The Berger Collection


English School
Captain Christopher Baker, ca. 1592
Oil on panel
Dated and inscribed at upper left, 1592 / aetatis sue / 71; at center left, Captain Christopher Baker; and at lower left, Anno Domini 1588, Regnantis Elisabetha / Reginae 30: Cum Dominus Carolus Howard / sumus Anglia Admiralus, ipse tum / prafuisset regia Anglorum classi; ut / instructissimae Hispanorum classi / se obijceret, quae Anglis pernifice/ minata, suam sensit Ego ab eodem / Domino Admiralio constitutus fui Capit / navis Regia quae a providentia / nomen habet, Et unus et quatuor / ..lis qui Viceadmiralitatus titulo / classem illam regeremus
42 ¼ x 29 ¼ in. (107.3 x 74.3 cm)

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The subject of this portrait traditionally was identified as Admiral Richard Chester because of a mistranslation of Providentia in the inscription to mean “Providence” rather than “Foresight.” Chester commanded the warship Providence against the Spanish Armada in 1588 and so was thought to be the subject of this picture. More recently, it has been convincingly suggested that the subject is Christopher Baker, who commanded the ship Foresight in the same campaign. The Coat of Arms and Crest represented on the portrait were granted to Baker, and his name inscribed on the picture was revealed during conservation work to remove later overpainting.

Captain Baker is shown wearing ornamental armor and stands in a pose favored for military figures. Despite his great age (the inscription gives his age as seventy-one), he stands firm and resolute, with clear eyes and an earnest face.

A translation of the long inscription reads: “AD 1588, in the thirtieth year of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, when Lord Charles Howard, High Admiral of England, had taken the command of the Royal English Fleet, to oppose the Spanish Armada fitted out for the destruction of the English, but which was itself defeated and suffered the ruin it had threatened, I was appointed by the same High Admiral Captain of the Royal Ship called Foresight, and one of the four who under the title of Vice Admiral were to manage the fleet.”


Provenance

The Duke of Leeds, Hornby Castle, by 1890; by descent to the 10th Duke of Leeds; his posthumous sale, Christie’s, London, November 14, 1997, lot 1

Bibliography

Historical and Descriptive Catalogue of Pictures Belonging to His Grace the Duke of Leeds, 1902, no. 30 (as Admiral Richard Chester; south staircase, Hornby Castle)

Exhibited: New Gallery, London, Tudor Exhibition, 1890, no. 379


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