1613/4 – The Hague – 1670

Portrait of Cornelis Tromp (1629 – 1691), three-quarter length, in armour, a naval battle in the background

Oil on canvas: 113 x 91 cm

Signed: ao 1660 J Mijtens F

The battle between the English and Dutch fleets, which can be seen in the background to the right of the portrait, is attributed to Reinier Nooms, alias Zeeman. As was common in the studios of the time, artists specializing in naval scenes usually executed such traditional details in portraits of naval commanders.



European private collection



Bauer, A. N. Jan Mijtens (1613/14-1670): Life and Work , Petersberg 2006; Houbraken, A. The great school of the Dutch art painters and painters. III vols. Amsterdam 1718-1721, Amsterdam 1976, p. 356.


The current three-quarter length portrait shows Cornelis Tromp in black armor with a command staff in his right hand. In the right background a naval action can be seen. Completely in line with the character of the person portrayed, Mijtens has executed the portrait with skilful and powerful brushstrokes, creating a lively image of an energetic man. The portrait was almost certainly commissioned by Cornelis Tromp, who was promoted to Rear Admiral in 1660 for one of his houses.


Cornelis Maertenszoon Tromp (1629 – 1691) was a famous Dutch naval officer. He was the second son of Admiral Maerten Tromp (1598 – 1653), one of the most famous naval heroes. His father rose to the rank of lieutenant admiral and commander-in-chief of the Dutch navy and Cornelis would follow in his father’s footsteps.

In September 1645 Cornelis was appointed lieutenant and at the end of August 1649 he became captain. He served in the First Anglo-Dutch War, fighting at the Battle of Leghorn , but after the death of Johan van Galen he was passed over as commander of the Mediterranean Fleet. He was not promoted to rear admiral in the Admiralty of the Maze until November 1653, after the death of his father Maerten, who had enjoyed massive popularity. In 1656 Cornelis Tromp took part in the relief of Gdansk (Danzig).

The first stain on his reputation came two years later when it was discovered that he had used his ships to trade in luxury goods. As a result, he was fined and was not allowed to be in active command until 1662. Just before the Second Anglo-Dutch War, in January 1665, he was promoted to Vice-Admiral. At the Battle of Lowestoft , he prevented a disastrous outcome by taking command of the fleet, allowing most of the fleet to escape. In July of the same year he was given temporary command of the confederate fleet as lieutenant admiral, but had to relinquish this position (but not the rank) to Michiel de Ruyter the following month.

Transferred to the Admiralty of Amsterdam in February 1666, he fought under De Ruyter in the famous Four Days’ Battle and the st. James’s Day Battle. Blaming De Ruyter for his failure at Nieuwpoort in August 1666, he was fired, at the same time suspected of plotting to overthrow the government.

After William III of Orange took power as stadtholder in 1672, he fought against the French and English navies in April 1673 in the Third Anglo-Dutch War, where he took part in the last three naval actions under De Ruyter, distinguishing himself in the double Battle of Schooneveld and the Battle of Texel in August 1673.

In 1675 the English monarch appointed Charles II Tromp English baronet and Dutch “erfridder”.

In May 1676 he became admiral general of the Danish navy and received the title of Knight of the Order of the Elephant and in 1677 that of Count of Sølvesborg (then a Danish title of nobility). He defeated Swedish naval forces at the Battle of Oland , his only victory as a fleet commander. In February 1679 Cornelis Tromp became Lieutenant-Admiral-General of the Republic, but he never fought in that capacity, because he had increasingly become a block to William III’s leg. From then on, Cornelis led a life of listlessness and indulged in heavy drinking. He died in Amsterdam in 1691, still the official commander of the Dutch fleet, having been replaced for some time by Cornelis Evertsen de Jongste.

As a public figure, Cornelis Tromp’s personality is well documented as jovial but also arrogant and vain. It is mainly due to this last aspect of his character that he often had himself portrayed.

Tromp’s high self-esteem led to numerous portrait commissions from the most important portraitists of his time, including Ferdinand Bol, Peter Lely and Jan Mijtens, which were exhibited in his warship-shaped country house ‘Trompenburgh’ in ‘s Graveland, the Netherlands.


Mijtens made no less than four portraits of him, including the current one. This portrait and another were made in 1661, while the other two portraits both date from 1668.

From the 1640s until his death in 1670, Jan Mijtens was the most important portrait painter in The Hague, working for the aristocracy and the court.

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