The Duff House Portrait

Among the index cards referring to portraits of Lady jane Grey in the Heinz Archive, London, is a card recording a portrait of her once in the collection of the Earl of Fife.  Until recently this portrait was thought to have been lost, and to my knowledge it has not been studied by historians or exhibited in any public exhibition as a representation of her.

The first record regarding this image located today was published in a privately printed book from 1798.  The book details the large collection of paintings and portraits belonging to James Duff, 4th Earl of Fife (1776-1854) across his various properties.  Recorded as being displayed in the large drawing room at Duff House, an eighteenth-century estate house designed for the family by William, Adam is a portrait of Lady Jane Grey.   The entry reads    

item 18. Lady Jane Grey – half length. This unfortunate lady was forced to accept the crown, 5th July 1553, and was beheaded 12th February, 1554. She was daughter to Henry Grey, Duke of Dorset, by Lady Frances Brandon, by Mary queen of France.  She was remarkable for her learning and virtue.  Her husband, Lord Guildford Dudley, was beheaded on the same day.  Zucchero.[1]

This description is vague and gives us very little detail about the actual painting itself. The description does give us our first clue that this painting was not a portrait of Lady Jane Grey, however.  The artist recorded as creating the painting is a “Zucchero,” which suggests the portrait was later in period than that of Jane Grey’s lifetime.

Federigo Zuccaro (c.1540 – 1609), as he is better known, was an Italian artist who first visited England in 1574.  During that visit he was commissioned by Robert Dudley (Jane’s brother in law) to paint an image of himself and Queen Elizabeth.  Compositional drawings for both portraits survive today in the collection of the British Museum.   If the Duff House portrait was painted by this artist, then it could not have been an authentic image of Jane Grey since she had died some twenty years earlier.

Duff House remained in the possession of the Earls of Fife until 1906.  The property was then gifted to the village of Banff Burgh in which the house was built by the then Duke of Fife, Alexander William George Duff (1849-1912).  Alexander Duff had inherited the property and its contents by descent, and when marrying Princess Louise in 1889, he no longer required the property as a principal residence.  Though he did donate the building for the use of the people of Banff, its contents were sold off through auction.  The auction was facilitated by Messrs. Christies, Mason and Woods and took place on 7th June 1907.  The auction catalogue for this sale records that all “pictures are part of a very large collection which was made by James, Earl of Fife towards the end of the eighteenth century and all were displayed at Duff House.”[2]  A portrait thought by the family to depict Lady Jane Grey in 1907 was also included in this auction, and the catalogue does give us our first detailed description.

item 43 Lucas De Heere, portrait of Lady Jane Grey, in rich flowered bodice with lace cuffs and collar, green skirt and crimson robe, lace headdress with red bows.  Holding a kerchief in her left hand and leaning her right arm upon the back of a chair.  On panel 41 ½ x 29 ½ inches[3]

Though the artist associated with this work had changed since the 1798 reference, it is possible that the portrait sold in 1907 was the same image as that described as being Jane Grey in the earlier book. 

I have as yet been unable to locate any reference regarding who purchased the painting at the 1907 sale.  Due to this, I am unable to track fully the documented provenance from this portrait, though I do have a suggestion.

A portrait matching the above description does show up in 1908, one year after the Duff House sale. This painting is described as being in the collection of French collector and gallery owner Edward Brandus (1857-1937).  Brandus was well known for purchasing Old Master portraits at a low price and then selling them on to other collectors via his gallery in New York.   The magazine “American Art News” dated 28th March 1908 records the painting in his collection as a portrait of Lady Jane Grey by Antonis Mor Van Dashorst[4].  A photograph of the portrait was also included in the article, and though it is not clear from the poor quality image, when magnified this image does show a female sitter with a flowered embroidered bodice, holding a kerchief in her left hand and leaning her right arm upon the back of a chair as described in the 1907 auction catalogue. Various bows are also seen around the headdress and down the front of the bodice, like those mentioned in the catalogue of 1907. This then gives us the impression that this painting was the portrait sold from the Duke of Fife’s collection.

Lady Jane Grey by Antonis Van Dashorst-Edward Brandus Collection 1908

This painting was then sold by the Edward Brandus Gallery in April 1908. It eventually ended up in the collection of a “Mrs Flake” and was subsequently purchased as a portrait of Lady Jane Grey by John George Graves, an English collector, at Christie’s auction in July of 1930.[5]

In 1935 Graves gifted this portrait along with others from his collection to the Museum of Sheffield.  The painting remains in the museum’s collection today, though it is rightfully catalogued and referred to as a portrait of an unknown lady rather than its previous title of Jane Grey.

Unknown Lady
oil on panel
41 1/2 x 29 1/2 inches
(c) Museum of Sheffield

When looking at the colour photograph of this image, this portrait is closer in comparison to the description given in the 1907 auction catalogue that also refers to the green skirt and red robe. The measurements of the wooden panel used as the support for the painting also matches the measurements provided in 1907.

Due to the lack of documented provenance for this painting, it cannot be said for certain that this is indeed the portrait described as being that of Jane Grey at Duff House in 1798.  This is the closest image related to the description given in 1907, however, and this painting has also been identified in the past as an image of Jane Grey. 

The costume seen in this painting is again inconsistent with that worn by ladies during Jane Grey’s lifetime, and therefore this is not an authentic portrait of her taken from life or a panting which was created at later period which was meant to represent her.  From the style of clothing worn by the sitter, it appears to date towards the end of the sixteenth century or early seventeenth century.  There is some evidence to state that the embroidered jacket worn by the sitter was in use toward the later decades of Queen Elizabeth I reign, with several being documented in the inventory made in July of 1600 listing clothing stored within the royal wardrobe.  This style of jacket does appear to have become popular between the period of 1600-1620 where it appears in many paintings of female sitters from this time.

Elizabeth Cary?
oil on canvas
William Larkin

The ruff also worn by the sitter gives us some indication that this was painted after 1600 as it no longer folds into the figure of eight pleats worn during the reign of Queen Elizabeth and is now seen as a flat collar which was probably heavily starched or suspended using a wire frame or “underpropper,” as it was referred at the time.  The style of headwear seen in the painting is also of interest and does not fit with anything worn by English sitters during this period. This suggests that the painting may possibly be continental in origin, though until testing is done on the pigment used and the painting is studied further this cannot be established.

What this painting does demonstrate is the extreme measures that people would go to when wanting to own a portrait of Lady Jane Grey.  The identification, given to this portrait was done with little research into the period in which she lived, and her name was simply attached to an image that did not really fit with what was known about her at the time.   It is now clear that she can be eliminated as the possible sitter due to the costume worn by the lady depicted.  If the portrait now in the collection of the museum of Sheffield is in fact the painting from Duff House, it can, however, be removed from the list of portraits that potentially depict Jane Grey.

[1]Catalogue of The Portraits and Pictures in The Different Houses Belonging to The Earl of Fife, 1798, page 15-16

[2] Catalogue of Pictures by Old Masters and Historical Portraits, The Property of His Grace the Duke of Fife, Messrs. Christie, Mason & Wood. 7th June 1907, page 2

[3] Catalouge of Pictures by Old Masters and Historical Portraits, The Property of His Grace the Duke of Fife, Messrs. Christie, Mason & Wood. 7th June 1907, page 10

[4] American Art News, Volume 6, No 24, March 28, 1908, page 24

[5] Electronic communication, Museums of Sheffield, 31st May 2018

Lady Jane Grey By Antonis Mor

During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a small number of portraits identified as being of Lady Jane Grey and attributed to the artist Antonis Mor Dashorst where sold through auction houses. Images of all but one have not been located today. Vague descriptions referring to the portraits, however, do survive in the auction catalogues.

Before looking at these, we must first examine the artist and identify whether Antonis Mor would have had access to paint Jane Grey in the first place. It must be remembered that little information was known regarding the various artists working during the sixteenth century during the period of sales for these paintings.

Paintings sold between the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries where simply grouped and attributed to the most famous names of artists working within the sixteenth century known at that time.  Little evidence to support the identifications was given by the auction houses, and access to information and research into lesser known artists was limited.

When looking at catalogues from this period, we see very few paintings attributed to an unknown artist, but a large amount attributed to Holbein, Clouet, and Mor. Today, with the use of scientific investigation taking place, most paintings are now being correctly re-attributed to artists that may be well known, or the artist is explicitly stated as unknown, rather than the name assigned at some earlier period.

Antonis Mor was born between 1516-1520 in Utrecht and worked for members of the Habsburg family in Brussels, Portugal and Spain.  He died in Antwerp between 1576 and 1577.  At some period between 1553-1554, he was sent by Charles V to London to paint a portrait of Mary Tudor, his future daughter in law, as part of the marriage negotiations taking place between her and Charles’s only son, Philip of Spain.

The exact date on which Mor arrived in London to paint Mary’s image is unknown. It can be established that it was between July of 1553, the time at which Mary ascended to the throne, and July of 1554, the month during which Mary married Philip.

During this period, Jane was locked away in the Tower of London.  In the November of 1553, she had appeared at trial and was thereafter classed as a convicted traitor.  It would have been highly unlikely that any artist would have been granted permission by the queen to paint Jane’s image.  Yes, security had been reduced in December of 1553, and Jane was allowed to walk in the gardens of the Tower.  During the period after her trial Mary granted some favour to her younger cousin, though Jane was still a prisoner and was heavily guarded.  Some still viewed her as a threat to Mary’s position due to the Device of the succession produced by King Edward VI that had named Jane as his heir.   

The Frick Portrait Called Lady Jane Grey By Antonis Mor (c) Frick Art Reference Library

The Frick Portrait

The first portrait to be discussed is known today only through an image stored in the Frick Art Reference Library, New York[1].  Notes stored along with the image inform us that this portrait came into public knowledge when it was sold at Christie’s, London on the 4th July 1927.  It was described in the auction catalogue as:

 “Lot 141 – Mor, Head of Lady Jane Grey, with embroidered dress. Oil on panel 10 x 7 ¾ inches”[2].

The notes also record the buyer as “Werthemier,” who purchased the painting for the sum of £15.   This painting appears to resurface again in 1953 when it was sold at Sotheby’s, but by this period the identification as a portrait of Jane Grey appears to have been downgraded. It was then described in 1953 as: 

“A portrait of a lady said to be Lady Jane Grey, in black and gold dress and braided headdress”[3].

During this sale the portrait was again attributed to Antonis Mor. It is also recorded to have come from the collection of Emile Wertheimer, probably the same person who had purchased the Frick portrait in the July of 1927.

This painting has not yet been examined by historians when discussing the iconography of Lady Jane Grey, neither does it appear to have been exhibited in any public exhibition as a representation of her. Its current location is unknown, and access to the actual painting is therefore not possible.

What is seen in the photograph is that the portrait depicts a young female sitter at bust length facing the viewers left. The image shows a lady wearing what appears to be a Spanish gown or coat (probably edged with gold) with a high fitted collar and small ruff.  This style of coat became fashionable in England after the marriage of Mary Tudor to Philip of Spain in 1554.  After this event English fashion was influenced more by the Spanish marriage.  The entry into England of Philip and other Spanish dignitaries allowed others of the court to view new fashions worn by the Spanish court. 

By the 1560’s, ladies had started to abandon the traditional loose gowns or night gown worn for decades.  These fell loosely from the shoulders to the floor and were usually worn over a fitted kirtle.  English Ladies instead embraced this new look influenced by the Spanish fashion.  This newer garment was generally cut to be fitted to the upper torso and was worn open, being fastened only at the throat, as seen in the Frick painting, to reveal an underdress or fitted bodice of a different colour.  It could also be worn completely fastened from the waist to the neck and slashed at the front to reveal a contrasting fabric.

The costume seen in the painting is more consistent with this newer style of garment that became fashionable after the death of Jane Grey. The false hanging sleeves seen in the painting attached to the gown at the sleeve head indicate a period toward the end of the 1560’s when this style of sleeve became favourable and was worn by both men and women.  The padded rolls also seen at the sitter shoulders were becoming more fashionable during this period as a decorative feature and would become larger in size during the 1570’s.

The style of hair is also of interest as the sitter is wearing her hair pulled back from her face and arranged into what appears to be some sort of decorative hairnet. This again indicates a later style worn by ladies during the reign of Elizabeth I rather than the style worn by ladies during the reigns of Edward and Mary, when ladies hair was parted in the middle and worn in an arrangement to surround the face. 

It is my opinion from viewing the photograph that this Image may have been painted over or is painted by another hand than that of Antonis Mor. The Frick portrait does not correlate with other paintings by Mor and is missing the finer details seen in other works produced by this artist.  The painted treatment of the hair, face and costume appears not to have been painted from life. This is missing the subtle shading and highlights seen in other works by Mor which identifies that he was of a higher skill when using paint to create the illusion of skin tones and falling fabric than the artist who created the Frick portrait.

To me, it is more characteristic of a painting based on an existing portrait, pattern, or sketch by another artist of the sixteenth century than that of Mor. This may then have been copied on multiple occasions within a workshop to create an image and fill the demand for portraits to be used as decoration within the home.  Workshop portraits were in high demand towards the end of the sixteenth century, and their creation required a lesser skilled artist than that of the great masters who may have painted the image in the first place.  This theory is pure speculation at this time and will not be known for certain until the Frick portrait is located and studied further, however, the survival of other images which are close in comparison do suggest this.  

The Frick portrait does show some similarities to a group of paintings depicting unidentified female sitters wearing similar clothing, including one once thought to depict Anne Boleyn. That painting is now identified as a portrait of an unknown woman and is in the collection of the Musee Conde in France.

The Musee Conde portrait is dated to the second half of the sixteenth century, according to the museum’s website records.  Like the Frick Portrait, it is painted on wood, which does indicate that it may have been painted at a similar period.  It is highly likely that the artist who created the Frick portrait used an image or pattern similar to this painting as a source of reference when creating the portrait and that the identity of the original sitter and artist who painted it have been lost, allowing Jane’s name to be associated at a later point in time.

Until the Frick portrait is located and dendrochronology testing is done to establish a date of creation, we cannot know for certain whether this is a genuine sixteenth century painting or is instead one of the many produced during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries when demand for sixteenth century portraits was at its height.  Further research and testing also needs to take place to establish more information regarding the possible artist and subsequent related images in order to understand the Frick Portrait better.  Whether or not this portrait is deemed important enough to have this done is also debatable as all evidence supports a conclusion that it is not an image of Jane Grey and that it was not painted by Antonis Mor.

Double Portrait

On 14th July 1820, a portrait was sold by a Mr Bullock of London, and that was formerly in the collection of a Mr David Holt Esq of Manchester.  The catalogue describes the painting as being by a Sir A. Mor. The entry for the lot is as follows:

A portrait of lady jane Grey and Lord Guildford Dudley in one frame, the latter portrait is the only one known to exist of Lord Guildford[4]

This pair of portraits has yet to be located, and little information is known about them.  The painting does appear to have been auctioned again in 1833 by Edward Fosters of London, when it was again referred to as:

 “Portraits of Lord Guildford Dudley and Lady Jane Grey by Antonis Mor”.

In an attempt to locate this image, I have managed to locate three portraits in collections today that have in the past been associated with Lord Guildford Dudley, in the hope of one possibly being the double portrait indicated in the Catalogues.   None of the paintings located contain another image in the same frame and supposed to represent Lady Jane Grey, which suggests that the portrait sold in 1820 must be treated as a separate image that is unfortunately lost today.

Until located and studied further it can not be known whether it was indeed an authentic likeness of Jane and Guildford or another image with those names incorrectly attached. 

Hewitt Portrait   

In an auction that took place on March 11, 1910 at Mendelssohn Hall of the collection of the late American collector Frederick Charles Hewitt, a portrait referred to as a depiction of Jane Grey by Mor Van Dashorst was sold. 

The catalogue for this sale describes the portrait in detail:

“No. 206 – Portrait of Lady Jane Grey- 42 x 30 ½ inches, the figure is shown three-quarters length, standing against a dark almost black background, very slightly inclined to the left, while the eyes gaze full to the front.  The blond hair is softly frizzed and decorated with three jewels and a hoop of pearls and garnets.  The eyes are hazel-brown, the lips daintily curved and the flesh tones delicately warm.  The lace ruff, erect at the back, is drawn down in front, revealing a little of the neck, on which lies a necklace, composed of two loops of gold hung with pearls and pearl drop.  A geranium-coloured rosette of four petals, stubbed with an amethyst and pearls, is fastened at the stomacher.  The latter is carried down to a point and bordered with tabs.  Its material is the same as that of the skirt – pearly silk damask with roses and green leaves and tendrils. Over this dress is a robe of geranium red with slashed sleeves”[5].

As with the double portrait discussed above, this painting has not yet been located and only the sales catalogue exists to report that it was ever thought to be a portrait of Jane Grey.

The detailed description does give us some clues that allow us to rule out Lady Jane Grey as the sitter depicted in the portrait, however.  This description mentions the ruff as being “erect at the back.” This indicates that the portrait depicts a young female painted towards the end of the sixteenth century when ruffs worn by both men and women where larger in size than the small ones seen in the 1560’s that surrounded only the face.  As the ruff grew and became wider during the 1580’s, support was required to keep it upright.  This consisted of a wire frame that was attached to the back of the garment and that held the ruff high at the back, giving the “drawn down in front” look that is described in the description.  A good example of this is the many portraits painted of Queen Elizabeth during the later period of her life.  In these, she often wears a full ruff that surrounds the whole neck and is high at the back and low at the chest.  In other cases, such as the Ditchley portrait seen at the NPG London, the ruff is supported at the back though does not surround the entire neck and is pinned to the neckline of her dress allowing the chest to be revealed.

Since the description mentions the use of a ruff that is “erect at the back,” it is more likely that this portrait was painted after the 1580’s rather than as a portrait of Lady Jane Grey from life.

[1]Frick Art Reference Library,  accessed 02/03/19

[2] accessed 02/03/19

[3] accessed 02/03/19

[4] Catalogue of pictures of David Holt Esquire of Manchester, 14th July 1820

[5] accessed 02/03/19

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


[5] As above

The Streatham Portrait Revisited

NPG 6804 (c) National Portrait Gallery, London

Lady Jane Grey – NPG 6804

By Unknown Artist

Oil on oak panel, circa 1590-1600

33 ¾ x 23 ¾ inches

The Streatham Portrait Revisited

“It’s an appallingly bad picture and there’s absolutely no reason to suppose it’s got anything to do with Lady Jane Grey. But if the National Portrait Gallery has public money to burn, then so be it.”[1]

The above quote reportedly the opinion of historian David Starkey was published in the January of 2006 when the National Portrait Gallery, expressed the interest in using money raised through their 150th anniversary gala to purchase this newly discovered portrait thought to represent Lady Jane Grey.  This painting was eventually purchased by the gallery to mixed reviews and even today uncertainty regarding the identity of the sitter is still evident and debated.

In February of 2019 author Alison Weir produced an article for History Revealed Magazine in which she discusses the various portraits relating to Lady Jane Grey. In this Weir states that the Streatham inscription “LADY JAYNE was added at a later date[2]and that “the inscription is almost certainly incorrect, as the sitter wears a distinctive pearl carcanet that appear in portraits of Parr, notably one inscribed CATHERINA REGINA UXOR HENRICI VIII” [3].

Through this Weir is indirectly claiming that the Streatham portrait was in fact another depiction purchased by The National Portrait Gallery thought to be a portrait of Jane Grey however turning out to be another image of Henry VIII’s sixth queen Catherine Parr.

Due to the speculation surrounding this image this article will take a fresh look at what is known regarding the portrait to date and look at some of the facts found from scientific investigations on this portrait both prior to and after the galleries purchase.  This in turn will attempt to resolve some of the myths which have surrounded this painting in hope to once and for all discuss the galleries reasoning for its purchase and the portraits importance as a historical artefact when looking at the iconography of Lady Jane Grey.

When discussing the complex subject relating to portraits of Lady Jane Grey one must first establish if there was a need for a painting in the first place. For her time she was not initially seen as a public figure of any importance with no strong claim or intention of inheriting the throne due to the last will and testament written in 1546 by Henry VIII claiming in what order his children should inherit.

The period in which she became a prominent figure, the time between her marriage in May of 1553 and the end of her reign in the July of 1553 is a very short window of time for which a life portrait is most likely to have been created with the exception of personal miniature portraits which may possibly have been produced and held by close family members or associates.  Jane was known for her education and there is some evidence that portraits of her where being produced during the sixteenth century which include at least three references to individual paintings.

The first reference is an inventory of the possessions of Elizabeth Cavendish (Bess of Hardwick 1527-1608) taken in 1566 indicates that Elizabeth held a portrait “of the Lady Jane on a table”[4] in her chamber at Chatsworth House. 

The second reference is in a group of inventories documenting the extensive collection of paintings, sculptures, furniture and books collected by the 1st Baron of Lumley (John Lumley 1533-1609) across his residences of Lumley Castle, Nonsuch Palace, and Hart Street. In these inventories a picture referring to “The Lady Jane Graye, executed[5] is described in the section relating to paintings identified as “pictures of a smaller scantling”. 

The third and final reference is a letter written towards the end of Queen Elizabeth’s reign by Arbella Stuart when she intended to marry Edward Seymour (Lady Jane Grey’s grandnephew). 

During the investigation into this matter a letter was discovered written in Arbella’s hand instructing Edward to visit Hardwick Hall in disguise and stating that he was to identify himself by carrying “all the testimonies they can, as a picture or handwriting of the Lady Jane Grey who’s hand I know, she sent her sister a book at her death which the best they could bring, or of the Lady Katherine, or Queen Jane Seymour or any of that family, which we know they, and none but they have[6].

The above three references do tell us that portraits of Jane Grey where at least in production during the second half of the sixteenth century and possibly one of these may have been a life image or based on an existing portrait pattern when her image as a protestant martyr was being constructed.

Though none of these paintings have been reliably discovered today the above references are discussed in detail in the 2015 book by J. Stephan Edwards “A Queen of a New Invention: Portraits of Lady Jane Grey Dudley” the fact is that Lady Jane Grey remains faceless with regards to an authentic likeness.  

Provenance and Background

The portrait is documented as passing by descent through the Codner family where it was reported that it was first purchased by William Squires Codner, a keen collector of sixteenth and seventeenth century furniture and antiques from an antiques shop in Ipswich between 1890 and 1904.  The family held the tradition that this was in fact a portrait of Lady Jane Grey and various members of the family appear to have worked with specialists of there time in an attempt to prove this.

The first written documentation known to date regarding the painting and the identity of the sitter being that of Jane Grey is a letter written in 1922 currently stored in the sitter file associated with this painting at the Heinz Archive and library connected to the National Portrait Gallery.  This is written by Sir Charles Holmes onetime director of the gallery and expresses his view that the portrait “is of period and probably represents Lady Jane Grey but is not the work of the finest rank and condition is bad”[7]. 

It appears from various letters stored in the same sitters file that the family contacted various members of staff at the gallery and other institutions including Roy Strong over the years to inform them of the portraits existence and sending various images of the panel in its current state in hope of coming to a definite conclusion or locating documentation to support that the painting did indeed depict Lady Jane Grey.  Some of the main findings of the family which were reported to the Gallery in these letters are as follows:

The costume and headdress dates from c.1550

The sitter seen is aged between 12 and 15 years of age

The sitter holds a book hinting to Jane’s religion and learning

The inscription reads Lady Jayne and seems to be of period

The sitters face has been vandalised which may possibly be due to the unpopularity of the Grey Family during the reign of Queen Elizabeth.

The discovery of an identical image within the galleries archives which was called Lady Jane Grey in the 19th century and exhibited as her in the 1866 South Kensington Exhibition and was also mentioned by George Scharf as a possible genuine image

NPG 6804 before conservation (c) NPG Archive

The above information resolves the myth that the portrait was in fact not a new discovery in 2006 and shows that it was actually known to the gallery as a potential image of Jane Grey for many years prior. The fact that the family had also managed to locate images of an alternative portrait based on the same pattern which was submitted to public exhibition in 1866 as a portrait of her also gave good support to this.

It must be remembered that the above information stated by the family was pure speculation at this period and though the portrait had been viewed by many specialists of the time in hope of assisting the family with their findings no scientific investigations had taken place at this point in time.

As noted by Sir Charles Holmes in the letter of 1922 the portrait was in rather bad condition prior to the galleries purchase with thick blue overpaint probably applied in the eighteenth century to the background and paint loss to the sitter’s costume, face and inscription, no other inscriptions or labels where located on the back of the panel during this period to indicate any provenance.

Scientific Investigation / Findings

By 2005 Christopher Foley the director of the Lane Fine Arts Limited in London was invited to visit the current owner of the portrait in hope of once and for all resolving the matter of identity and date and to deal with the potential sale.  Upon viewing the painting Foley was noted to report that “within a moment, I knew it was right”[8] and rushed the painting away to undergo various testing and further research.

It appears from the report submitted by Foley to the gallery that conservation work immediately took place on the painting.  From this the we can see that the panel was secured and splits where filled, fire damage to the bodice of the gown was repaired, overpaint and discoloured varnish was removed, and retouching done to the surface of the panel.

The inscription on the top left-hand corner also underwent paint analysis to establish that this was of period and was not applied at a later date which is common with other images thought to represent Jane Grey. This was facilitated by Dr Libby Sheldon of the University College London and pigments of paint used within the inscription and other similar parts of the painting where analysed.

Dr Sheldon’s findings where that the inscription clearly reads “LADY IAYNE” and that the colour used is known as

“a lead-tin-yellow which was a pigment that became obsolete in the early eighteenth century and was widely used before this date within paintings for bright yellow highlights and is found on numerous original inscriptions dated to the second half of the sixteenth century.  The same pigment was also found within the painting used to create the yellow of the costume decoration[9].

The above information tells us that the inscription is in fact in date with the painted image and was actually added to the surface by the artist who painted the portrait intending the image to at least represent a “Lady Jayne” and not as it has been quoted added at a later period.

The next step for the painting was then to undergo Dendrochronology testing to establish an exact date for its creation.  This investigation was facilitated by Dr Ian Tyers at the University of Sheffield. The three panels which made up the surface on which the images were painted on where tested and tree rings counted too establish at date.  Dr Tyers findings where as such:

“the latest growth rings datable on the panels are (A) 1584, (B) 1585 and (C) 1580. Allowing time for the removal of the sap-wood, the earliest dating for use of painting is 1593.”[10]

From this we can see that unfortunately the painting does not date to the period of Jane Grey’s lifetime though to the later period of the sixteenth century this then brings into question as to why a portrait of a lady was painted in the 1590’s wearing clothing from the 1550’s.

The only apparent reason for this is that the painting was in fact meant to be a commemorative image or produced as part of a set of paintings relating to public or religious figures from the past which was fashionable at this time as a means of decorating homes and public spaces.  The fact then arises as to which “Lady Jayne” would have been well enough known at this point in time for people to want to have a portrait of in their collection.

From the moment the axe fell in the February of 1554 Jane Grey became a public figure and there is some evidence to suggest that Jane herself wanted her death to be remembered especially in the world of religion.  Some of her writings produced within the tower in her final months including her debate with Dr Feckingham, letter to her sister and scaffold speech where printed in pamphlet form within months of her death.  Jane was also discussed in John Foxe’s “Book of Martyrs” first published in 1563 which was a popular book for its time and various accounts relating to her life and times where produced including an appearance in “The School Master” written by Roger Ascham and first published in 1564 and an “Elegy on the Death of Lady Jane Grey” written by Thomas Chaloner though not published until 1579. 

The above indicates there was at least some popularity surrounding the story of Lady Jane Grey in the second half of the sixteenth century and that there was probably a need and demand for her likeness rather that the other alternative candidates also referred to as “Lady Jayne” from the 1550’s who may not have achieved as much popularity and public image.

The Houghton Portrait (C) NPG Archive

Other Versions

The Houghton Portrait

Private collection

Oil on panel

30 x 24 inches

Previously in the collection of the Rodes Family at Houghton Hall where it was then moved to Fryston in 1789 when the family opted to change residence.

When in the collection the portrait appears to have been identified as an image of Jane Grey where as noted by the Codner family it was exhibited in the 1866 South Kensington Exhibition as a portrait of her.  By 1973 the painting eventually passed to the collection of Sir John Colville however by this time it appears that the sitter was then re-identified as the Princess Elizabeth due to similarities with the portrait of her as princess in the royal collection. 

This portrait appears to be an identical copy of the Streatham portrait with some minor alterations especially around the Jewels depicted.  What is clear from the image is the sitter appears to depict the same lady wearing an almost identical costume and seen in the same position though the painting is missing the inscription in the left-hand corner.  From the image this portrait appears to have been created by a different artist than that who produced the Streatham portrait, the shading and definition of the facial feature appear to be of a finer quality than that seen in the NPG copy which suggest a possible pattern used within a workshop to create multiple copies by different artists.

The Norris Portrait (C) NPG Archive

The Herbert Norris Portrait

Oil on oak panel

Size unknown

Whereabouts unknown

Previously in the collection of Herbert Norris scholar and costume designer from the first half of the 20th century who produced an in-depth collection of books relating to the history of costume. 

Several early photographic images of this painting survive within the Heniz Archives and where again discussed by the Codner family.  Writings on the back of these images do give us a little information about what was actually known about the portrait and who Norris thought the portrait to be of.  On one of the images the writing indicates that Norris “acquired the painting from an unnamed friend who had purchased it in 1870 in a picture shop”[11] and that the painting had undergone some restoration.

Norris also gives us a detailed description regarding the colouring used within the painting in his book “Tudor Costume and Fashion” and identifies the sitter as Lady Jane Grey.

 ‘Her dress is of nasturtium-red velvet with sleeves turned back showing a deep peacock blue lining. The yoke and false sleeve are of the same blue in satin with a cornflower design worked in gold. Spanish work decorates the inside of the open collar to match the wrist frills and above it is a second collar of white gauze embroidered in red silk’[12]

Though the description is vague it does give us some understanding of the colouring of the sitter’s costume which again is described as red with a cornflower design embroidered with gold thread which again is similar to the colouring of the Streatham portrait.

Though the portraits current whereabouts is unknown the fact that it is painted on panel indicates that this is probably an early copy.  The portrait also includes an inscription which reads “LADYE IANE GRAYE, DIED 1553, AET 17”.

The spelling used within the inscription again gives us an understanding that it probably is an early image and the date given for Jane’s death does suggest that the inscription pre-dates September of 1752 the year in which the Calendar Act of 1751 was initiated.  Prior to this Janes death would have been 12th of February in the year of 1553 rather than what is today thought of as 1554. The fact that her death is mentioned at all again demonstrates that this image was made after her death.

Francesco Bartolozzi Engraving (C) NPG Archive

The Magdalene portrait

Unknown size

Unknown whereabouts

Once in the collection of Dr Peter Pickard the master of the Magdalene College in Cambridge. Only known through an engraving produced in 1790 by Francesco Bartolozzi and some written references made in the late 18th and early 19th century regarding the college. 

The inscription on the engraving indicates that the sitter in the portrait was thought at this time to be that of Jane Shore (1445-1527) the mistress of King Edward IV and the inscription reports that it was taken from “an original picture in the possession of Dr Peckard master of the Magdalene college Cambridge”.  The phrase original indicates that the painting on which the engraving was based on was thought to be old for that time.

From the image seen the sitter portrayed does look remarkably like the sitter seen in the Streatham, Houghton and Norris portraits though the identification as a portrait of Jane Shore is a puzzling one as the sitter wears clothing dated to some twenty years after her death.  This may just be down to the fact the original identity of the sitter in the painting had been lost at this point in time and the painting was simply referred to as a portrait of Jane Shore.

The Dauntsey Portrait (c) NPG Archive

The Dauntsey Portrait

Only known through an early photograph in the Heinz Archives this portrait is listed as being in the collection of from Mr Robert Dauntsey at Agecroft Hall, Manchester in 1886. No identification is known for this sitter however the image does look similar to that seen in the Francesco Bartolozzi engraving. 

This painting is no longer in the collection of Agecroft Hall today which was sold by the family in 1926 and dismantled and shipped to Richmond Virginia.  It may just be possible that the Magdalene portrait and Dauntsey portrait are one in the same as the portrait at the Magdalene college does appear to vanish from the collection after the death of Pickard.  Though hard to tell from the image stylistically this painting does appear to be more eighteenth century in approach rather than sixteenth century however this may possibly be due to over painting and re-touching.

Ieanne Gray Engraving (c) Royal Collection


Ink on paper

Currently in the Royal Collection this engraving entitled Ieanne Gray was probably produced during the early eighteenth century for some now unknown publication. The sitter depicted is a similar female to that seen in the other paintings though her position has been flipped.  

It appears that a portrait similar to the Streatham portrait was used for the basis of this image where identical jewels are seen especially with the scooped necklace.  The incorporation of the sitter’s name in this image again identifies that images of this composition where actually thought to represent Lady Jane Grey prior to the identification of the Streatham portrait.

Frustratingly all but two of the five images associated with the Streatham portrait have not been located to date and without further study taking place on these paintings to establish dates and order of creation we are unable to know for certain if one may be a possible life portrait or that they were all produced within the same time period. 

What is for certain is that with the existence of these further images we can at least establish that the Streatham portrait was based on an early pattern used to depict Jane Grey whether fictional or taken from a pre-existing life portrait and no other ‘Lady Jayne’ which in its self is an interesting historical artefact.   

CATHARINA REGIINA Portrait (c) Private collection


As discussed above Alison Weir did recently discuss the Streatham portraits similarities with a portrait representing Catherine Parr purchased by the Philip Mould Gallery in 2005 and exhibited in the “Henry Women Exhibition” of 2009 at Hampton Court Palace.  

Weir is not the only person to discuss this theory, Stephan Edwards also noting similarities in his 2015 book regarding the portraiture of Jane Grey and it also appears from documentation held in the sitters file at the gallery that Susan James the historian who produced the evidence regarding the Jewels seen in NPG 4451 which led to the re-identification of the image as a portrait of Catherine Parr in 1996 was also noted to have viewed the portrait and made comparison with the Regina portrait.

Though undoubtedly a portrait of Catherine Parr as seen from the inscription applied to the top of the panel the painting underwent dendrochronology testing in 2005 revealing that the panel on which provided the surface for the painting dated to the “latter half of the sixteenth century”[13] this ruling out the possibility of it being a portrait taken from life. 

Some similarities are noted within both images especially around the clothing and jewels worn.  This to me is not enough evidence to prove that the Streatham portrait was in fact based on this image and there does appear to be some differences between both portraits.

Called Lady Mary Dudley (c) National Trust Collection

Though similar in period and shape the clothing and jewels worn are painted differently in both paintings especially the large brooch seen at the front of the bodice.  The pearl necklace seen worn around the neck of both sitters does appear to be of the same scoop design and construction however a similar necklace is also seen in the full-length portrait supposed to represent Lady Mary Dudley in the National Trusts collection which also demonstrates that this maybe down to the style of the period rather than a unique necklace belonging to Catherine Parr. 

There also appears to be some differences between facial features and hair colour seen as the lady depicted in the CATHARINA REGINA portrait appears to be more mature than that seen in the Streatham portrait and especially the Houghton version.  Differences are also observed in the treatment of the embroidery work of the collar seen in both paintings and Catherine is also missing the lower billiament of jewels attached to the front of the French hood seen in the Streatham portrait and its various copies.

One possible reason for the close comparison is the use for the portraits in the first place.

If indeed the Streatham and CATHERINA REGINA portraits were produced as part of a set of paintings and not as an individual one-off likeness, then some similarities in costume composition and jewels may be expected.  Due to the survival of multiple copies of both paintings this does suggest that this was indeed the case and some of the paintings have been inscribed with the name of the sitter suggesting that the viewer may not have readily known the person depicted and therefore they were not produced for immediate family members or associates who may have met the individual in person.

Portrait patterns where generally used by artists within the various workshops producing portrait sets in the second half of the sixteenth century.  These where in fact used to create the basic outline of an individual to produce a likeness.

One good example of this and probably produced around the same period as the Streatham portrait is the survival of the multiple copies of the famous portrait of Anne Boleyn wearing her B necklace. All similar in composition, colouring and style and the sitter is seen wearing an almost identical costume within each portrait.

Sets of portraits where produced quickly and cheaply within these workshops and where designed to be viewed from a height or in some cases fixed into the panelling of a room which in turn required less skill and the fine detail seen in the paintings produced by Hans Eworth and Holbein.  Patterns which may have contained notes on the sitters appearance where required as process of transferring an image to the panel quickly and without having to take the time painstakingly drawing it from life. 

Recent research into the production of portrait sets taken place by the National Portrait Gallery and Dulwich Gallery has indicated that in most cases these patterns where in fact based on authentic likenesses of an individual including pre-existing images, woodcuts, engravings and tombstones from the period.  This indicates that workshop artists went to extreme measures to produce a representation based as close as possible to the individual depicted. 

This does not necessarily mean all images are based on authentic likenesses and in some cases alternative portraits or depictions of a sitter represented within a set of paintings have not been located today which suggest that they may possibly have been made up.  It could be argued that these images including the Streatham portrait where in fact based on a now lost source or description known at the time rather than the use of one individual to represent another.

Due to the differences seen between the Streatham and CATHERINA REGINA portraits this does suggest that the Streatham portrait was in fact not based on a portrait of Catherine Parr but may have been based on some now lost image or source.

This article has not been written to identify that the portrait is in fact an image of Jane Grey but to show that the identification of the image is up for debate however, all the scientific analysis and information regarding the paintings provenance and subsequent copies does indicate that Jane Grey is the strongest claimant for the identity of the sitter.

It must be remembered that it was in fact painted some forty years after her execution and therefore is not an authentic likeness of her though in terms of the iconography relating to this sitter it is most certainly the closest and earliest image we have at present that gives us the viewer any idea of what she may have looked like.

[1] Higgins. Charlotte, “rare portrait of Lady Jane Grey or just an appallingly bad image, The Guardian, 16th January 2006

[2] Weir. Alison, History Revealed Magazine, February 2019, page 40

[3] As above

[4] Lovell.S Mary, First Lady of Chatsworth Bess of Hardwick, 2005, page 193

[5] Walpole Society, Volume VI, 1918, Page 26

[6] Lovell.S Mary, First Lady of Chatsworth Bess of Hardwick, 2005, page 432

[7] NPG Sitters File, registered packet 6804, accessed February 2018

[8] Zarin. Cynthia, Teen Queen Looking for Lady Jane, The New Yorker, October 15th 2007

[9] Electronic communication with Christopher Foley, 8th October 2017

[10] Tyers. Ian, Dendrochronology Survey, 2006

[11] Lady Jane Grey, sitters’ box, Heinz Archives, London

[12]Norris. Herbert, ‘Tudor Costume and Fashion’, published 1938, page 426

[13] Tyers. Ian, Dendrochronology Survey, 2005