The Tempest Portrait-Lady Jane Grey

Tempest Portrait -Location Unknown (c) NPG Archive

Exhibited as one of four portraits including the Bodleian, Houghton and Althorp portraits identified as representing that of Jane Grey in the National Portrait Exhibition of 1866 at the South Kensington Museum.  The catalogue for this exhibition survives in various archives today and describes the portrait as:

“Lot 184 Lady Jane Grey – Mark Garrard-bust, fair hair, dark turban-shaped hat with a large sapphire, open collar to the bodice, fastened with jewel. Canvas 23 ½ x 17 ½”[1]

At the time of the exhibition the portrait was catalogued as being in the collection of a Colonel Tempest.  The Colonel Tempest discussed is presumably Thomas Richard Plumbe-Tempest (1795-1881) who inherited the tempest estate including Tong Hall in West Yorkshire.  Tong Hall remained in the Tempest family till 1941 where it was then used as a school, museum and is currently used as office space.

As discussed above the portrait was attributed to the artist Mark Garrard or Marcus Gheeraerts the younger (1561-1636) as he is better known.  We now know that he did not in fact come to England until the reign of Queen Elizabeth and was not born until after the death of Jane Grey so therefore could not have painted a portrait of her prior to her death.

Today this painting is only known through the black and white photograph produced in an illustrated manual of the exhibition where it is again described as “lady Jane Grey”[2]and as far as I’m aware this painting has never been discussed or published in any publication relating to Jane Grey.   When viewed by George Scharf the then director of The National Portrait Gallery as part of the exhibition, this painting along with the other two were dismissed as authentic likenesses with Scharf noting that only the Houghton portrait was “probably a genuine picture”[3].

From the early photograph it can clearly be seen that the painting appears to be based on two other portraits once thought to represent Jane Grey during the early 19th century.  The dress, jewels and shawl worn around the shoulders appear to be based on Wrest Park portrait and the face hair and hat worn by the sitter is reminiscent of the Elliot/Fulbeck portrait.

As the description in the catalogue states that the image is painted on canvas this also indicates that it was probably painted after 1600 unless the image was transferred to canvas at a later period.  Due to its similarities to the other images once called Jane Grey it is highly likely that this painting was produced during the late 18th or early 19th century to represent Jane Grey and not taken from life.

Unknown Lady (c) Bonham’s

One possibility for this the painting not surfacing today is the fact that it may possibly have been destroyed or painted over as it appears to have disappeared after the exhibition. 

A portrait which recently came up for auction at Bonham’s auctioneers on 2nd May 2012[4] and described as a “portrait of a Lady” by “a follower of Daniel Mytens the Elder” may possibly be connected to the Tempest Portrait. 

What is interesting about this other painting is that the catalogue for the sale also reports that two labels where attached to the back of the stretcher supporting this canvas which state that the portrait was in “the collection of Colonel Tempest of Regent Street” and that it was “exhibited as a portrait of Lady Jane Grey in the National Portrait gallery, London 1866.”[5] 

The dimensions recorded for this portrait are more or less the same as those documented for the Tempest portrait in the 1866 exhibition catalogue. It may just be possible that the original image of Jane was painted over this image or vice versa at some point in time or that the canvas was removed, and the stretcher reused for the present image, the facial features of the sitter depicted do look incredibly similar to that seen in the early photograph.


[1] Catalogue for the first special exhibition of national portraits ending with the reign of King James the second, published 1866, Strangeways & Walden  

[2] A series of historical portraits selected from the National Portrait Exhibition of 1866, photographed from the original paintings. By Arundel Society for Promoting the Knowledge of Art. 

[3] Scharf. George, notebook, NPG XXXVI, page 29,30

[4] http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/19685/lot/165/?category=list&length=100&page=2

[5] As above

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