KERSEBOOM, Friedrich
(b. 1632, Solingen, d. 1693, London)

Portrait of Sir John Langham as a Boy

1683
Oil on canvas, 142 x 104 cm
Private collection

This is a full length portrait of Sir John Langham 4th Bart. as a boy aged 12 playing a bass viola-da-gamba on a portico. The daring and innovative informal composition of a boy of twelve playing the viola-da-gamba finds few parallels in British art of the 17th century. The reign of Charles II marked a huge revival of interest in the polite arts in England, and the playing of an instrument became the hallmark of the education of a young person of quality.

The viola da gamba, or viol, is a bowed string instrument. Similar to the cello, the viol, or viola da gamba, is played between the legs. It first appeared in Europe in the late 15th century and subsequently became one of the most popular Renaissance and Baroque instruments.