Christian Richter (Swedish, 1678-1732) Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), Lord Protector of England (1653-1658), wearing suit of armour and white collar, his natural hair worn to his shoulders

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Lot 8
Christian Richter
(Swedish, 1678-1732)
Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), Lord Protector of England (1653-1658), wearing suit of armour and white collar, his natural hair worn to his shoulders

Sold for £ 18,750 (US$ 25,088) inc. premium
Christian Richter (Swedish, 1678-1732)
Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), Lord Protector of England (1653-1658), wearing suit of armour and white collar, his natural hair worn to his shoulders.
Watercolour on vellum, laid on card with gesso back, signed on the reverse and dated C Richter/ 1708, the C and R in monogram, gilt-wood frame with carved scroll plaque inscribed OLIVER CROMWELL.
Oval, 102mm (4in) high
Exhibited: Royal Portrait Miniatures: A Special Loan Exhibition, Mall Galleries, London, 11-23 Oct 2011, no.6.


  • The present lot is one of five known copies that are all signed by Richter and dated 1708, after Samuel Cooper's portrait of Oliver Cromwell. Three of the other versions exist in the Royal Collection (R. Walker, Miniatures in the Collection of Her Majesty The Queen, 1992, p.10-11, no.15), Chatsworth House and the Wallace Collection (G. Reynolds, Wallace Collection Catalogue of Miniatures, 1980, p.78, no.42) and a further was sold at Sotheby's on 26 April 1971 (lot 182). The reverse of the Wallace Collection example is signed and inscribed Sum possessor/ CRichter 1708 which would imply that Richter owned one of the original portraits by Cooper, of which it would seem that only two have survived: the 1657 Harcourt portrait sold at Sotheby's on 6 June 2007 (lot 151) and the slightly earlier 1656 portrait in the National Portrait Gallery, London (Acqn. No.3065). A further copy by Richter in enamel was sold by Sotheby's in the Clore Collection sale (Part II) on 10 November 1986 (lot 159).

    It is not known for certain whether Richter painted the five copies in 1708 to capitalise on the 50th anniversary of Cromwell's death or whether they were commissioned by Cromwell's descendents for distribution amongst the family in commemoration that year. Cromwell's eldest surviving son, Richard Cromwell (1626-1712) who succeeded his father briefly as Lord Protector, owned Cooper's unfinished preparatory sketch c.1653 (now in the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch) which he had purchased from Cooper's widow. It was always believed that Richard Wallace had purchased his copy by Richter in Vienna from a descendant of Oliver Cromwell. This provenance had been thought unlikely by 20th century historians but it is not impossible.

    Oliver Cromwell remains one of the most controversial figures in British history. Hailed by some as the defender of English liberties and reviled by others as a regicidal tyrant, Cromwell was born into the ranks of the provincial gentry in 1599 and passed his early years in relative obscurity. In 1620 he married Elizabeth Bourchier, a union which would see the births of eight children, one of whom, Richard (1626-1712), would succeed him as Lord Protector for a brief time.

    Elected Member of Parliament for Cambridge in 1640, Cromwell's hard-line political views, allied to his puritanical religious convictions placed him in direct opposition to the royalist cause. When the Civil War erupted in 1642, Cromwell was named a captain of horse but soon proved himself a consummate military strategist and had assumed command of the entire Parliamentarian army in just a few years. As Lieutenant General of the New Model Army, Cromwell headed the series of battles that culminated in the final defeat of the King's forces at the Battle of Naseby in 1645. After Charles I's surrender to the Scots, Cromwell, having briefly favoured the argument for the King's abdication, soon became one of the most pre-eminent supporters of regicide once he had recognised Charles' refusal to comply with his captors.

    After Charles' execution in 1649, Cromwell participated in the debates of the 'Rump Parliament', which sat until 1653. Finally tiring of its warring factions and lack of real desire for reform, he dissolved the Rump and took up the reigns as Lord Protector, head of a 'nominated assembly' endorsed by the Army. Several efforts towards monarchical status were made on his behalf, but these Cromwell resisted firmly. Cromwell's rule as Lord Protector, known as the Interregnum, is commonly recognised for its socio-religious rigidity along radical Protestant lines and marks the only time in its history that England has been a republic.

    On September 3, 1658, Cromwell died of natural causes. After abortive attempts by his son to govern under a second Protectorate, the Prince of Wales was called back from exile in Holland to restore the English monarchy. In 1661 Cromwell's body was exhumed from its grave and hung at Tyburn gallows. His head was subsequently decapitated and put on permanent display outside Westminster Hall for almost twenty years.
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