Dulwich Picture Gallery I


1.1 The 17th-century collectors: Alleyn and Cartwright

Edward Alleyn (1566–1626), an actor and theatre manager, founded the College of God’s Gift (now Dulwich College) in 1619 [1]. He built a chapel, a schoolhouse and twelve almshouses and left 52 pictures, of which 37 are still identifiable in the Dulwich collection. All were by unidentified British artists and depict, for instance, English kings and Sibyls, probably to be used to educate the pupils of the school.1

The pictures of William Cartwright (1607–86) [2], a bookseller, and, like Alleyn, an actor and theatre manager, together with a handwritten inventory of 239 entries, were bequeathed to Dulwich College. Most were portraits or genre subjects.2 Only 79 can still be identified in the Dulwich collection; of these 23 are discussed in the present catalogue.3 It is not quite clear where the Cartwright pictures were produced – in London by British or foreign artists, or imported from the Netherlands, an activity that was vigorously resisted by the London Painter-Stainers’ Company.4 It seems unlikely that it would be financially viable to import such modest pictures: in the Cartwright inventory their value is noted with an average price of about £2–3. According to Karst’s studies of the London art market in the second half of the 17th century it seems that there were a number of factory-like studios where artists produced copies of pictures and paintings after prints,5 such as Boy with a Candle and Girl with a Mousetrap (DPG413).6 Other pictures in the Cartwright collection were probably intended as overdoors and overmantels to decorate Cartwright’s house: the three still lifes with living animals included here are attributed to the London-based artist Jan Frans van Son (1658–1701; DPG350, DPG406 and DPG433). Perhaps the rather crude pictures with large-scale figures might have been used in the London theatres of the time: Bagpiper, Girl and Older Man (DPG358), A Man Frowning (DPG402), Boy with a Candle and Girl with a Mousetrap (DPG413) and Jester (DPG512). In any case in the Cartwright collection we did not find the canonical international masters included in the more ambitious collections in 17th-century London, such as Rubens, Rembrandt, Titian (1488/90–1576), Caravaggio (1571–1610) and Guido Reni (1575–1642).7 His pictures do not have much aesthetic value, but they are interesting in showing what was available in London at the time for a non-aristocratic collector of moderate means.

Edward Alleyn (1566-1626), dated 1626
canvas, oil paint 203,8 x 114 cm
Dulwich (London), Dulwich Picture Gallery, inv./cat.nr. DPG443

John Greenhill
Willam Cartwright (1607-1686), c. 1665
canvas, oil paint 102,8 x 84,9 cm
Dulwich (London), Dulwich Picture Gallery, inv./cat.nr. DPG393


1 Ingamells 2008, pp. 19–43. The original collection consisted of 26 Monarchs, 14 Heads and 12 Sibyls. See also Reid & Maniura 1994, and especially for Alleyn’s collection Foister 1994.

2 According to Kalinsky & Waterfield (1987, p. 9) there were 76 portraits, 27 religious paintings, 10 secular history paintings, 42 genre paintings, 41 landscapes (including 19 seascapes) and 24 still lifes.

3 The 79 works comprise 49 British, 7 Italian, 11 Flemish, 8 Dutch, 1 German and 3 unknown. See also Brown (1981, pp. 5–6, 12–13 (nos. 4–7)) for three of the pictures and Cartwright’s inventory.

4 Kalinsky & Waterfield 1987, p. 10.

5 Karst 2013–14, pp. 46–9; Karst also discusses Cartwright’s collection (pp. 38–9). He assumes that the prices in the inventory were the prices he paid. It is not, however, a chronological list of acquisitions, but an inventory of the house made later, so the prices are probably Cartwright’s valuations of the pictures at the time of compiling the inventory, in 1686 or somewhat earlier.

6 Also made after prints are DPG380 (British School after Aegidius Sadeler II after Bedoli/Parmigianino) and DPG511 (British School after Bartolomeus Spranger).

7 Kalinsky & Waterfield 1987, p. 9.

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