JONSON VAN CEULEN, Cornelius the Elder
(b. 1593, London, d. 1661, Utrecht)

Biography

Anglo-Flemish portrait painter born in London of Flemish parents (also called Cornelis Johnson or Janssen van Ceulen). He was the son of Cornelis Jonson of Antwerp and Jane Le Grand, who had fled to London to escape religious persecution. His grandfather Peter Jansen originally came from Cologne, so the family often used the name Jonson van Ceulen. Cornelis Jonson probably trained as a painter in the northern Netherlands, returning to London about 1618, where he worked for the next 25 years as a portrait painter, and had an extensive practice. His signed or monogrammed portraits number several hundred; he is the first English-born painter known to have made so many. Anthony van Dyck's dazzling manner influenced him, but Jonson's style remained more straightforward, a somewhat conservative approach that appealed to his patrons in the higher, but not the highest, social circles.

Jonson also painted miniatures in oil on copper, some of which were reduced copies of larger paintings. He was at his best when working on a fairly small scale, showing a sensitive gift for characterization. He painted in a straightforward but sensitive Dutch manner. After 1632 he came under van Dyck's influence, but in Holland he adopted a more Dutch manner, closer to that of Miereveld.

In 1622 he married Elizabeth Beck [Beek, Beke] of Colchester, a woman of Dutch origin who bore him two sons. The couple are portrayed with their son, Cornelis Jonson van Ceulen the Younger, in a portrait by Adriaen Hanneman (c. 1637; Enschede, Rijksmuseum Twenthe).

When the English Civil War began in 1643, Jansen moved to the northern Netherlands, where he helped to popularize van Dyck's airy, liquid touch. He stopped first in Middelburg and later in Amsterdam, The Hague, and finally Utrecht. His half-length and three-quarter-length portraits were notable for their elegance and for his characteristically precise rendering of his sitter's features and clothing.