Portrait miniature of an unknown man

WB.174     1600–1635 • Painted on vellum, wooden frame • miniature

The sitter wears a gold portrait medal similar to 5 around his neck on a gold chain against his sober and expensive black clothes.

Curator's Description

Circular miniature portrait on vellum; man aged thirty to forty, Suply van Verdion?; face turned to viewer; ruddy face with reddish moustache and small pointed beard; wears black fur cap with gold band and black fur coat with gold chain suspending gold medal; light-blue background; in wooden frame.

This object was collected and bequeathed to the British Museum by Ferdinand Anselm Rothschild.

How big is it?

7.4 cm wide, 6.5 cm high, 1.3 cm deep, and it weighs 29.4g

Detailed Curatorial Notes

Tait 1986

Origin: Uncertain; perhaps Netherlandish, first third of 17th century, with later additions.

Provenance: None is recorded.

Commentary: The identity of the sitter has yet to be established. In Read 1902 it was recorded that this miniature was “believed to represent Suply van Verdion, to whom Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange, is said to have given the medal, No. 173 [WB.173], which he wears in the miniature”. As Read did not give his source for either part of this statement it may be assumed that the oral tradition remained uncorroborated. More recently Dr H. Enno van Gelder, of the Koninklijk Kabinet van Munten in The Hague, was unable to throw any light on the problem when, in 1955, he was carrying out his research, and today his successors there have confirmed that neither they nor the Dutch genealogists they have consulted can discover any record of a Suply van Verdion. Indeed, it is as if he never existed.

Furthermore, it should be noted that the Central Bureau voor Genealogie in The Hague has not yet been able to trace the father of Godard Verdion, although the latter was born in Rouen in 1648-9, nor any of his ancestors. Whilst there still remains a faint possibility that one of his forebears was named Suply and was styled van Verdion, it seems improbable that anyone deserving of this gift of a gold enamelled pendant medallion from Prince Frederick Henry should have remained totally obscure.

At the present time the evidence is so inconclusive that the sitter must be described as 'an unknown man', though in time the Dutch specialists may be able to trace not only the sitter's identity but also that of the miniaturist who painted this likeness. However, the miniature presents several problematical aspects which conflict with a Dutch attribution and further scientific investigation will be required before its date and origin can be confirmed.


  • Charles Hercules Read, ‘The Waddesdon Bequest: Catalogue of the Works of Art bequeathed to the British Museum by Baron Ferdinand Rothschild, M.P., 1898’, London, 1902, no. 174, fig. 23
  • O.M. Dalton, ‘The Waddesdon Bequest’, 2nd edn (rev), British Museum, London, 1927, no. 174
  • Hugh Tait, 'Catalogue of the Waddesdon Bequest in the British Museum. 1., The Jewels', British Museum, London, 1986, no.39a, fig.77.
  • References

    1. Read 1902: Read, Charles Hercules, The Waddesdon Bequest. Catalogue of the Works of Art Bequeathed to the British Museum by Baron Ferdinand Rothschild, M.P., 1898, London, BMP, 1902
    2. Dalton 1927: Dalton, Ormonde Maddock, The Waddesdon Bequest : jewels, plate, and other works of art bequeathed by Baron Ferdinand Rothschild., London, BMP, 1927
    3. Tait 1986: Tait, Hugh, Catalogue of the Waddesdon Bequest in the British Museum; I The Jewels, London, BMP, 1986

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