The Jersey Portrait & Katherine Parr

An Interesting History

In April 2023, Sotheby’s auction house, London, announced that the once ‘lost’ Jersey Portrait depicting Katherine Parr, sixth and final Queen of King Henry VIII is due to be sold at auction. Described as ‘the only known contemporary portrait of the Tudor Queen Consort in Private hands.’ The sale of this painting as caused a stir among the history and art communities, with posts concerning the portrait appearing on social media and in the news.  The portrait is estimated to fetch between £600.000 – £800.000 when auctioned off on 5th July 2023.[1]

As yet, Sotheby’s have not published the catalogue description for the painting, so little information concerning the portraits provenance is available online. As you all may have worked out by now, I am a bit of a fan of portrait provenance and the history associated with a painted image.  The Jersey portrait does have an interesting history, it was identified on at least two occasions as the wrong individual, and thought to have been destroyed by fire, however, was rediscovered in recent years. I briefly discussed the Jersey Portrait in 2019, along with another similar miniature portrait of Katherine Parr in my article on the Stowe House Portraits and Lady Jane Grey. As the Jersey Portrait is due to be sold from its private collection, I thought it would be a good idea to revisit what is currently known about the painting.

The Jersey Portrait
Katherine Parr
Unknown Artist
© Sotheby’s, London

The portrait is constructed with the use of three vertical panels.  It appears to be in relatively good condition for its age, however, some slight paint loss is visible down both sides of the panel joint on the top right- hand side. No inscription or artists signature is visible on the panel surface and no image of the back of the panel is currently available. It is worth noting that Sotheby’s should produce an up-to-date condition report regarding the painting prior to the sale, and this should be made available to anyone with an interest in purchasing it. A recent BBC article reported that scientific ‘analysis of the panels dates the portrait to the mid sixteenth century, suggesting that the portrait was painted before Katherine’s death in 1548’.[2] The painting is installed in an early nineteenth century frame, incorrectly detailing the sitter as ‘Queen Mary’ and the artist as ‘Hans Holbein’.

Katherine is depicted three-quarter length and facing the viewer’s left. She wears a black demask French gown, cut square at the neck, with large sleeves turned back to reveal a fur lining. Her kirtle, patterned with a raised looped pile is visible at the front opening of the gown and large undersleeves of matching fabric is also visible.  At her neck, she wears two necklaces of pearls and goldsmith work.  A large pendant of goldsmith work containing one diamond, one ruby, and one emerald with a large hanging pearl is suspended from the smaller necklace.  Attached to the front of her bodice is a large crown-headed brooch of goldsmith work constructed with one emerald, one ruby and sixteen diamonds.  Six gold rings are visible on the sitter’s hands and Katherine holds a girdle chain suspended from her waist.  On her head, she wears a black French hood with upper and lower billaments, and a black veil is visible hanging down her back. Her eyes are brown with fine fair eyebrows.  Her lips, full and pink, and a slight tint of red pigment has been used to accentuate the blush in her cheeks.

The early history of the portrait is unknown, however, an article published in 1845, concerning the large collection of historical artifacts in the collection of Thomas Baylis, at his London home Pryor’s Bank, does give us some clues about its previous owners.  Situated on the banks of the river Thames, Baylis commissioned the building of Pryor’s Bank in 1837 to house his vast collection of antiques.  Described in the article as hanging between the library and dining room is a portrait of ‘Queen Mary by Lucas de Heere, from the collection of Mr Dent’.[3]  

The ‘Mr Dent’ referred to is a John Dent of Hertford Street, London who had purchased the portrait as a painting of Queen Mary in 1810.[4]  On his death, his collection of paintings was sold by Mr Christie on 28th April 1827.  The Jersey portrait was listed in the auction catalogue for this sale as:

“Sir A. More …. Item 54…. Portrait of Queen Mary, Wife of Phillip” [5]

It was then purchased by Auctioneer Rod Horatio for the sum of twenty-eight pounds and seven shillings and was sold again in 1831, when it was then purchased by Thomas Baylis and described as

“Mary I, in a black dress, fur tippet, a profusion of pearls and jewels in her cap and dress, many rings on her fingers, by Lucas de Heere. Panel, 28 1/2 by 36 1/2, in gilt frame *A most curious and rare Portrait, from the Collection of the late Mr. Dent”[6]

The Jersey Portrait Taken When in The Collection of The Duke Of Buckingham
© Public Domain

The portrait’s association with Queen Mary is a strange one, especially due to the number of authentic portraits of this infamous Queen available during the nineteenth century.  It is highly likely that as we have seen with many other sixteenth century portraits the name of Queen Mary, along with those of the many previous artists attributed, was simply applied by a previous owner due to the fame associated with them or a slight resemblance.  Interest and the demand for a portrait of Katherine Parr began to decline with her death in September of 1548. By the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, if she was ever discussed at all in published material, then she was often described as the reliable older woman who spent her time nursing the King as his health began to fail. 

Henry VIII and Katherine Parr
William Henry Kearney
Circa 1830
© Public Domain

In recent years, the publication of fresh and newly researched biographies by Linda Porter, Elizabeth Norton and Susan James has begun to breakdown some of the myths associated with Henry’s sixth and final wife. The real Katherine was a twice married woman of thirty-one years of age at the time she married King Henry VIII.  She was well educated and was able to speak at least three languages, indeed, she was religious and devoted to learning, however she also appears to have enjoyed the finer things in life and had a love of music, dancing, and a strong passion for fashion. 

Unfortunately, today we still do not know for certain who the artist was that painted the Jersey portrait.  In recent months it has been tentatively suggested that it may possibly be by the hand of the artist simply known as Master John. However, until the portrait has undergone scientific investigation to establish any similarities to this artist, or any other known sixteenth century artist, we will unfortunately not know for certain who painted the portrait.

The Jersey portrait entered the collection of the Duke of Buckingham when it was purchased from the Pryor’s Bank sale on May 3rd, 1841.

Item 509. A panel painting, Queen Mary I., in carved guilt frame[7]

It was hung for a small period of time in the Private Dining Room at Stowe House.  It would be sold once again on March 15th, 1849, as part of the large thirty-seven-day auction of the contents of Stowe House facilitated by Messrs. Christies and Manson and again appeared in the catalogue as:

290 Queen Mary, in a black dress, with richly ornamented sleeves-(Holbein)[8]

An annotated catalogue for this sale stored in the Heinz Archive, London, records the buyer of the portrait as a Mr J. Oxford Ryman, and within that same year the painting ended up in the collection of Lady Sarah Sophie Fane Child-Villiers, Countess of Jersey.

The Jersey Portrait continued to be incorrectly identified as that of Queen Mary I until 1965, when the National Portrait Gallery, London, purchased NPG4451, as a portrait of Katherine Parr.  That same year the identification of the sitter in both portraits would be questioned. Information held in the registered packet for NPG4451, shows that almost immediately Roy Strong, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, compared NPG4451 to the Van de Passe engraving, thought at that time to be the only authentic image of Jane Grey, and a portrait almost identical to that of the Jersey portrait in the collection of Lord Hastings.  Due to the history associated with the Van da Passe engraving and the fact that the Hastings portrait had also been known as Jane Grey since at least the seventeenth century, Strong therefore concluded that all three images depict the same individual and this individual must be Jane Grey.[9]

Left: NPG4451 Centre: Van da Passe Engraving Right: Lord Hastings Portrait
© Public Domain

In 1969, Roy Strong published his book Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, in which he discussed the Jersey portrait under the section on Lady Jane Grey. At that time, Strong did report that the face seen in the Jersey portrait ‘is that of a much older woman”, however, he dismissed the identity of it being a portrait of Queen Mary I, and tentatively put this down to bad restoration.   Strong also noted that the Jersey portrait had been destroyed by fire in 1949, and that further research into the portrait was unable to take place due to this. [10]   

In 1949. The 9th Earl of Jersey donated his London residence Osterley House to The National Trust, however, prior to this he ordered some of the more valuable objects to be removed and auctioned off, whilst other objects would be used to decorate the family seat of Radier Manor on the isle of Jersey.  The remainder of the collection was held in storage on the isle of Jersey and on Friday, 1st October 1949, a fire broke out in one of the storage units resulting in the loss of some of the Earl’s collection. It appears that the Jersey portrait was once initially thought to be one of the treasures lost in the fire.[11]

Research produced and published by Susan James in January 1996 has now established without doubt that some of the jewels worn by the sitter in NPG4451 appear in inventories made of Katherine Parr’s jewels in 1550. [12]   By June of 1996, the National Portrait Gallery then opted to reidentify NPG4451 as a portrait of Katherine Parr and not Lady Jane Grey. This in turn allowed the other portraits connected with this pattern to also be reidentified as an image of Katherine Parr and the lost Jersey portrait would finally get an accurate identification.

In 2012, Art Historian, Hope Walker and Historian, John Stephan Edwards confirmed that the Jersey portrait did indeed survive the devastating fire and was at this point hanging on the walls of Radier Manor in Jersey.[13]   

It is now time for another chapter concerning the history of the Jersey Portrait to begin, and with a bit of luck the painting will hopefully be purchased by a buyer who is willing to put it on public exhibition and allow the portrait to undergo further scientific examination.

[1] Exceptionally rare portrait of Katherine Parr, sixth wife of Henry VIII, will be auctioned at Sotheby’s | Tatler accessed 28/04/23.

[2] As above

[3]Fraser’s Magazine, The Pryor’s Bank, Fulham, December 1845, Vol  XXXII,  Page: 637

[4] Getty Provenance Index

[5] A catalogue of a very choice and extremely precious cabinet, chiefly of high-finished Flemish and Dutch pictures : some of which were purchased in the sale of the famous Holdernesse collection … : the property of John Dent, Esq., deceased, and removed from his late residence in Hertford Street, May Fair … : which … will be sold by auction by Mr. Christie at his great room, no. 8, King Street, St. James’s Square, on Saturday, April the 28th, 1827 .. : Christie, James, 1773-1831 : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive, accessed 08/05/2023

[6]Getty Provenance Index, accessed 08.05.23.

[7] Mr Deacon, Pryor’s Bank Sales Catalouge, 3rd May 1841, page33

[8] Foster, Henry, The Stowe Catalogue Priced and Annotated, 1848, Page176

[9] Heinz Archive, London, NPG46/45/33, Registered Packet 4451 

[10] Strong, Roy, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 1969, volume I, page 78-79

[11] ‘Art Treasures in Fire’, The Times of London, 1 October 1949, page 4

[12] James, Susan, Lady Jane Grey of Queen Katheryn Parr, Burlington Magazine, vol. 138, January 1996, Page 20-24

[13] Edwards. John Stephan, A Queen of a New Invention Portraits of Lady Jane Grey, Old John Publishing, 2015, page 35-37

3 thoughts on “The Jersey Portrait & Katherine Parr

  1. I for one will be very surprised if dendrochronology dates this to the mid-16th century. The face pattern is quite distinctively different from others of KP & Sotheby’s claim that this is the ‘only known contemporary portrait’ is absurd on its face. NPG 4451 from the winter of 1543-44 & the Sudeley miniature from the winter of 1544 are certainly contemporary. The face has been painted to represent someone other than the queen, using the costume & jewellery from NPG 4451 as a pattern. Agreed, it should go to a public venue where it can be examined in detail.


    1. Thanks for your comment. Indeed, it’s going to be an interesting sale. To be fair Sotheby’s are claiming that it’s the only known contemporary portrait of KP still in a private collection. I do agree, it certainly looks like it’s been painted with the use of a portrait pattern, however, more investigation needs to be completed to establish this. The Sudeley miniature is another interesting one. It only appears in record when it was sold at the Strawberry Hill sale and has never actually been confirmed to be KP. It is only traditionally thought to be her. In fact George Scharf was convinced it was Katherine Howard at one point and a lot of the victorian information concerning it is very confusing and full of misunderstandings. It most definitely needs a new set of eyes to take a look at it 😀


      1. Re: the Sudeley miniature: Given that Katherine Howard did not live until the age of 32 (the age on the miniature), that the sitter is wearing a brooch with a portrait of Henry VIII sitting on the throne, that the miniature was almost certainly painted by Margaret Holsewyther, wife of Lucas Horenbout, and contains the family’s signature lettering & that Margaret worked for KP during her time as queen, there is little doubt that the portrait is KP. Age 32 for KP dates the miniature to 1544.


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