Thomas Cecil, First Earl of Exeter by Jansen, circa 1828.
Thomas Cecil, First Earl of Exeter by Cornelis Janssens van Ceulen, engraved by William Holl, c.1828.
Thomas Cecil (1542-1623) was the elder son of William Cecil and his first wife Mary Cheke. Thomas was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, and served in the House of Commons representing various constituencies from 1563 to 1593. He was knighted in 1575 and three years later he was appointed High Sheriff of Northamptonshire. Following the assassination of the Prince of Orange, in 1584, Cecil went with the Earl of Leicester to restore order to the Dutch Republic. While there he was distinguished for his bravery and he served as the governor of Brielle. Upon the death of his father in 1598, Thomas inherited the barony of Burghley and his half brother Robert Cecil, stepped into William's position as Chief advisor to Queen Elizabeth I. From 1599 to 1603 he was the Lord Lieutenant of Yorkshire and President of the Council of the North. Queen Elizabeth I made him a knight of the Garter in 1601 and four years later created him Earl of Exeter. Thomas and his first wife, Dorothy Neville, had eleven children together. All of his titles passed to his eldest son William.
Cornelis Janssens van Ceulen (1593-1661) was born in England to Cornelius Johnson and his wife Johanna le Grand. His father was a refugee from Antwerp who moved to London to escape religious persecution. There is a clear Dutch influence in Cornelis' work and it is possible that he trained briefly in the Netherlands. During the 1620s he lived in Blackfriars, London, so his studio would be outside the area monopolized by the London Painter's Guild. In 1622 he married Elizabeth Beke of Colchester. The couple moved to Canterbury in the 1630s and their first child was born in 1634. Janssens was a skilled portraitist and his clients were very wealthy. His portrait fee was five pounds, which was rather expensive considering the average rate at the time. However, artists like Van Dyck and Lely charged even more and were therefore hired by the highest of society. Many of Janssens clients were part of the new gentry. He was a highly skilled portraitist and was exceptionally good at rendering clothing. In 1643 he left England during the Civil War and moved to Middelburg and later Utrecht. Despite the move he continued to paint for several of his English clients. Janssens consistently dated and signed his works with the exception of his later full-length portraits. It is speculated that his clients wished to pass them off as Van Dyck's, which were more expensive, and therefore requested that they not be signed. There is some controversy regarding Cornelis' name since he spelled it Johnson or Jonson throughout his life and there is no evidence to suggest that he ever used the Dutch spelling of Janssens or Jansen.
William Holl (1807-1871) was the eldest son of William Holl the elder who taught him and his three brothers the art of engraving. He was instructed first in stipple and then in line engraving. In 1829 his first solo work was published in Edmund Lodge's Portraits of Illustrious Personages. The engraving was of Thomas Cranmer and it was the first of many contributions that Holl made to the publication from 1829 to 1835. Best known for his book illustrations he also submitted to William Jerdan's National Portrait Gallery (1830-34) and Chamber's Biographical Dictionary of Eminent Scotsmen (1834), among others. Holl occasionally collaborated with one of his brothers on his engravings. For example he and brother Francis contributed to Finden's Tableaux of National Character (1837). During the 1840s he produced a number of scriptural engravings for several sources, including Blackie & Sons' Imperial Family Bible.