Unknown artist, The Somerset
House Conference, ?1604, Oil on canvas, National Portrait Gallery, London
This group portrait commemorates
the peace treaty between England and Spain in 1604 that brought an end to a war
that had dragged on for almost twenty years. It may well record the appearance
of the room in Old Somerset House in London where the negotiations were held.
Between May 20 and July 16, 1604, eighteen conference sessions were held at
Somerset House, and the treaty was signed on August 16.
This painting apparently bears the signature of the Spanish painter Juan Pantoja de la Cruz;it also bears the impossible date of 1594. Probably both the signature and the date are false. A hitherto unidentified Flemish artist may have painted Somerset House, perhaps John De Critz the Elder. Paintings by De Critz were probably the sources for the portraits of Robert Cecil and Thomas Sackville in the British National Portrait Gallery.
Members of the Hispano-Flemish delegation (at left, from the window): Juan de Velasco, Duke of Frias, Constable of Castille; Juan de Tassis, Count of Villa Mediana; Alessandro Robida, senator of Milan; Charles de Ligne, Count of Aremberg; Jean Richardot, president of the Council of State; and Louis Vereyken, audencier of Brussels.
English commissioners (at right, from the window): Thomas Sackville, 1st Earl of Dorset, Charles Howard, 1st Earl of Nottingham; Charles Blount, Earl of Devonshire; Henry Howard, Earl of Northampton; and Robert Cecil, Viscount Cranborne (later 1st Earl of Salisbury).