Portrait of John Milton (?) at the Age of 12
Van Ceulen was born to a Dutch or Flemish family living in England, where the name Janssens was spelled Johnson. Active in England as a leading portrait painter of the 1620s and 1630s, he moved to the Netherlands in 1643 for the remainder of his life. Nevertheless, he continued to paint portraits for English clients.
The portrait is inscribed “An. 1650. Ae. Sua 12” which makes the painting a later copy of a presumed lost original done in 1620, as John Milton lived from 1608 to 1674. The assumption that this is a portrait of Milton is based on the resemblance of this boy to an earlier portrait done by an Anglo-Dutch artist when he was ten now in the Pierpont Morgan Library. A portrait of Milton at 21 is in the National Portrait Gallery (the Onslow Portrait of 1629) which was copied twice by the Flemish artist Benjamin Vandergucht in the eighteenth century. The family was well-to-do and his father was a musician and part of London’s arts community. His mother’s portrait was painted in 1621 by an unidentified artist, possibly Cornelius Janssens van Ceulen. It is now at the University of South Carolina. By 1650, Milton was well established as a writer of drama, poetry, and political treatises and held a governmental position. He was well known in aristocratic circles and had long been considered a child prodigy so interest in having copies of his portrait would be understandable. (Thanks to Professor Susan Cerasano for all of this information on Milton portraits.)