This painting shows Jan Govertsz. van der Aar (1544/1545–1612), a merchant from Leyden. He is seated at the table, holding a shell, and is surrounded by personifications of the Arts and Sciences. The picture serves to illustrate the sitter's role as a patron, his taste and learning.
The original painting at Knole (a property in the care of the National Trust) has helped us understand the meaning of this picture. In that painting there is an inscription in Hebrew on a man's hat, which translates as 'image of peace'. In the Lacock version, the copyist hasn't quite managed to transcribe the letters correctly, so the inscription is meaningless. Peace herself is seated to the left, holding a cornucopia and an olive branch. She rests her foot on a helmet, and beside her are other symbols of conflict. The picture can be understood as an allegory of the flourishing of the arts during times of peace.
Where to see this painting?
National Trust, Lacock Abbey, Fox Talbot Museum and Village
Not all paintings are on display. If you want to see a particular painting, please contact the collection