Marcus Gheeraerts, the Younger

Tom Derry, fl. 1614. Jester to Anne of Denmark. (Previously called 1st Viscount Stormont) (1614)

About this artwork

Tom Derry or Durie was the ‘fool’ employed by Queen Anne of Denmark, the wife of King James VI and I. Monarchs and some aristocrats maintained the medieval tradition of keeping a fool or jester as part of their household until well into the seventeenth century. Some jesters assumed the role as a profession, whereas others occupied the position because of a mental or physical impairment. A much-loved servant, the Queen commissioned portraits of Derry by two of her favourite artists. In this portrait by Gheeraerts, Derry is dressed in an expensive doublet embroidered with precious metals and with a heavy gold chain around his neck. He holds a hospitality cup, filled with red wine, which was shared by guests at ceremonial functions.

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Marcus Gheeraerts, the Younger

Marcus Gheeraerts, the Younger

Born in Bruges, Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger came to London in 1568 with his father, a painter who escaped protestant persecution in Flanders. Little is known of Gheeraerts’ early years or his artistic training. In 1590 he married Magdalen de Critz, a sister of the painter John de Critz. The couple had six children, four of whom died young. Gheeraerts’ earliest known paintings date from around 1592 and include his celebrated portrait of Queen Elizabeth I. By 1611 Gheeraerts had become a favourite of Queen Anne of Denmark, the wife of King James VI and I. He painted several royal portraits, but by 1618 was superseded by a new generation of Dutch-trained artists. Although Gheeraerts continued to paint throughout the 1620s, his sitters became considerably less distinguished.