Closterman, John (DNB00)

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CLOSTERMAN, JOHN (1656–1713), portrait-painter, born at Osnaburg, Hanover, in 1656, was the son of an artist, who taught him the rudiments of design. In 1679 he went to Paris, accompanied by his countryman Tiburen, and there worked under Jean de Troy. In 1681 he came to England, and painted draperies for John Riley, at whose death, in 1691, Closterman finished several of his portraits. This recommended him to the Duke of Somerset, but he lost his favour on account of a dispute about a picture of Guercino, specially acquired for his grace, and which was afterwards purchased by Lord Halifax. In 1696 he was invited to the court of Spain, and executed the portraits of the king and queen; he also went to Italy twice, and made several acquisitions of works of art. On returning to this country he obtained considerable employment, and married an Englishwoman, who, according to Houbraken, ruined him by her extravagant habits, and ultimately left him in a state of dejection of body and mind. He died in 1713, and was buried in Covent Garden churchyard. Among his works should be mentioned a whole-length portrait, formerly in the Guildhall, of Queen Anne in her coronation robes, wearing a crown, and carrying the orb and sceptre; this is similar to another portrait, engraved in mezzotint by John Faber, jun., and now in the National Portrait Gallery, where there is also a portrait of John Churchill, first duke of Marlborough, painted before he became a knight of the Garter, to which order he was elected in March 1702. Closterman also executed a family group of the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, with their children, viz. John, marquis of Blandford, Lady Henrietta, Lady Ann, Lady Elizabeth, and Lady Mary Churchill. The members of the family are assembled beneath a rich hanging curtain, on a raised daïs—all the figures are of life size. This picture is now at Blenheim, and it is particularly mentioned by Horace Walpole in his ‘Anecdotes of Painting.’ It was most probably painted about the beginning of 1698. It is related that Closterman had so many disputes with the duchess on this subject, that the duke said, ‘It has given me more trouble to reconcile my wife and you than to fight a battle.’ The following portraits were engraved in mezzotint after him by W. Faithorne: John Dryden (Elsum wrote an epigram on this portrait), Sir Richard Haddock, Madam Plowden, and Lord Henry Scot. Engraved by John Smith are: William Cowper, Grinling Gibbons and his wife, Sir Richard Gipps, Thomas Maxwell, Sir William Petty, and Mr. Sansom. By R. Williams: John, duke of Argyll, Sir Richard Blackmore (this portrait was exhibited at the South Kensington Museum in 1867), and Sir John Houblon.

[Walpole's Anecdotes of Painting, 1862, ii. 406; Redgrave's Dictionary of Artists, 1878.]

L. F.