Arnold Bronckorst

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Oliver St John, 1st Baron St John of Bletso, signed and dated 1578 by Arnold Bronckorst

Arnold Bronckhorst, or Bronckorst or Van Bronckhorst (fl. 1565–1583) was a Dutch painter who was court painter to James VI of Scotland.

Goldmining story[edit]

It is not known if Arnold Bronckhorst was a member of the Dutch noble family of Van Bronckhorst. According to a later account by Stephen Atkinson written in 1619, Bronckorst first appears in London, associated with English painter Nicholas Hilliard. With a third painter, Cornelius de Vos, they went to Scotland on business concerned with gold mining, meeting Regent Morton. According to Atkinson, the trio were arrested and unsuccessful in obtaining warrants for the export of gold, but Arnold was hired by Morton to paint portraits great and small of the young king (later James I of England.)

The involvement of Hilliard is doubted by his biographers. A Cornelius de Vos is recorded as a mineral prospector in Scotland in the period, not a painter.[1] There is a record of a 'French painter' who made a portrait of the King in September 1573, during Morton's regency, for £10.[2]

Paintings and records[edit]

Regent Morton c. 1580,
by Arnold Bronckorst (drawing)

In Scotland, Arnold painted the King, Regent Morton, George Buchanan, and the Earl of Arran.[3] According to the inventories of the Earl of Leicester, the earl had a portrait of the 'young king of Scots' in 1580, which may have been a copy of Arnold's picture.[4] Leicester sent his own portrait to James VI, painted on canvas by Hubbard in 1583.[5]

Arnold was paid £130 Scots for portraits of James VI in April 1580.[6] Sittings for the King's picture by the "Flemish painter" at Stirling Castle during the difficult political circumstances in 1579 were mentioned in a letter sent to George Bowes in England, the brother of the diplomat Robert Bowes.

The Flemish painter is in Stirling, in working of the King's portraiture, but expelled forth of the place at the beginnings of thir (these) troubles. I am presently travelling (working) to obtain him license to see the King's presence thrice in the day, till the end of his work; quhilk (which) will be no sooner perfected nor nine days, after the obtaining of this license.[7]

A son of George Bowes, also called George, was later sent into Scotland as a mineral prospector at Wanlockhead in 1603 with Sir Bevis Bulmer, which may relate to Stephen Atkinson's gold-mining story.[8] By September 1580, Arnold had completed a half and full length of the king and a portrait of George Buchanan for £64.[9]

After receiving £46 for portraits of James on 6 September 1581, on 19 September 1581 Arnold was appointed to the post of King's Painter, the first such appointment in Scotland. He received a privy seal letter of appointment guaranteeing the payment for life of £100 yearly from the "reddiast of his hienes' casualties and cofferis," meaning the treasurer was to make Arnold's payment a priority.[10] The privy seal letter and account entries describe him as a flemyng. Bronckorst returned to London in 1583 where he disappears from view. He was succeeded as court painter in Scotland by another Flemish artist, Adrian Vanson, who was subsequently appointed King's Painter.[11]

One portrait signed and dated 1578 by Bronckorst survives; the English sitter Oliver St John of Bletso, was the father of a reluctant keeper and juror of Mary Queen of Scots.[12]

Scots portraits[edit]

The National Galleries of Scotland hold a number of portraits by Bronckorst:


  1. ^ Stephen Atkinson, The Discoverie and Historie of Gold Mynes in Scotland. 1619, Bannatyne Club (1825): the third 'painter' mentioned by Atkinson was the Dutch mineral prospector Cornelius de Vois, see HMC, Laing Manuscripts, vol. 1, (1914), 25; the name of an associate of Cornelius in Scotland, Jhone Achille, may have been conflated with Hilliard, Edinburgh Burgh Records 1557–1571, (1875), 230: Cornelius was prospecting for gold with Morton in June 1574, CSP Scotland, vol.5 (1907), p.5, 36
  2. ^ Accounts Treasurer of Scotland, vol. 12, (Edinburgh, 1970), p. 361
  3. ^ MacDonald, Alexander, Archaeologia Scotica, vol. 3 (1831), 312–13.
  4. ^ Notes & Queries, (1862), 225: . Dynfnallt Owen, ed., HMC 58, Manuscripts Marquess of Bath, vol. 5 (London, HMSO, 1980), p. 203
  5. ^ G. Dynfnallt Owen, ed., HMC 58, Manuscripts Marquess of Bath, vol. 5 (London, HMSO, 1980), p. 222: UK National Archives catalogue, Longleat House DU/vol. V, & vol. VI
  6. ^ Thomson, Duncan, Painting in Scotland, 1570–1650, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, (Edinburgh 1975), p. 22.
  7. ^ Tytler, Patrick Fraser (1842). History of Scotland. Vol. 8. Edinburgh: William Tait. p. 418. or Proofs to vol. 4, no. IV; "Letter of intelligence from an anonymous correspondent to Sir George Bowes," undated letter, Spring 1579, (formerly in Bowes manuscripts at Streatlam Castle)
  8. ^ Devon, Frederick, ed., Issues of the Exchequer in the Reign of James I, London (1836), pp. 8–9
  9. ^ Thomson, Duncan, Painting in Scotland, 1570–1650, (1975), 22, citing NRS treasurer's accounts E21/62 fol.19, with voucher E23/5/6: Archaeologia Scotica, vol.3, (1831), 313.
  10. ^ Register of the Privy Seal of Scotland, vol. 8, (1982), 80, no. 474, 19 September 1581, Bronckhorst, Fleming (other payments were tied to particular income streams or court officers): Payment in September 1581 for paintings; NRS E23/6/17 (voucher), 6 September 1581, for £46 (a £30 portrait was sent a foreign prince, perhaps the Prince of Orange)
  11. ^ Register of the Privy Seal of Scotland, vol. 8, (1982), 396, no. 2287, 20 August 1584 "Hadrian Fansoun."
  12. ^ Auerbach, Erna, 'Some Tudor Portraits at the Royal Academy,' in The Burlington Magazine, vol. 99, No. 646 (Jan. 1957), pp. 8–11, & 13.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Pierre Quesnel
Painter at the Scottish royal court
Succeeded by
Adrian Vanson