The Crozier Portrait – Is It Lost?

In his book A Queen of a New Invention Portraits of Lady Jane Grey Stephan Edwards discussed a portrait recorded in the collection of Robert Crozier and once thought to depict Lady Jane Grey.  Edwards added this particular painting in the appendix section which lists a number of portraits once associated with Lady Jane Grey that have over the years vanished from public knowledge.  His entry concerning the Crozier portrait reads as follows: 

The painter Robert Crozier of Manchester owned a bust-length portrait of Jane on wood panel that was recorded in 1857, but it too has vanished.[1]

Edwards also records that the existence of this painting is only known through a collection of index cards held in the Heinz Archive and Library at The National Portrait Gallery.  These cards contain details of portraits listed under various sitters that have been reported to The National Portrait Gallery over the course of 150 years by various researchers.  A small number of these cards are filed under the sitter’s name of Lady Jane Grey at the archive, and this does include a portrait on panel thought to have depicted Jane Grey in the collection of a R. Crozier.  

Robert Crozier was born in Blackburn, Lancashire in 1815, son of George Crozier, a saddler. Robert moved to Manchester in 1836 and remained there for the rest of his life. He attended the Manchester School of Design in 1838 and studied portraiture under William Bradley. His work was exhibited at the Royal Manchester institution and The Royal Academy of Arts during the nineteenth century, and he was one the founders of the Manchester Academy of Fine Arts, set up in 1859. Crozier died at his family home in Manchester on 7th February 1891[2]

The index card concerning the Crozier portrait discussed by Edwards also notes that the portrait was seen by Sir George Scharf, director of The National Portrait Gallery between 1857 to 1895, and is recorded in one of his sketchbooks.  George Scharf was a prolific sketcher and produced hundreds of sketchbooks containing notes and drawings of portraits and exhibition seen by him over the course of his career.  Today, these sketchbooks are held in the Heinz Archive and Library at The National Portrait Gallery and are listed under two separate heading.  The first are his private sketchbooks which contain various notes and drawings from his personal life including images of paintings and exhibitions seen by himself. The second are known as Trustee sketchbooks which contain notes and images concerning paintings and research related to the gallery made during the course of his directorship.

During my last visit to the Archive, I managed to get the opportunity to view some of Scharf’s private sketchbooks.  Unfortunately, the original sketchbooks are closely guarded due to the significance of these items, however the Gallery have made copies on microfilm for public viewing.  During my search I was able to locate the actual entry in which Scharf discussed the portrait thought to depict Lady Jane Grey from the collection of Robert Crozier.  Scharf produced a two-page spread on which he records the date in which he viewed the portrait as 28th February 1887 and the name and address of the owner as Robert Crozier of 47 Sydney Street, Oxford Road, Manchester. He also produced a detailed drawing of the actual painting and made several notes concerning the size, materials used, and colours seen upon viewing it.[3]

Upon seeing this entry, I must admit I instantly became a little confused and called a member of staff from the archive over to discuss what I was seeing.  The drawing made by Scharf in February 1887, appeared to be a perfect match to NPG764, purchased by The National Portrait Gallery in March of that same year.  My initial thought was that the Crozier portrait must in fact be NPG764 and that there may possibly have been some mix-up with the provenance of the painting when the Gallery purchased it.  Further research into NPG764 and the way both portraits had been catalogued in the archive initially suggest the possibility that they were two separate paintings.

Scharf also notes the size of the oak panel on which the Crozier portrait was painted as 6 ¼ inches in diameter.  When compared to NPG764 which is 6 ½ inches in diameter, the Crozier portrait appears to be slightly bigger, if Scharf’s measurements are correct.  This and the provenance information for NPG764 suggests that Scharf was actually viewing two separate painting of the same individual in the February of 1887.

Sketch of the Crozier Portrait
George Scharf
1887
©National Portrait Gallery

For every portrait within The National Portrait Gallery’s collection, The Gallery maintain an individual file known as a Registered Packet.  These files contain all the relevant information concerning the provenance, condition and in some cases x-rays and dendrochronology testing that has taken place on an individual painting. 

The file for NPG764 clearly states that this portrait was purchased from a Miss Amelia Coulton in the March of 1887 for the sum of £20.00.  The file also contains several letters, mostly written by Mr George Wallis, Director of the South Kensington Museum, though some from Amelia Coulton herself to George Scharf.  These letters give us a little information regarding the provenance of NPG764 and report that Amelia Coulton was under the impression that her father had purchased it as a painting of Mary I by Hans Holbein at a broker’s shop in Stalybridge.  She also recalls the tradition that the painting had come from Ashton Old Hall and that the portrait had been in her father’s possession for approximately twenty to thirty years prior to her inheriting it which suggest the earliest period of purchase by the Coulton family would have been the 1850’s.[4]

NPG764
Unknown Woman Formally Known as Lady Jane Grey
Oil on Panel
6 1/2 inches in diameter
©National Portrait Gallery

No mention of an individual portrait owned by Robert Crozier has been located within the registered packet for NPG764, and as discussed above the only documented evidence for its existence is the index card and Scharf’s sketchbook.[5]  Nothing is known regarding the provenance of this image or how, if and when Crozier purchased his portrait.  A thorough search of the Heinz Archive has also produced no other photographic image matching NPG764. [6]

It appears that The National Portrait Gallery used the existence of a similar, but not identical portrait thought to depict Jane Grey as the focal point of its re-identification of NPG764 as a painting of Jane Grey.  This then brings about the question as to why the Crozier portrait, which was also known as Jane Grey, was not used by the Gallery in 1887 to reinforce the theory that NPG764 was also Lady Jane Grey?

A letter written by George Wallis and dated 25th February 1887, two day before Scharf viewed the apparent Crozier Portrait, is again stored within the registered packet for NPG764. This letter discusses the similarities between the portrait in the collection of Amelia Coulton, and a portrait thought to depict Lady Jane Grey in the collection of the Bodleian Library, Oxford.   Wallis discussed that the Bodleian portrait had a long history as a portrait of Lady Jane Grey and that the Bodleian portrait is ‘a very ugly edition of the same person’.[7]  Part of this is in fact correct, as the Bodleian portrait was gifted to Oxford University by Richard Rawlinson in 1751 and information concerning the sitter’s identity was handed over to the University by Rawlinson himself.[8]

The Bodleian Portrait
Called Lady Jane Grey
Oil on Panel
11 ½ x 14 inches
©Bodleian Library Oxford

One possible reason for the Crozier portrait not appearing in any information concerning NPG764 is that it was simply forgotten about or did not exist in the first place. Another more probable reason is that letters written to Amelia Coulton held in the registered packet for NPG764 list her address as 47 Sidney Street, Oxford Road, Manchester, the same address in which Robert Crozier is listed as living.  Amelia Coulton actually lived at 22 Whitley Street, Manchester and it appears that she may have used Robert Crozier to sell the portrait on her behalf. 

It is more than likely that Scharf listed the incorrect individual as the owner of the portrait in his sketchbook rather than Crozier owning another identical portrait in his own collection.  If the second theory is correct, then the Crozier portrait is no longer lost and has been hanging in front of our faces all along at The National Portrait Gallery.  


[1] Edwards. John Stephan, A Queen of a New Invention Portraits of Lady Jane Grey, Old John Publishing, 2015, page 190

[2] For further information of the life of Robert Crozier see: Letherbrow. Thomas, Robert Crozier A Memoir, JE Cornish, Manchester 1891

[3] NPG7/3/4/2/129, George Scharf Sketchbook 1886-1887

[4] See National Portrait Gallery, Registered Packet764

[5] A search of the electronic archive of Manchester University containing the personal papers of Robert Crozier has proven to be unsuccessful in producing any information concerning a portrait of Lady Jane Grey.

[6] A small Victorian copy referred to as oil on board 17 x 13 cm was sold at Cheffins Auction on 23rd May 2019 however this was painted square panel rather than circular as Scharf describes.

[7] Letter from George Willis to George Scharf, 25th February 1887, Registered Packet NPG764

[8] Bodleian Library Records, e.556, books fetched for readers 1848-1855

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