic life, and family portraits were commissioned to immortalize family members and ancestors. It is from this era that we get The Cotterell Family (1658), painted by Dutch artist, Jan Mytens (1614-1670).

The Cotterell Family were a British family and their portrait was painted when they were in exile during the Interregnum. Sir Charles Cotterell, scholar, translator, and master of the ceremonies to the crown and a member of parliament, was a devout royalist. When King Charles I was executed, he fled to the Netherlands, became hofmeister to Elizabeth of Bohemia at The Hague, and entertained many royalist fugitives at his house.

In the painting, Cotterell’s support of Charles II’s effort to reestablish the monarchy on English soil is symbolized by the inclusion of a laurel wreath crown being carries by putti in the top left corner. At the Restoration, Cotterell and his family returned to England, where he was reinstated as master of the ceremonies during Charles II’s reign.

Sir Charles Cotterell is portrayed with his wife, Frances. The eldest son, Clement, who stands with a walking stick and is pointing to a small bird in a tree, was killed in a naval engagement against the Dutch fleet. The younger son, Charles Lodowick, shown in a bent-kneed crouch holding a crossbow, was his father’s successor in the mastership of the ceremonies in 1686 and knighted soon afterwards; and their second daughter, Elizabeth, depicted at six years of age holding a basket of flowers, was married to the English statesman Sir William Trumbull. Also included in the painting is the family dog and a baby, possibly Frances Cotterell, who died young.

The Cotterell Family (1658) is back on display alongside some our beloved Masterworks in the newly-renovated International Wing


Collecting our thoughts is an occasional series of short reflections on works in the Beaverbrook Art Gallery’s permanent collection. We want to share some of the treasures we have in the building (and on display) with our guests and members of our community, and tell you a little about why we think they’re special – and hopefully you’ll agree!

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