Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger

Engraving by Wenceslas Hollar, 1644, of a self-portrait of Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, 1627 (now lost).

Marcus Gheeraerts (also written as Gerards or Geerards) (Bruges, c. 1561/62 – 19 January 1636) was a Flemish artist working at the Tudor court, described as "the most important artist of quality to work in England in large-scale between Eworth and Van Dyck"[1] He was brought to England as a child by his father Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder, also a painter. He became a fashionable portraitist in the last decade of the reign of Elizabeth I under the patronage of her champion and pageant-master Sir Henry Lee. He introduced a new aesthetic in English court painting that captured the essence of a sitter through close observation. He became a favorite portraitist of James I's queen Anne of Denmark, but fell out of fashion in the late 1610s.

Family

Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger (sometimes known as Mark Garrard[2]) was born in Bruges, the son of the artist Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder and his wife Johanna. Hardly anything is known of the paintings of the elder Gheeraerts, although his work as a printmaker was renowned in Europe.[3]

Like other Protestant artists from the Low Countries, Gheeraerts the Elder fled to England with his son to escape persecution in the Low Countries under the Duke of Alba. His wife was a Catholic and remained behind and is believed to have died a few years later. Father and son are recorded living with a Dutch servant in the London parish of St Mary Abchurch in 1568. On 9 September 1571, the elder Gheeraerts remarried. His new wife was Susanna de Critz, a member of an exiled family from Antwerp.[4]

It is not known by whom young Marcus was trained, although it is likely to have been his father. He was possibly also a pupil of Lucas de Heere. Records suggest that Marcus was active as a painter by 1586.[5] In 1590 he married Magdalena, the sister of his stepmother Susanna and of the painter John de Critz. The couple had six children, only two of whom seem to have survived—a son, Marcus III (c. 1602-c. 1654), also a painter, and a son Henry (1604-August 1650).[4] His half-sister Sara married the painter Isaac Oliver in 1602.[6]