William Frederick Yeames Lost Masterpiece ‘Lady Jane Grey in The Tower ‘

Introduction

Between 1794 and 1877, a total of twenty-six paintings depicting scenes from the life of Lady Jane Grey were exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts, London.  When looking at the various titles of each painting exhibited, there appears to be a pattern of four significant events in Jane’s life which were prominent themes chosen by artists who opted to promote her story.  Some of these events are, in fact, based on contemporary descriptions from her time, whilst others are steeped in the air of myth which began to surround Jane from the moment of her death. 

The first common scene often depicted is a promotion of Jane’s virtues as an exemplary pupil and her passion for learning. Many of the artists of the paintings based on this scene used the account published by Roger Ascham in 1570 as a source of inspiration.  In this account, Ascham recalls the day on which he encountered Jane alone at Bradgate Park, engrossed in Plato whilst the rest of her family were out hunting. The Victorian myth that both Jane and King Edward VI were educated together and were in fact childhood sweethearts is also depicted within this group of paintings. 

The second common theme is Jane’s initial refusal of the crown. Again, this is based on true events that took place at Syon House and were described by Jane herself in a letter to Queen Mary written during her imprisonment, after she lost her crown in 1553.  The final two common events are a promotion of Jane’s role as a martyr and innocent victim, either when imprisoned in the Tower of London or her final moments on the scaffold.

Of the twenty- six paintings exhibited, a total of nine depicted scenes were from Lady Jane Grey’s imprisonment in The Tower of London between 19th July 1553 and 12th February 1554.

In this article I intend to look at one of the more famous of these paintings, exhibited at the Royal Academy by William Frederick Yeames in 1868.  Until recently, the original painting was thought to have been lost to the sands of time, however as discussed later in this article, an interesting email from a viewer of this website brought some fascinating news to my attention.

When first exhibited, the painting entitled ‘Lady Jane Grey in the Tower’ received excellent reviews from observer’s who had visited the exhibition, with some reporting that

‘Mr. Yeames “Lady Jane Grey in the Tower,” is perhaps the best picture this young and hard-working artist has yet elaborated.’[1]

‘In 1868 was exhibited the picture which I should rank as the painter’s masterpiece thus far, ‘Lady Jane Grey in the Tower,’ wearily but gently listening to the exhortations of Feckenham, Abbot of Westminster. Of all the Lady Jane English painting’s, I know of none at once so touching and so true to historical character at this of Mr Yeames.’[2]

‘The little Jane is thoroughly well conceived and better executed by Mr Yeames than by Queen Mary’s executioner’[3]

William Frederick Yeames circa 1884
Joseph Parkin Mayall
© Public Domain

William Frederick Yeames was born in Russia on 18th December 1835, fourth son of William Yeames, a British consul in Taganrog and his wife Eliza Mary Henley.  On his father’s death in 1842, he attended a school in Dresden, and he began to study painting. By 1848, Yeames had moved to England where he studied anatomy and composition under George Scharf. He also visited Florence and Rome to continue his development in life studies, landscapes, and the old masters, eventually returning to England in 1858 and setting up his studio in Park Place, London.   In 1859, Yeames exhibited his first painting into the annual exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts and he was eventually made an associate of the Royal Academy in 1866.  Yeames continued to exhibit paintings within the annual exhibition and themed most of his subjects around historical events from British history. He along with other artists formed an artistic circle known today as the ‘St John’s Wood Clique.’ All enjoyed visiting historic houses, including Hever Castle in Kent and would often spend time sketching and painting interiors which would eventually appear as backdrops for their historically themed paintings.  Yeames died on 3rd May 1918, leaving behind a large portfolio of work inspired by some of the most prominent characters in English History. [4]

Setting The scene

The original painting displayed in the 1868 exhibition has not been seen or studied by any art or history academic.  Today, it is only known through the original exhibition catalogue entry and the small preparatory painting produced by Yeames which is now in the collection of Weston Park Museum, Sheffield.  Images of his preparatory painting have appeared in numerous publications over the years and this smaller version was initially in the collection of businessman and collector John Newton Mappin (1800-1883).  On his death, Mappin bequeathed a total of one hundred and fifty-four paintings representing many of the leading artists of the day to the Weston Park Museum. He also left the huge sum of fifteen thousand pounds for a Gallery to be built so that his collection of paintings could be viewed by the public. The Mappin Gallery eventually opened to the public on 27th July 1887 and Yeames preparatory painting for ‘Lady Jane Grey in the Tower’ as well as the rest of his collection could be viewed and admired for generations. [5]

Lady Jane Grey in The Tower Preparatory Painting
William Frederick Yeames
1867
Oil on Canvas
11×17 inches
© Sheffield Museums

The preparatory painting (above) produced by Yeames does provide some clues as to the exact scene depicted in the completed painting exhibited in 1868.  This version is signed and dated by the artist to 1867 and shows Yeames workings of the composition.  The exact event which he opted to depict is when Lady Jane Grey was visited by John Feckenham, Queen Mary’s personal chaplain, on 8th February 1554.  By this point in her story, Jane had faced trial and had been convicted and sentenced to death as a traitor for accepting the crown and signing herself as queen. Mary was prevented from issuing Jane with a pardon because the Spanish demanded that Jane die as a condition of the marriage between Mary and Philip of Spain. 

Mary was unable to save Jane’s life, however she did attempt to save her immortal soul, and she sent Feckenham to see Jane with that specific task, to try and convert her to Catholicism prior to her death. Jane’s execution was postponed for three days, and a debate was held between Feckenham and Jane which resulted in Jane staying strong to the Protestant faith rather than relinquishing it.  This famous debate was apparently recorded and signed by Jane’s own hand, however unfortunately the original document no-longer survives today.  The original documentation does appear to have been smuggled out of the Tower of London as within months of Jane’s death, it began to appear in printed format and was used to promote Jane’s strong belief in the Protestant faith.

The popular tradition of Queen Mary offering Jane a pardon if she was willing to convert to Roman Catholicism began to emerge shortly after Jane’s death.  In 1615, a pamphlet entitled ‘The Life, Death and Actions of The Most Chaste, Learned and Religious Lady, The Lady Jane Grey’ was published in London. This pamphlet again contained a copy of the earlier printed debate, and it was noted in the introduction that:

Even those which were of the best fame and reputation, were sent unto her to dissuade her from that true profession of the gospel, which from her cradle she had held. Each striving by art, by flattery, by threatening’s, by the promise of life, or what else might move most in the bosom of a weak woman.

There is no surviving contemporary evidence to prove that Jane was ever offered an actual pardon if she would convert, but as discussed above there was indeed an effort made to encourage her to convert to what Mary thought was the true religion and save her soul.

The preparatory painting also informs us that Yeames appears to have made every effort to try and keep his composition as accurate as possible.  In this version of the painting, his image of Jane is heavily based on the Wrest Park portrait which was once thought to be a contemporary portrait and was widely reproduced to illustrate Jane during the nineteenth century. Yeames does appear to have altered the facial composition slightly from the original portrait in an attempt to make the sitter in his version look closer to Jane’s actual age at the time of her death. 

The Wrest Park Portrait
Previously Identified as Lady Jane Grey
© Private Collection

The preparatory painting depicts Jane placed within a furnished room with a fire along with her books and writing paper which were objects often associated with her iconography. The myth that Jane was imprisoned in an empty prison cell was often portrayed by other artists of the nineteenth century. Although we have very little in terms of historical documentation to inform us what Jane’s life was like during her imprisonment.  The author of the sixteenth century manuscript ‘Chronicles of Queen Jane’ does provide us some signs as to her circumstances when in the Tower of London.  The writer informs us that Jane was imprisoned on the top floor of the house of Nathaniel Partridge, she was allowed at least three of her gentlewomen and a man servant. As a cousin of the Queen and a prisoner of high status, Jane would certainly have had some level of comfort during her imprisonment and Yeames has certainly captured this well in his image.

Yeames does appear to have followed the myth that Feckenham was an aged man at the time he met Jane.  John Howman or John Feckenham as he is better known was born in Feckenham, Worcestershire.  Though his exact date of birth is unrecorded it is traditionally thought to have been around 1515.  Initially educated by the parish priests he eventually received an education as a Benediction student at Gloucester Hall, Oxford.  Feckenham spent a lifetime in and out of imprisonment for his religious beliefs, however, he was described by a peer of the day as a ‘gentle person’. He was eventually freed from the Tower of London by Queen Mary in 1553, and he became personal chaplain and confessor to the Queen, and eventually Abbot of Westminster.  Feckenham died, once again in captivity in 1584.[6] 

If Feckenham had been born around 1515 as traditionally thought, then he would have been in his early forties at the time of meeting Jane rather than the man of a mature age who is portrayed in the preparatory painting and is so often depicted by other artists in visual depictions of Jane’s story.

Conclusion

In early 2020, I began to publish images alongside basic information on this website concerning the many paintings exhibited at the Royal Academy inspired by the life of Lady Jane Grey. One of the main reasons for doing this was firstly, to have a platform to record all the information currently known regarding each painting.  And to secondly, create awareness of these paintings, in the hope of some of the lost paintings finally resurfacing so they can be studied and seen.  

In 2021, I received an email from a follower of this site, asking several questions regarding the preparatory painting produced by Yeames and the dimensions of the painting listed under his name on my website.  I immediately responded, informing them that, unfortunately, the dimensions listed are for the preparatory painting as Yeames completed work had not been seen since the 1868 exhibition. The response I received greatly interested me and on opening the attachment I was surprised to see the long-lost completed painting of ‘Lady Jane Grey in The Tower’ by William Frederick Yeames staring right back at me. During several further emails, the current owner reported that he was unfortunately unable to give much information regarding the provenance of the painting, however, he did report that he had inherited the painting from his parents, who had purchased it from a gallery in Blakedown, Worcestershire in the 1970’s.  He also recalled a story in which his parents took the painting along to the BBC Antiques Roadshow in the 1980’s, however, the subject of the painting was deemed too depressing to be seen on television.[7]

Lady Jane Grey in The Tower
1868
William Frederick Yeames
Oil on Canvas
35×61 inches
© Private Collection

Unfortunately, for the moment we do appear to be missing that smoking gun to be able to determine if indeed the above painting was the final painting exhibited by Yeames in 1868 or another preparatory work.  No dimensions of the final version were listed in the exhibition catalogue, and unfortunately the only reference to its actual size is a comment from 1903, noting that the completed image was ‘bigger than the preparatory painting’[8].  The artists signature and date of 1868 can clearly be seen in the bottom right-hand corner of the above image provided and this second version is considerably larger than the preparatory painting, which certainly suggests that this was indeed the final version exhibited at the Royal Academy. 

Detail Image showing Yeames signature and date

There does appear to be some major adjustments made to the background and figure of Jane, when compared to the preparatory painting. However, Yeames certainly spent a lot of time and effort in working out the composition of his final image and this is to be expected when comparing preliminary drawings to final compositions.

During a search of the auction records, I was able to track one previous owner of either this version or the preparatory painting. On 9th July 1875, an auction took place at Christie, Manson and Woods, London.  The sale lasted two days and consisted of 280 lots belonging to the recently deceased W.E.J Roffey, Esq of Bloomsbury Square, London. Roffey was an avid picture collector, acquiring a large collection of paintings produced by modern artists of the day, particularly those who had exhibited within the Royal Academy exhibition. Listed among the 280 lots are four works by William Frederick Yeames, including

‘Item 237 W. F. Yeames, ARA, 1867 – Lady Jane Grey in the Tower – Exhibited at the Royal Academy, 1868’[9]

Item 237, sold for twenty-seven pounds, however, once again the important factor of measurements is missing from the catalogue.  The catalogue does state that this was the version exhibited in the 1868 exhibition, however the date of 1867 printed next to the artists name does raise the question as to whether this could possibly be the preparatory painting which we do know was indeed dated to 1867. 

Further research does need to take place to locate more information regarding the provenance of this newly surfaced version of Lady Jane Grey in The Tower.  And, to try and establish if indeed the painting sold in 1875 was the final version or the preparatory painting, possibly purchased by John Newton Mappin for his collection.  I would like to convey my thanks to the current owner of this painting for giving me the opportunity to see his version and publish it in this article on the missing Yeames painting so it can be seen by others with an interest in Jane.  This second version is truly beautiful, and I for one, can now see why Yeames received so much praise for this work when it was exhibited.  

I do hope to be able to fill some of these missing gaps and unanswered questions during future trips to the archives so please keep an eye out for further updates on this work.  


[1] Burk. Emily, The Annual Register: A Review of Public Events at Home & Abroad for The Year 1868, page 317

[2] Hamerton. Philip, The Portfolio an Artistic Periodical, 1871, page 83

[3] Thomas. Alfred & Lewis. Leopold, The Mask, Volume I, 1868, page 133

[4] Meynell. Wilfred, The Modern School of Art, W.R Howell & Company, 1886, vol I, page 206- 215

[5]City of Sheffield, Mappin Art Gallery Catalogue of the Permanent Collection and Other Works of Art, 1903, Page vi-viii

[6] Fuller. Thomas, The History of the Worthies of England, 1840, vol 3, page 375-376

[7] Email communication between author and owner, 2021-2022

[8] City of Sheffield, Mappin Art Gallery Catalogue of the Permanent Collection and Other Works of Art, 1903, Page 15

[9]Christie, Manson & Woods, Modern Pictures, 9th July 1875, page 24

The Philip Portrait – Does it Change Anything?

When it comes to the iconography of Queen Elizabeth, we have a plethora of surviving portraits from the sixteenth century. In today’s modern society, it must be hard to find an individual who is not familiar with the many images of the pale faced, Queen, decked out in her red wig and trademark pearls.

Many of these portraits are ingrained in the minds of many history lovers as the images of the confident virgin Queen, however these all relate to a period later in her reign when there was a huge demand for her likeness.  It is well documented that during the latter part of her reign Elizabeth herself, became more aware of the power connected to the use of her image.  The painting’s viewed today in galleries and stately homes across the globe are a symbol of royal authority, and in many cases were produced with the use of symbolism to demonstrate that, despite being a woman, Elizabeth was the natural and legitimate ruler of England. Rarely, do we get a glimpse of the human Elizabeth, stripped of all the makeup and regalia, who ascended to the throne in 1558 at the young age of just twenty-five years old. The iconography relating to the early part of her life and reign is a complex subject and portraits of the young Queen are scarce.  In terms of pictorial evidence there is very little available to inform us what the young Queen looked like.

The Philip Portrait was discovered in the late 1970’s, by London art dealer Richard Philip, little has been discussed or documented regarding the history of this painting and its significance as an early image of the young Queen Elizabeth.  In this painting, Elizabeth is depicted as the young fresh-faced monarch, who, by this period had not established the pomp and regalia associated with her later images but, was being represented by artists as the plainly dressed queen, devoted to the matter of religion.   Does this rarely seen portrait tell us anything about the young Elizabeth and does its possible connection to a small number of other paintings, in which the sitter has for many years been debated, tip the balance in favour of these also depicting the young Queen?

The Philip Portrait
Queen Elizabeth I
Oil on Panel
32 x 24 1/2 inches
©Private Collection

The Philip portrait was originally discovered leaning against the back wall in a picture shop in Cheltenham.  Due to significant overpainting the sitter in the portrait had lost its identity altogether and the painting was simply referred to as a portrait of a 1920’s flapper girl.  Art Dealer, Richard Philip recalls its discovery in a later article on the portrait.  He informs us that ‘upon examining the painting he noticed that a small section of the paint on the bottom left-hand side of the panel had begun to fall away. On closer examination he then noted that the exposed underpaint was harder and much older than the modern paint coving the rest of the panel’. Philip then opted to take a gamble and purchased the portrait immediately[1]

On returning to London, Philip sent the portrait to a picture restorer who immediately began cleaning tests. What was revealed beneath the modern paint layers both astonished Richard Philip and the restorer.  Once fully stripped of its modern overpaint the image of a sixteenth century lady, standing full frontal and seen three quarter length appeared.

The portrait was immediately thought, by Philip, to be a painting of the young Queen Elizabeth, however, as with all portrait research, evidence was required, and he began his research to attempt to prove his theory.  The portrait was first sent to Doctor John Fletcher, a pioneer in the use of dendrochronology, who attempted to establish a date of creation. Though, dendrochronology testing was in its infancy in the 1970’s, Doctor Fletcher was able to establish that the panel was constructed with the use of four boards: one board was of similar pattern to two of the three boards used in the portrait of Richard Wakeman by Hans Eworth which was inscribed with the date of 1566.  On further research Doctor Fletcher confirmed that the boards seen in both these paintings were ‘almost certainly’ from the same tree, and he dated the creation of the Philip portrait to the 1560’s. [2]

With an estimated date of creation Philip then approached Roy Strong, Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum.  Strong had published a book in 1963, entitled Portraits of Queen Elizabeth I, in which he documented a lifelong interest in the iconography relating to Elizabeth I. According to later reports by Philip, Roy Strong was ‘impressed and astonished’ by the discovery referring to it as ‘a major find in the art world’.[3]  Similarities were immediately recognised between the Philip Portrait and other iconography related to the early part of Queen Elizabeth’s reign and this apparent similarity has continued to be referred to during subsequent sales of the Portrait.[4]   

As for what specific iconography the Philip Portrait relates to is anyone’s guess. As discussed above, very little has survived in terms of portraiture of the young queen.  Unlike her predecessors, who had employed artists of immense talent such as Hans Holbein, William Scots and unofficially, Hans Eworth to produce portraits.  Elizabeth never officially employed a court painter during the first period of her reign, other than continuing the service of miniaturist and illustrator Levina Teerlinc.  The most famous painted image of the young Queen depicted full-frontal, similar to that seen in the Philip Portrait is known as the Coronation miniature.  In this, Elizabeth is depicted wearing her coronation robes and holding the royal regalia, however, recent research into this miniature and the subsequent larger copy, now in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery suggests that both were painted circa 1600, towards the end of Elizabeth’s life and possibly in celebration of her long reign. 

In 1978, the costume Historian, Janet Arnold suggested that both the coronation portraits were, in fact, based on a ‘now lost’ portrait depicting Elizabeth at the time of her coronation in 1559.  Arnold’s evidence for this theory was derived from the fact that the artists representation of the clothing worn by Elizabeth in both images matching contemporary documented evidence describing the items in Elizabeth’s wardrobe.  It was therefore suggested that either the portrait was related to an earlier portrait pattern or that the artist was given access to the clothing worn by Elizabeth on the day of her coronation.[5]

The fact that Elizabeth did not employ an official court painter does not necessarily mean that the demand for her portrait had declined.  Documentary evidence suggests that her image was in high demand from the period of her accession.  Elizabeth herself, appears to have been rather embarrassed about the production of her early images.  For this reason, her secretary, Sir William Cecil drafted a proclamation in 1563.  The draft proclamation announced that a portrait of the new Queen would be made by ‘some special cunning painter’ and that this image must be used when producing copies of the Queen’s likeness. Cecil also acknowledges that the Queen ‘hath bene allwise of her own right disposition very unwilling’ to sit for a portrait and asks that all ‘painters, printers, and engravers to cease production’ of her image until a portrait displaying ‘the natural representation of her Majesties person, favour or grace’ can be completed.[6]

Over the years it has been suggested that the 1563 proclamation refers to a particular portrait known as the ‘Clopton type’ however, it is possible that it could relate to an entirely different version of this portrait altogether. The proclamation suggests that due to a lack of access to the young Queen, artists, printers and engravers were creating images of Elizabeth to an unsatisfactory standard.

Named after Clopton Hall, the previous location of the largest version known to exist.  In this portrait, Elizabeth is depicted in a simple black gown with ermine trim and holds a pair of gloves in one hand and a prayer book in the other, a gold pendant containing a large cut gemstone is suspended from a chain of goldsmith work around her neck.  Several versions of this pattern exist, and those that have undergone scientific investigation have all are dated to the 1560’s.[7]  

The recent discovery and research into an early example of this pattern by London Art Dealer Philip Mould, brings about some very interesting questions.  Mould acquired a copy of this portrait in 2010, and, during scientific investigations on his copy he discovered that hidden under the painted surface was an entirely different image. An x-ray of the portrait was taken that revealed that the composition of this copy had been changed from full frontal, like the Philip portrait, to the image facing the viewers left.  Changes in the position of the sitter’s hands, ruff and sleeves where also noted.  Mould’s copy was also dendrochronological tested, and the most plausible date of creation was established as 1552, which does suggest that his copy was probably the first example of this pattern to be created.[8]

It is hard to ignore the similarities in the features depicted in the Philip portrait and the small number of other paintings associated with the young Elizabeth. The most prominent of these paintings are known as the Soule and Hever portraits and much debate regarding the identity of the sitter depicted in both these painting has been had over the course of time.[9]

Both the Soule and Hever portraits display striking similarities to the Philip Portrait, especially in terms of the face pattern used by the artist. Both paintings also display a similar costume as that depicted in both the Philip and Clopton portraits.  The sitter in the Hever Portrait is also shown holding what appears to be a pair of gloves which again is seen in the Clopton Pattern.  The hoods worn by the sitter do appear to be similar in style, however the hood worn in the Philip portrait is of a different colour and a billament of goldsmith work and pearls has been added.   

In preparation for the publication of his book A Queen of a New Invention Portraits of Lady Jane Grey/Dudley Historian, John Stephan Edwards complied intensive research into both the Soule and Hever Portrait’s.  As the Philip portrait had never actually been associated with Lady Jane Grey, Edwards was noted not to mention this copy in his book   During his research, both the Hever and Soule paintings underwent dendrochronology testing, and it was again established that both portraits dated to the late 1550’s. Edwards also suggests the theory that both the Hever and Soule portraits derive from an earlier, finer detailed painting known as Berry-Hill portrait and that all depict the same individual.  Unfortunately, the Berry-Hill portrait is currently listed as lost and was last seen in 1956, when it was purchased by the Berry-Hill Galleries, New York. Edwards rules out the identification of the sitter being that of Elizabeth in favour of Lady Catherine Grey. During his research he notes that no other potential sitter had been discussed and that the possibility of the portrait representing Elizabeth would have been of greater interest to potential buyers.[10]

The Berry-Hill Portrait
Unknown Lady
Oil on Panel
12 5/8 x 9 Inches
© Metropolitan Museum of Art

Roy strong was also noted to refer to the portraits as ‘Borderline cases’ in terms of fitting in with other iconography relating to the young Queen Elizabeth in his 1963 book, and it perhaps these painting in which Strong refers to on viewing the Philip portrait in the 1970’s . Many illuminated documents relating to the first period of her reign have also been discussed when suggesting Elizabeth as the possible sitter in the Berry-Hill, Soule and Hever Portrait’s. Though yes, some similarities can be seen in these manuscript illustrations It must be remembered that the figures of monarchs created on these documents were meant to be a representation and not a direct likeness. [11]

The first pictorial image we have available today, relating to the period when Elizabeth first ascended to the throne is an illustration produced on a document related to the Michaelmas Celebrations of 1558.  This illustration has been associated with artist Levina Teerlinc and in this, the figure of Elizabeth is inconsistent with the figure depicted in the Philip portrait.  The young Queen is not, yet, crowned and is depicted with the crown suspended above her head.  Her face is turned to the viewers left and, on her head, she wears a black French hood similar in style to that worn by her sister, during her reign.

Detail: 1558 Michaelmas Document
Queen Elizabeth I
© The National Archives, UK

A small number of other illuminated manuscripts produced after Elizabeth’s Coronation in 1559, are, again, all associated with Levina Teerlinc, show an image of the full-frontal young queen, with a small figure-of-eight ruff surrounding her face, very similar to that seen in the Philip, Berry Hill, Soule and Hever portraits.  This may suggest that there was some sort of full-frontal pattern produced of the young Queen which may have been the initial source for these representations during the early part of her reign.

It is my theory that the Clopton portrait type did, in fact, evolve from an earlier image depicting the young Princess Elizabeth, placed full-frontal like that seen in the Berry-Hill, Soule and Hever portrait’s.  The Philip portrait appears to sit directly in the middle of both the Berry-Hill and Clopton portraits, and it could be argued that Clopton portrait was an altered version of the Philip portrait.  The x-ray of Philip Mould’s copy, which shows a slightly altered full-frontal version beneath the painted surface only strengthens this claim.

It may also be possible that the Philip portrait was in turn a ‘pimped up’ version of the Berry-Hill portrait, created by an artist from an early portrait, possibly taken when Elizabeth was still Princess, to make Elizabeth look more regal due to a lack of access to the new Queen and a high demand for her image. If indeed all the sitters in the Berry-Hill, Soule and Hever portrait are the same individual then this would most defiantly tip the scales towards them all depicting Elizabeth.  It could also be argued that 1563 proclamation refers to the Philip and Berry-Hill type rather the Clopton pattern. If Stephan Edwards theory is correct, and the Berry-Hill portrait is the earliest example then there does appear to be a dramatic decline in artistic detail with the subsequent later copies. The 1563 proclamation may possibly be the reason why so fewer copies exist of the full-frontal pattern.  Further research and discussion is most definitely needed into this small group of portraits to identify once and for all if there is any possible connection to Queen Elizabeth and the true identity of the sitter in the Berry-Hill portrait.

UPDATE: 16th November 2021

After being missing for over a decade, the Berry-Hill portrait has finally resurfaced and is due to be sold by Butterscotch Auctioneers, Bedford Village, New York. The sale is to take place on Sunday 21st November at 10am. Item 209 is listed as a portrait of Mary Queen of Scots from a private collection in Scarsdale, New York.

The Berry Hill Portrait
Oil on Panel
12 1/2 x 9 inches

UPDATE: 22nd November 2021

Lot 209 sold for 120.000 dollar’s to an unknown buyer. The portrait was by far the most successful item in the auction and appeared to have sparked a lot of interest from potential buyers. Unfortunately, for now we will just have to wait and see if the new owner is willing to have the portrait scientifically tested to once and for all solve the riddle of the sitters identity.

Both myself and Stephan Edwards differ in opinion as to who the sitter is, however, this is not uncommon within the field of art history. Click the link below to view his most recent article on the Berry Hill portrait.

http://somegreymatter.com/berryhill.htm


[1] Philip. Richard, De-frocking a Flapper Girl, De-Frocking a Flapper Girl | Richard Philp, accesses June 2021

[2] Christie’s Auction Catalouge, Friday March 23rd 1979, lot 155, page 103

[3] Philip. Richard, De-frocking a Flapper Girl, De-Frocking a Flapper Girl | Richard Philp, accesses June 2021

[4] The Philip Portrait first appeared at Christie’s auction in March of 1979. It was subsequently sold again by Sotheby’s in December 2008.  Both catalogues for the sales list similarities between the Philip Portrait and other early iconography of Queen Elizabeth I.

[5]Arnold. Janet, The Coronation Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, The Burlington Magazine, Vol.120, No. 908, Page 727. See also Golding. Elizabeth, Nicholas Hilliard Life of An Artist, Yale University Press, 2019, Page :244-247

[6] O’Donoghue. Freeman, A Descriptive and Classified Catalogue of Portraits of Queen Elizabeth, Dryden Press, 1894, Page ix-x

[7] NPG 4449; Queen Elizabeth I – conservation research – National Portrait Gallery, accessed July 2021

[8] Grosvenor. Bendor, Philip Mould Fine Paintings Catalogue, London 2010

[9] Edwards. John Stephan, A Queen of a New Invention The Portraits of Lady Jane Grey/Dudley, old John Publishing, Page: 157-167

[10] Edwards. John Stephan, A Queen of a New Invention The Portraits of Lady Jane Grey/Dudley, old John Publishing, Page: 157-167

[11] Strong. Roy, Portraits of Queen Elizabeth, Oxford Press, 1963, Page: 53-54

The Brocklebank/Taylor Portrait

During a recent visit to the Heinz Archive in London, I came across a collection of letters written in 1917 concerning a portrait of Lady Jane Grey.  All three letters were addressed to James Milner, the then director of the National Portrait Gallery and were written by a R. Brocklebank of Houghton Hall in Cheshire. 

Upon locating these I instantly thought, “great, I have another new portrait search to get my teeth into.”  Sadly, it turns out that the actual painting was sitting right under my nose all the time, and all I had discovered was some new provenance information regarding a portrait already known to us.

R. Brocklebank, or Ralph Brocklebank as he is better known, was a wealthy shipowner and art collector who purchased Houghton Hall in the nineteenth century and had it rebuilt between 1891 and 1894 to house his valuable collection of art.  In his first letter written on 27th July 1917, Brocklebank reports ownership of a portrait thought to depict Lady Jane Grey and suggests that he would like to leave it on his death to the gallery.  He reports that he purchased the painting from a picture shop on Bond Street in 1892 and requests a meeting during his next visit to London so the gallery could view the portrait themselves.  Brocklebank also informs the gallery that his portrait is oil on panel, measuring 10 x 7 ¾ inches, and is thought to be by the school of Clouet.  A photograph of the actual painting is also supplied with the letter, but this was no longer stored with the documents in the archive.[1]

Fortunately, Ralph Brocklebank had a book published in 1904 documenting his collection of over 150 paintings and engravings held at Houghton Hall.  Within this book is a portrait referred to as representing Lady Jane Grey by the school of Clouet.  Item number 39 is discussed and a detailed description of the painting is also given. 

Portrait of Lady Jane Grey

School of Clouet

Portrait (bust) of Lady Jane Grey, with face turned to the right.  She is handsomely attired in the fashionable costume of the period. A high, close-fitting ruff reaches to her ears, entirely concealing her neck.  Her hair is pulled back from her forehead, and covered by a jewelled net.  The collar of her elaborately braided doublet reaches as high as the ruff, and spreads out on either side, showing a gold collar, heavily gemmed, from which a large jewelled pendant hangs on her breast.  A portrait in The National Portrait Gallery, by Lucas de Heere (No. 764) confirms the truth of this likeness.[2]

It appears that the portrait remained in Broclebank’s collection until his death in 1921.  No documentation has been located within The National Portrait Galleries archives to identify that his portrait was left to the gallery upon his death, as suggested in his first letter, and it may be possible that upon viewing the actual portrait it was decided that it was not something the gallery wanted in their collection.  The portrait again appears in 1922 in the Christie’s auction catalouge for the sale of Ralph Brocklebank’s collection, but rather than  being described as a portrait of Lady Jane Grey as seen in the earlier book, it is referred to as a portrait of a lady said to represent Lady Jane Grey.  This suggests that the gallery may have informed Brocklebank that the painting may not represent Lady Jane Grey in the first place.  

Portrait of a Lady

(Said to represent Lady Jane Grey)

In white dress, with high collar and linen ruff, richly jewelled necklace and head-dress

On panel – 10 in. by 7 ½ [3]

On completion of the sale, the portrait was purchased by a E. Brock for the sum of £28.8 shillings and thus, I thought the trail ran dry. 

When discussing the various portraits associated with Jane Grey, one of my main goals is to locate an image of the portrait so that the painting can actually be seen by the person reading this article.  Unfortunately, in some cases a photographic image may not have been taken or, as with the Brocklebank portrait, the image may have been lost during the passage of time.  Many thousands of photographs of portraits are held within the various boxes at the Heinz archive, and it would literally be like attempting to find a needle in a haystack when looking for the missing Brocklebank photograph.  In all honesty I had come to terms with just adding this particular portrait to the Auction/collections page on this website.  I did, however, manage to find the photograph, and as discussed above it had been sitting under my nose all the time.

After reading Carter’s 1904 description and attempting a frantic internet search in the hope of a portrait matching this, it suddenly came to mind that I had seen this painting before.  It is discussed in Stephan Edward’s book A Queen of a New Invention Portraits of Lady Jane Grey as the Taylor portrait.  Edwards concludes that this image is unfortunately not a portrait of Lady Jane Grey, but a portrait probably of Elizabeth of Austria and that the provenance discussed in the 1998 sales catalouge for this painting contributed nothing useful.[4]  As  Edwards reports, this portrait was sold by Christie’s, London on 12th November 1998 and was described in the catalouge as a portrait of a Lady, previously identified as Lady Jane Grey.  The catalouge also records that the portrait was once in the collection of A.M and B Taylor, but nothing more is mentioned regarding the provenance for this image during the sale.[5]

The Taylor Portrait
Called Lady Jane Grey, Perhaps Elizabeth of Austria
Oil on Wood Panel
10 x 8 inches
© Private Collection

Upon accessing my own file on the Taylor Portrait, I came across a photocopy of an old image of the portrait located in the artist box for Francios Clouet at Heinz Archive.  Over the years, the gallery have used the back of this image to scribble various notes regarding the portrait in pencil and seen in the centre of this is writing made in ink identifying the sitter as supposed to be Lady Jane Grey, written in the same handwriting as the letter from Ralph Brocklebank.

It appears that this is the lost photograph which accompanied the Brocklebank letters sent to James Milner in 1917 and though most definitely not a portrait of Lady Jane Grey these letters do provide more provenance for this painting and its one time association with her.  


[1] Heinz Archive, NPG 104/8/2, Correspondence Received 1917, accessed July 2019

[2] Carter. R. Radcliffe, Pictures & Engravings at Houghton Hall Tarporley in The Possession of Ralph Brocklebank, 1904, Item 39.  My sincere thanks to the staff at the library of the University of Dundee for assisting me with gaining access to this book.

[3] Christies Auction Catalouge, 7th July 1922, lot 80.  My sincere thanks to Simona Dolari of Christie’s auction house for providing me with the information regarding this sale.

[4] Edwards. John Stephan, A Queen of a New Invention Portraits of Lady Jane Grey, Old John Publishing, 2015, page 99

[5] Christie’s Auction Catalouge, 12th November 1998, lot 4

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.