Lady Jane Grey and The Longleat Portrait

Lost, Found and a Case of Misidentification

In 2015, John Stephan Edwards included the Longleat portrait among a small number of ‘lost’ portraits in his in-depth analysis on the iconography of Lady Jane Grey.  Edwards briefly stated that a portrait of Lady Jane Grey was ‘recorded at Longleat in the 1860s, seat of the Marquis of Bath.’  When attempting to locate the missing portrait for himself, Edwards noted that, unfortunately, the painting thought to be Jane was not uncovered at Longleat during the Courtauld Photographic survey, and that no portrait thought to depict Jane Grey was also included in a book detailing the artwork at Longleat published in the 1880’s.  As any reader of this website may appreciate, Edwards ‘lost list’ fascinated me from the moment I read it, and it was this list that started my very own little adventure into the iconography associated with Lady Jane Grey.

When undergoing my own research into this painting, I decided to start at the very beginning. I contacted the Curator at Longleat, in the hope that some new evidence or research had come to light since the publication of Edwards book.  Unfortunately, the response I received provided little information other than no portrait thought to depict Lady Jane Grey was currently in the collection of the Marques of Bath today. No reference was also located in any book concerning the collection of paintings at Longleat and a search of the nineteenth century visitor’s manuals that included detailed descriptions of Longleat’s collection was, unfortunately, unsuccessful in terms of any reference to a portrait of Jane Grey.  

NPG Index Card

© Heinz Archive, London

During a visit to the Heinz Archives in London, I was able to locate the original source material that informs us of the Longleat portrait’s existence.  Stored within the archive are thousands of index cards containing details of images, listed under various sitters that have been reported to the National Portrait Gallery over the course of one hundred and fifty years.  Some of these cards list existing portraits, whilst others list illustrations, exhibition entries, auction sales, and archive material stored within the Galleries collection.  A small number of these cards are filed under the sitter’s name of Lady Jane Grey, and It is among these that we get our first mention of a portrait depicting her at Longleat.  The card directs its viewer to a sketchbook in the archives collection produced by George Scharf, director of the National Portrait Gallery, however, the question mark seen next to Jane Grey’s name indicates that the portrait may possibly depict her, and some uncertainty was express at the time of writing. 

Thankfully, I was able to successfully locate the sketchbook indicated on the index card. In this, George Scharf records that he visited Longleat House in December of 1862, to sketch the collection of paintings then held in the collection of Thomas Thynne, 5th Marquess of Bath.  Among the many rough sketches seen within the small sketchbook is a drawing of a portrait that Scharf recorded to be hung in the Saloon at the time of viewing.  Scharf also notes that the sitter depicted has yellow hair and white sleeves. Under his drawing, he writes the words ‘query Lady Jane Grey’, suggesting that he thought the portrait to be a possible depiction of her.[1]

George Scharf

Drawing of the Longleat Portrait

©The National Portrait Gallery, London

In May 2021 and early December 2022, two interesting portraits came up for sale on two separate online auction sites. Both portraits, appear to match the drawing made by George Scharf in 1862 when viewing the Longleat portrait.  The first painting was described as a portrait of ‘Elizabeth I as a young woman’ and the second was referred to as a ‘Large English Old Master portrait of Mary Tudor, Queen Mary I of England’.  Both paintings were described as ‘circa 17th Century’ in date, and no information concerning either of the portrait’s provenance was provided on the lot listings for each of the paintings, other than both would be shipped from ‘London, England’[2] .

Called Elizabeth I as a young woman

Oil on Canvas

30 x 24 inches

© Public Domain

Called Queen Mary I

Oil on Canvas

37 inches x 32 inches

©NY Elizabeth Galleries

Though most definitely seventeenth century in date, both portraits are inconsistent with any of the surviving images of Queen Mary I and Queen Elizabeth I.  It is therefore highly unlikely that the images were based on any contemporary portrait of these formidable Queen’s, and their names may possibly have been simply attached to the paintings by a previous owner, due to the fame associated.  Longleat did confirm that they indeed still have a portrait matching both the paintings sold and the drawing produced by George Scharf in the collection today.  However, there version is known as Jane Shore, mistress of Edward VI and not Lady Jane Grey.  According to the information provided, the Longleat portrait was purchased in ‘Feburary 1685’ and has traditionally been identified as a portrait of Shore for a long period of time.[3] 

I am by no means doubting that the artist who created these portraits did in fact intend them to be a representation of Jane Shore, who as Thomas More once described was famed for her ‘yellow hair.’[4]  The seventeenth century date also appears to be consistent, as interest in the story of Jane Shore became hugely popular towards the end of the seventeenth century.  This was once again promoted even further when the popular play ‘The Tragedy of Jane Shore,’ written by Nicholas Rowe premiered at the Theatre Royal, London, on 2nd February 1714.

It is my opinion that when producing his drawing of the Longleat portrait, George Scharf was right to query the identity of the sitter.  From the images seen above, the artist who created the original version of this portrait appears to have used two separate earlier paintings as a source of inspiration, due to the lack of an authentic likeness of Jane Shore.  This explains the fact that a young Jane Shore is depicted wearing clothing that was fashionable decades after her actual death in 1527.

The first image used, appears to be a portrait which was thought to depict Jane Shore when engraved in 1790.  At the time the engraving was created the portrait was recorded as being in the collection of Dr Peter Peckard of the Magdalene College.  The costume, pose and jewellery seen is clearly very similar to a portrait once exhibited as a painting of Anne Boleyn in 1866, from the collection of the Earl of Denbigh.[5]  Though it cannot be known for certain if it was indeed these portraits used, the similarities between the images are striking.

Jane Shore From the Collection of Dr Peter Peckard

1790

Francesco Bartolozzi

© Public Domain

Unknown Lady

Previously identified as Anne Boleyn

© Earl of Denbigh. 

Unfortunately, the original Magdalene portrait, supposedly depicting Jane Shore has long since vanished. It was last recorded in the last will and testament of Dr Peter Peckard. Peckard bequeathed the portrait, along with his collection of paintings at the college to his wife Martha Peckard in 1798.[6] 

One final clue does give us a little more understanding as to why George Scharf may have questioned the identity of the sitter in the Longleat portrait. This come to us in the shape of an early photographic image of a portrait listed as being in the collection of Agecroft Hall held in the Heinz Archive, London. [7]   

The Agecroft Hall Portrait

Oil on Panel

Size Unknown

Unknown whereabouts

© Heinz Archive, London

Detail of Agecroft Portrait

This photograph appears to be a perfect match to the Francesco Bartolozzi engraving of the Magdalene Portrait and it also shows similarities in the facial features and hood, particularly, in the treatment and arrangement of the jewelled billaments to that seen in the recent sold copies and Longleat portrait of Jane Shore. The Agecroft Hall portrait is, in turn, very similar to the Norris, Houghton and Streatham portrait thought to be a representation of Lady Jane Grey.

Left: The Norris Portrait, Lady Jane Grey, Oil on Panel, Unknown Size, © Heinz Archive, London.  Middle: The Houghton Portrait, Lady Jane Grey, Oil on Panel, 30 x 24 inches, © Private Collection. Right: The Streatham Portrait, Lady Jane Grey, Oil on Panel, 33 ¾ x 23 ¾ inches, ©NPG, London

As discussed above the Longleat portrait was almost certainly created by the artist to be a representation of Jane Shore, however, the production of this particular image appears to be a little more complex.  What can be established is that the missing Longleat portrait of Lady Jane Grey can be removed from the list of lost portraits associated with her, however, the debate continues as to whether an image of Lady Jane Grey, rather than Jane Shore was used to create the Longleat portrait continues.


[1] Heinz Archive, London. NPG7/3/4/2/76, Page: 63, accessed Feburary 2022

[2] PORTRAIT OF QUEEN MARY I (1516-1558) OF ENGLAND OIL PAINTING – Dec 04, 2022 | NY Elizabeth in CA (liveauctioneers.com), accessed December 2022. Unfortunately, the eBay link for the portrait of Princess Elizabeth has expired, however, if anyone is interested in locating more information on this painting I do have paper copies of the description in my collection.

[3] Email communication between the author and Kate Harris, Curator, Longleat Historic Collections, November 2019.  Several of the nineteenth century tourist guides do mention a portrait of Jane Shore including a reference from 1798 in which William Fordyce Mavor discussed the painting in his British Tourist or Travellers Pocket Companion

[4] Thornton. Tim, Thomas More, The History of King Richard III, and Elizabeth Shore, Moreana, Volume 59, issue 1, Edinburgh University Press, Page 113-140

[5] Royal House of Tudor Exhibition Catalogue, 1866, item 140, Page. 48

[6] National Archives, London, Last Will and Testament of Dr peter Peckard, PROB 11/1302/249

[7] Agecroft Hall was sold by the Dauntsey family in 1926 and was dismantled and shipped to Richmond, Virginia. Email communication has confirmed that this portrait is no longer at the property today.

2 thoughts on “Lady Jane Grey and The Longleat Portrait

  1. Mistress Shaw (as More calls her, with no first name) was actually called Elizabeth (née Lambert).
    She was renamed ‘Jane’ by later 16C playwrights who wanted to use her as a character.
    Is it possible that the portrait type may originally be Jane Gray, but has been misidentified at some stage due to a partial or damaged inscription with just the name ‘Jane’ legible, *after* Elizabeth Shore had been renamed in later writings?

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s