The Somerset House Conference


This group portrait commemorates the peace treaty between England and Spain in 1604 that brought an end to a war that had dragged on for almost twenty years. It may well record the appearance of the room in Old Somerset House in London where the negotiations were held. Between May 20 and July 16, 1604, eighteen conference sessions were held at Somerset House, and the treaty was signed on August 16.

This painting apparently bears the signature of the Spanish painter Juan Pantoja de la Cruz;it also bears the impossible date of 1594. Probably both the signature and the date are false. A hitherto unidentified Flemish artist may have painted Somerset House, perhaps John De Critz the Elder. Paintings by De Critz were probably the sources for the portraits of Robert Cecil and Thomas Sackville in the British National Portrait Gallery.

Members of the Hispano-Flemish delegation (at left, from the window): Juan de Velasco, Duke of Frias, Constable of Castille; Juan de Tassis, Count of Villa Mediana; Alessandro Robida, senator of Milan; Charles de Ligne, Count of Aremberg; Jean Richardot, president of the Council of State; and Louis Vereyken, audencier of Brussels.

English commissioners (at right, from the window): Thomas Sackville, 1st Earl of Dorset, Charles Howard, 1st Earl of Nottingham; Charles Blount, Earl of Devonshire; Henry Howard, Earl of Northampton; and Robert Cecil, Viscount Cranborne (later 1st Earl of Salisbury).

By an unidentified artist
Oil on canvas, 1604
National Portrait Gallery, London
© National Portrait Gallery, London