The Beaufort Miniature Portrait

The Beaufort Miniature
Called Lady Jane Grey
Watercolour on vellum applied to card
(c) Private Collection

Sold at Sotheby’s auction house, London, on 13th September 1983 as lot 90, The Beaufort Miniature is one of the more recent paintings to be sold with the sitter tentatively suggested to be Lady Jane Grey.  The painting is associated with the artist Levina Teerlinc and is painted on vellum. The Sotheby’s sale included a second miniature attributed to the same artist, and both were formerly held in the collection of Henry Somerset, 12th Duke of Beaufort.

Before we study this miniature portrait in detail, we must first examine the artist associated with it and determine whether Levina Teerlinc would have had access to paint Lady Jane Grey.  Born around 1510, Teerlinc was the daughter of the famous Flemish illustrator Simon Benninck, and it is highly likely that she was taught to paint by her father.  By 1546, she was married, working, and living in England.  Teerlinc was granted a salary of forty pounds a year by Henry VIII, and she is documented as having worked for the English crown until her death in 1576.[1]  Teerlinc is a bit of an enigma.  Artists of the sixteenth century, even those with a large surviving output, are ordinarily not well documented today. But the reverse is true of Teerlinc. The State Papers of four separate Tudor monarchs include specific mention of her, yet no portrait reliably attributable to her is known to have survived today.[2]

In July 1983, a small number of miniature portraits were grouped together for the first time and exhibited as part of the Portrait Miniature Rediscovered Exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum. All were painted between 1546-1576, or during the period between the deaths of both Hans Holbein and Lucas Hornebolte in the 1540’s and the rise of Nicolas Hillard in the 1570’s.  All of the images were thought in 1983 to have been produced by Levina Teerlinc, though there is no surviving evidence to prove that assertion conclusively. [3] All of the miniatures do show some similarities in draughtsmanship.  The sitters do all have rather large heads and stick-like arms, and some similarities in the brushwork were also noted, including the use of loose wash work to create the features.  Since the completion of the exhibition, a number of other miniature portraits showing the same compositional mannerisms, including the Beaufort Miniature, have been sold at auction and have also been associated with Teerlinc.

Lady Katherine Grey
Watercolour on vellum applied to card
(c) Victoria and Albert Museum

Among the group of miniatures exhibited in the Portrait Miniature Rediscovered Exhibition and associated with Teerlinc is a portrait now in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum.  Purchased by the museum in June 1979, it is called Lady Katherine Grey due to an early inscription on the back that reads “The La Kathn Graye/wyfe of th’ Erle of/ Hertford”.  If the identity of the sitter and artist associated with this painting is correct, then Teerlinc most certainly had access to Jane’s sister. Teerlinc is also documented as producing several images of Elizabeth, including receiving payment in 1551 for a portrait of her as princess.  Susan James has also suggested that Teerlinc painted Catherine Parr, which suggests that Teerlinc came into contact with people that Jane would have known personally.  There is the slight possibility that she might have come into contact with Jane herself.[4]

The Beaufort Miniature depicts a young lady, seen to below the waist and facing the viewer’s left. Both hands are depicted in front, and she is holding a pair of gloves in her right hand, which has a ring on the fourth finger.  On her head, she wears a French hood with both upper and lower billaments made up of goldsmith work and pearls. A black veil is also seen hanging down at the back.  A black loose gown with a fur collar and fitted mutton leg sleeves is worn by the sitter. At her neck she wears a small ruff edged with gold thread. The sitter is depicted on a blue background with a gold border.

Unknown Lady
Called Lady Frances Grey
Watercolour on vellum
(c)Victoria and Albert Museum

As discussed above, the miniature had previously been in the collection of Henry Somerset, 12th Duke of Beaufort.[5]  In the auction catalogue at the time of the sale, the lot was officially titled “An Important Married Lady at The Tudor Court.” The suggestion that the sitter could possibly be Lady Jane Grey was made within the description that accompanied the lot.  The catalogue reported similarities in the facial features of the sitter depicted in the Beaufort Miniature and the miniature portrait of Lady Katherine Grey at the Victoria and Albert Museum. It then went on to suggest Lady Jane Grey is the sitter and that the image was “taken shortly before her death in 1554”.  The catalogue did rightfully record that there is no proof to back up this theory.  A second miniature also associated with Teerlinc and sold during the same auction was similarly suggested to depict Jane Grey’s mother, Lady Frances Brandon. [6]  When looking at the Beaufort miniature and the other thought to depict Lady Katherine Grey side by side, there does appear to be some similarities in the faces, but this cannot be used today as the sole reason to identify a sitter within a painting.  There are other clues in the painting that give us some indication that the sitter is not, in fact, Lady Jane Grey.

The ruff seen in the painting appears to be the only major datable aspect. The ruff was an essential part of the Tudor wardrobe by the mid sixteenth and early seventeenth century and was worn across Europe in a variety of styles.  In the case of the Beaufort Miniature, we see an example from the early stages of the evolution of the ruffs.  It appears to be attached to the sitter’s partlet rather than worn as a separate item that was starched and fixed in place, as was seen in later periods.

Called Catherine Howard (Detail)
Hans Holbein
(c) The Royal Collection

To trace the evolution of the ruff worn in Britain, we must first look at the fashion worn by ladies during the 1540’s.  It was during this period that it became more favourable for ladies to cover the chest rather than the previous fashion of the chest being revealed by the low-cut French gowns.  As seen in a portrait thought to depict Katherine Howard and now in the Royal Collection.  This was achieved with the use of a partlet.  Worn beneath the bodice and tied under the arms this would have been made from a fine fabric.

By the end of the 1540’s and early 1550’s, ladies continued to wear the partlet, however, this had developed slightly.  Surviving portraits from this period show that the partlet continued to be constructed from a fine fabric similar to what would have been used to create the chemise, though this had been fitted with a neck band to create a small frill or collar. The addition of a second partlet known as an outer partlet made with a v-shaped collar of a contrasting fabric to the outer gown could also be worn over this.

By the mid 1550’s, the small frill seen at the neck had again grown in size and had begun to surround the face, similar in style to what is seen in the Beaufort Miniature.  This ruffle would eventually develop into the ruff seen in the later periods after the 1560’s and would eventually become a separated from the partlet altogether. [7]

When compared to portraits painted during the later half of the 1550’s, including one of an unknown lady in the collection of the Fitzwilliam Museum dating to 1555 and another of Mary Neville in the National Portrait Gallery dating to 1559 the Beaufort Miniature appears to sit in the middle with the ruffle looking as though it is still attached to a partlet as seen in the Fitzwilliam portrait and without the use of wire or starch to create the defined figure of eight shape seen in the portrait of Mary Neville.

Though arguably there are some similarities in the facial features of the Beaufort Miniature and the V&A miniature of Lady Katherine Grey, this could be attributed to the artist’s style rather than to family resemblance. It is my opinion that the sitter depicted in the Beaufort Miniature is wearing a ruffle that is slightly too late in period to have been worn by Lady Jane Grey. The miniature is unlikely to have been painted prior to 1554 as the catalogue suggests.  Though a beautiful little picture, there is no evidence to suggest that it was thought prior to the 1983 auction to be an image of Jane Grey. This can now be removed from the list of any likenesses thought to depict Lady Jane Grey. 


[1] Strong. Roy, The English Renaissance Miniature, Thames and Hudson, 1983, page 54

[2]  James. Susan, The Feminine Dynamic in English Art, 1485-1603, Women as Consumers, Patrons and Painter, Ashgate Publishing, 2009

[3] Strong. Roy, Artists of the Tudor Court, The Portrait Miniature Rediscovered 1520-1620, Thames and Hudson, 1983, page 52

[4] James. Susan, The Feminine Dynamic in English Art, 1485-1603, Women as Consumers, Patrons and Painter, Ashgate Publishing, 2009, page 27

[5] Artist file for Levina Teerlinc, Heinz Archive, National Portrait Gallery, London, NPG50/21/250, accessed 2018.  It is not known exactly when the Duke acquired the miniature, but a photograph taken in 1983 lists the sitter as “Unknown Lady.” This suggests that the sitter was not thought to depict Jane Grey prior to the sale of that same year.

[6] Sotheby’s Auction Catalogue, 13th September 1983, page 31. Purchased by the Victorian and Albert Museum in 1983 this miniature is catalogued today as “unknown lady”

[7] For further information on the evolution of the ruff see Arnold. Janet, Pattern of Fashion 4, The cut and construction of linen shirts, smocks, neckwear, headwear and accessories for men and women c.1540-1660, Macmillan, 2008.

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