The Twitter Portrait – Is It Lady Jane Grey?

In the autumn of 2020, a rather interesting photographic image of a portrait appeared on social media.  The photograph was originally posted as a portrait of Lady Jane Grey on the website of the restoration company Fine Art Conservation, Columbia.  Sadly, the actual image did not show the portrait in its entirety but was a detailed shot showing the neck and chin area of the sitter before and after restoration work had taken place.[1]

Detail Image
Before and After Restoration
©Fine Arts Conservation, Columbia

On seeing this image, I instantly became intrigued:  firstly, because this was a portrait that had gone unnoticed by myself and others who have studied the iconography of Lady Jane Grey. Secondly, because the brief glimpse that we had been given initially filled me with a little hope that this painting may indeed be an authentic likeness or one of the many lost portrait that have been associated with Jane in the past.  

I immediately contacted the restoration company and requested further information and a photographic image of the full portrait.  The company responded quickly and informed me that due to client confidentiality they were unfortunately unable to fulfil my request.

Thankfully, I did not have to wait long before an image of the full portrait appeared on the social networking site Twitter.  The tweet displayed an image of the painting in its unrestored state and reported that the portrait had been associated with the sixteenth century artist William Scrots. The writer also raised questions as to who the sitter in this painting could possibly be.  It was very quickly identified that the portrait posted on Twitter matched the portrait displayed on the Restoration company’s website claiming to depict Lady Jane Grey.

Unknown Lady
Oil on Oval Panel
22 1/6 x 17 1/8 inches
©Private Collection

As seen from the image of the portrait it depicts a female, painted above the waist, before a plain dark background.  The sitter is facing the viewer’s left and has brown eyes and a rather large flat nose.  Her hair is brown in colour and is parted in the centre.  On her head she wears a French hood of white fabric over a coif cap.  The hood is constructed with both upper and lower billiaments of goldsmith work and a black veil is also seen hanging down behind the sitter.  Her costume is constructed of a plain black fabric and the bodice of her dress is cut square at the neckline.  Under this, the sitter wears a high-necked chemise of a white fine fabric, with a small frill at the collar.  The chemise has been embroidered with the use of gold and black thread.  Around her neck, she wears a long gold chain that hangs down the front of her bodice and an open partlet with a convex edge is worn over the shoulders.    

So, the question is, could this portrait possibly depict Lady Jane Grey? My initial thought was that the Twitter portrait could possibly be one of the lost portraits supposed to depict Lady Jane Grey.  One particular portrait that has not yet, been located is known as the Handford Portrait.  This was exhibited in the Old Masters Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in 1880.  A detailed description of the Handford portrait is provided in the catalogue for the exhibition and identifies that the sitter does indeed wears a ‘black dress trimmed with gold and a gold chain around her neck’.  The description of the Handford portrait also refers to ‘a gold chain at the waist and the hands clasped in front’.  Since the girdle chain and sitter’s hands are mentioned in this description and do not appear in the Twitter portrait, we must then presume that the Twitter portrait is a separate painting altogether.[2]

When it comes to the iconography of Lady Jane Grey I am always a little sceptical with just accepting an individual’s word that a portrait does in fact depict her. We have seen with many other portrait’s associated as depicting her that the majority have turned out to be doubtful and have only been associated with Jane Grey due to the high public demand for her image and a possible connection in the symbolism or the plain costume depicted.

To attempt to establish if there is any possible connection to Jane Grey, I feel we need to look at the provenance connected to the Twitter portrait. Due to the events of 2020, I have had limited access to the archives, galleries and museums that may hold some of this information.  The first written documentation I have located for this painting is an auction catalogue from 1989.  The portrait was sold on 14th April at Christie’s Auction House London and appeared as lot number 98 in the sale.  The catalogue lists the portrait as an ‘unknown lady’ and associates its creator to William Scrots.  There is no record of the portrait’s provenance or any previous association with Lady Jane Grey discussed as part of the description for this lot.

The catalogue description does mention that ‘Sir Roy Strong attributes this portrait to the same hand as that of the portraits of King Edward VI and Princess Elizabeth in the Royal Collection’. Christie’s reference Roy Strong’s book The English Icon Elizabethan and Jacobean Portraiture, published in 1969 as the source of their information.[3]

Edward VI
Associated with William Scrots
©Royal Collection
Elizabeth When Princess
Associated with William Scrots
©Royal Collection

William Scrots did indeed work at the English Royal court and records detailing payments for his service can be traced up until the death of King Edward VI. It is not exactly known what happened to him after 1553, however, it is traditionally thought that he left England or died. [4]

As stated in the auction catalogue, the two portraits held in the Royal Collection are associated with the hand of William Scrots.  Both portraits, appear to be of a finer quality and contain remarkable detail in the facial features and costumes than that seen in the Twitter portrait. If Sir Roy Strong did indeed come to the conclusion that the Twitter portrait was also by the same hand, then it is hard to see how. It also appears that the auction house may have their sources muddled slightly, as there is no mention of the Twitter portrait or its association with William Scrots in Roy Strong’s book The English Icon.   From the Price list detailing the items sold at the Christie’s sale, the Twitter portrait appears to have been unsold and it was highly likely returned to its anonymous owner.

On seeing the photographic image of the full portrait, I instantly doubted the association with William Scrots as the portrait reminded me of the work of Pieter Pourbus, an artist working in the Netherlands in the sixteenth century. The over partlet, worn around the sitter’s shoulders has the distinctive convex shape to the bottom edge and is worn open at the front and pinned to the bodice.  This is not consistent with the square, box shaped partlet’s worn closed at the front to create a fashionable V-shaped collar worn by English ladies of the 1550’s.  This style of the partlet seen in the Twitter portrait is more consistent with the style of partlets worn in the Netherlands and is depicted in many of the portraits or female sitters painted by Pieter Pourbus.

Pieter Pourbus
Portrait of a Young Women
Oil on Panel
©Public Domain
Pieter Pourbus
Portrait of Jacquemyne Buuck
©Public Domain

The Twitter portrait appears again in 2010, when it was sold as part of a sale on 7th July at Bonhams Auction House London.  The catalogue for this sale refers to the sitter once again as ‘a portrait of a Lady’, however, by 2010 the artist association had been changed from William Scrots to Netherlandish School.  Once again, this sale does not mention any previous association with Lady Jane Grey in the catalogue listing and the portrait eventually sold for £18.000.[5]

In conclusion I am unable to find any connection to Lady Jane Grey recorded in any of the documentation related to this portrait. I find it hard to believe that if the portrait had been auctioned along with documentation connecting Jane as a possible sitter then why did the auction houses not mention this in the auction details provided and merely referred to the sitter as  ‘An Unknown Lady’.

As discussed above and in my opinion, I am inclined to agree with Bonham’s Auctions that the portrait was possibly created in the Netherlands and not England. The modern provenance related to this painting suggests that the portrait was identified as Jane Grey after it was last sold in 2010 and may just be an association made by the current owner themselves.  I would be very interested to here from the current owner of this portrait in the hope that further information that may have come along with the portrait may solve this riddle once and for all. 


[1] Painting Conservation and Art Collections Management (fineartconservationsunshinecoast.ca) accessed 20.11.2020

[2] Royal Academy of Arts, Old Masters Exhibition, 1880, page 32

[3] Christie’s Auction House, Important British Pictures, Friday 14th April 1987, Page 152-153

[4] Gaunt, William. Court Painting in England. London: Constable, 1980

[5] Bonhams Auctions, Old Master Paintings, 7th July 2010, Lot 3




The Lyndhurst Portrait

Anne Boleyn
Oil on Panel
22 ½ x 17 inches
©National Trust for Historic Preservation

Object Description:

This painting is executed in oil on a wooden panel and measures in whole 22 ½ x 17 inches.   The painting depicts the head and upper torso of an adult female who appears before a plain brown background.  The sitter is placed behind a red cushion or cloth that has been embroidered with the use of gold thread.  She is turned slightly to the viewers left. 

Her face is oval, with a high forehead.  Her hair is brown in colour, appears straight, and is worn parted in the centre of the crown and pulled back over her ears and under her coif.  Her eyes are brown in colour and her eyebrows are thin and arched.  The nose is slightly arched with a high bridge and her lips are small and thin.  The use of a pink tone has been added to the sitter’s cheekbones and bridge of her nose. 

The sitter’s costume includes a French hood, ending just below the jawline.  This is constructed of black fabric that includes the use of an upper and lower billiment of pearls; thirty-four pearls can be seen in the lower billiament and forty-three pearls have been depicted on the upper billiment.  A black veil is also seen hanging down at the back of the hood and under this the sitter wears a gold coif.  At her neck she wears two strings of pearls with a large letter B pendant of goldsmith work with three hanging pearls suspended from the upper necklace.  A gold chain constructed of circular loops is also seen at the neck, which falls and disappears into the front of the sitter’s bodice.  The gown itself is constructed of a black fabric, cut square at the neck and a chemise, embroidered with blackwork protrudes along the entire bodice margin. The hint of a kirtle made of brown fabric and embellished with forty-six pearls and twenty-two buttons of goldsmith work is also seen around the neckline of the bodice.  Large brown fur sleeves can be seen at the bottom edge of the panel. 

Inscription:

An inscription applied across the top of the panel in a bright yellow pigment identifies the sitter as ANNA REGINA VXOR 2A H 8 or Anna Queen, 2nd wife of Henry 8.

Detail Showing Inscription

Labels and other inscriptions:

A typed label has been applied to the reverse of the panel which reads

 ‘1236 Portrait of Queen Anne Boleyn/ by a Netherlands Master/ of the 16th century/ Stamped seal on back reads/ [  ] chutz. [ ] Zentrelstello [ ]/ Label on back reads/ Invent No. 1236 Preis 712007/ Anne Boleyn/ Von Johennes Corvus, Eng. ad. 1520/ Gutachten Von.’

Artist Association:

The label attached to the reverse of the panel associates the Flemish born painter Johannes Corvus as the artist who created the Lyndhurst portrait.  Born in 1490, Corvus is documented as working in England in the 1520’s and in France. He died in 1545 and a small number of works associated with him are still in collections today.[1]

Condition:

From the high-resolution photograph provided, the panel support appears to be in rather good condition.  The painted surface of the portrait does have some minor paint loss to the face, costume and background and the layer of varnish has discoloured over time.  The painting sits within a frame of moulded gilt with painted geometric designs, this in turn sits within a larger frame of painted wood and red velvet.   

Provenance Information:

The Lyndhurst portrait was purchased on June 7th, 1940 by Anna Gould, Duchess of Talleyrand-Perigord from the Meredith Galleries.  A copy of the bill of sale, recording the purchase of this painting and detailing the amount paid is currently held among the documents in the Lyndhurst archive.[2] 

Anna inherited the Lyndhurst estate on the death of her sister in 1938, however only maintained the estate as a country home and opted to live primarily at a hotel in New York.  Anna died in 1961 and bequeathed the Lyndhurst estate and the portrait to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  The Lyndhurst portrait of Anne Boleyn can now be seen today in the Star Bedroom on the second floor of the house. 

Discussion:

Two potential portraits of significance to the Lyndhurst portrait of Anne Boleyn are a portrait of Catherine of Aragon recently sold by the Philip Mould Gallery and another of Jane Seymour currently held in the collection of Fine Arts Museums in San Francisco. 

Catherine of Aragon
Oil on Panel
© Private Collection
Jane Seymour
Oil on Panel
© Fine Arts Museums in San Francisco

Both these portraits appear to have once belonged to part of a larger set of paintings and stylistically both show the naive painting style seen in the Lyndhurst portrait.  All three sitters are seen in an identical composition and are placed behind the embroidered cloth and depicted in front of a plain background.  The portrait of Jane Seymour appears to have been overpainted at some point during its history, however, both paintings have been associated with the artists Johannes Corvus in the past.

All three paintings would benefit from some scientific investigation to a establish a date of creation, origin, and the possible connection that they were all created by the same artist as part of a larger set of portraits depicting King Henry VIII queens. 

A further interesting aspect of the Lyndhurst portrait is the pattern used to create it.  This appears to be almost identical to another portrait of Anne Boleyn sold by the Howard Young Galleries.  The Howard portrait is also painted on panel and is of identical measurements to the Lyndhurst portrait. Unfortunately, this copy has vanished from public record and has not been seen since it was last photographed in 1926.  

Anne Boleyn
Oil on Panel
22 ½ x 17 inches
©National Trust for Historic Preservation
Anne Boleyn
Oil on Panel
22 ½ x 17 inches
© Frick Art Reference Library, New York
Howard Young Inscription Detail
Enhanced Image of Howard Portrait Inscription showing faint letter ‘A’ above the number 2

A detailed photographic image of the Howard portrait is now held in the Frick Art Reference Library, New York.  From this image, we can see that both paintings contain an identical inscription and the composition of the sitter is also identical.  The Howard portrait does appear to have been painted by a more skilled artist than the artist who produced the Lyndhurst portrait, however, this cannot be known for certain until the Howard portrait is located. [3]

There are two possible theories to explain the similarities between both of these portraits.  The first is, that both are separate paintings, painted with the use of an identical pattern that was applied to the panel surface, by the artist, prior to painting.

The second theory is that the Lyndhurst portrait is, in fact, the Howard Portrait which had been heavily overpainted before 1926, when photographed by the Howard Young Galleries.  The photograph itself does suggest that an element of overpainting work has been completed, specifically, on the background.  As seen in the magnified image below, a thick black line can be seen between the edge of Anne’s French hood and the lighter background colour. This suggests that the original background colour of this portrait may possibly have been darker in colour and closer to that seen the Lyndhurst version.

Howard Young-Detail

It is possible that the Lyndhurst portrait may have undergone some restoration and cleaning work in an effort to return it back to its original painted surface prior to the portrait being purchased by the Meredith Gallery and subsequently selling it to Anna Gould. 

Email communication with Lyndhurst has confirmed that their portrait has not undergone any conservation work since it was bequeathed to the Trust in 1961.[4]  As discussed above, the Howard Young Portrait has vanished from public record. I have conducted a thorough search, in an attempt to locate the current whereabouts of this version, however, I have been unable to uncover any documentation concerning this portrait after 1926, when it was photographed by the gallery.

Until the lost Howard Young portrait reappears, I am currently in favour of the second theory being the most plausible one.


[1] Campbell. Gordon, The Oxford Dictionary of the Renaissance, Oxford University Press, 2003

[2] Email communication between the author and Specialist Project Assistant, dated 18th May 2020

[3] Frick Art Reference Library, Holbein the Younger, Hans 622-12h, accessed May 2020

[4] Email communication between the author and Specialist Project Assistant, dated 17th September 2020

The B Pattern: The Belmont Portrait

The Belmont Portrait
Anne Boleyn
Oil on Wooden Panel
20 x 14 ½ inches
©The Frick Art Reference Library, New York

The Belmont Portrait is one of the more vague and seldom seen images of Anne Boleyn based on the B Pattern.  This specific portrait is named in this study after one of its documented owners and as far as I am aware, it has never before been published, nor has it ever been exhibited in any gallery or museum. 

The portraits existence is purely known through a selection of old black and white images held in the Frick Art Reference Library, New York.  This is probably the first ever effort to study this painting and its connection to other portraits utilising the B Pattern in a scholarly manner.

Object Description:

The painting is executed in oil on a wooden panel and measures 20 x 14 ½ inches.   The portrait depicts the head and upper torso of an adult female who appears before a plain dark background.  She is turned slightly to the viewers left, though her eyes engage the viewer directly.  Her face is oval in shape, with a high forehead.  Her hair is dark in colour, appears straight, and is worn parted in the centre of the crown and pulled back over her ears and under her headwear.  Her eyes appear dark in colour and her eyebrows are thin and arched.  The nose is straight with a high bridge and her lips are small and thin. 

The sitter’s costume includes a French hood, ending just below the jawline.  This is constructed with the use of black fabric that includes the use of an upper and lower billiment of pearls.  A black veil is also seen hanging down at the back.  At her neck she wears two strings of pearls with a large letter B pendant of goldsmith work and three hanging pearls suspended from the upper necklace.  A gold chain is also seen at the neck, that falls and disappears into the front of the sitter’s bodice.  The gown itself is constructed of a dark fabric with what appears to be the hint of large fur sleeves, seen at the bottom edges of the portrait.  The upper edge of the bodice is cut squared and a chemise, embroidered with blackwork protrudes along the entire bodice margin.  

There are no identifying inscriptions readily visible on the painted surface and no photograph of the reverse of the painting is available.

Artist Attribution:

Documented as Flemish School

Provenance:

As highlighted above, very little is known regarding the early provenance for this particular portrait.  An information sheet, stored along with the old photographic images in the Frick Library does inform us that the portrait was once in the collection of a Mrs Belmont and that it was purchased form her by a Malcom Sands Wilson of New York.  It is also recorded that the old black and white photographic images of this portrait were acquired for the Frick Collection in the April of 1936 form Mrs Belmont.

Discussion:

This portrait’s current location remains unknown, at this point in time.  As far as I am aware the painting has not undergone any scientific investigation to establish a date of production or place of origin, so no precise date can be documented.  From the records held in the Frick Collection it does appear that the painting was deemed significant enough to undergo some restoration techniques.[1]  The restoration work was completed by William Hisgrove of New York in 1936 and a photographic image which was taken of the portrait before this took place clearly shows the that later overpaint, and old varnish was removed were removed during this process.  This suggests that the portrait was possibly of a significant age when the restoration work was completed.

The Belmont Portrait
Prior to Restoration Work
©The Frick Art Reference Library, New York

In my opinion, what is significant about the Belmont Portrait it that, of the many copies related to the B pattern, this, is probably the closest in comparison to the portrait in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London. 

This copy, Known as NPG668, was purchased by the Gallery in 1882 and will be discussed in later part of this study.[2]  All portrait relating to the B pattern have significant differences in the finer details which are applied by the artist. Though slightly bigger in size, the facial feature seen in NPG668 are noticeably similar to those depicted in the Belmont Copy.  The blackwork design depicted on the chemise, worn under the sitter’s bodice is also depicted in an identical manner.

It is my opinion that, the Belmont portrait is of significant interest, due to it similarities to NPG668.  It would certainly be interesting if The National Portrait Gallery where able to locate the Belmont paintings current whereabouts and attempt to clarify if indeed there is any possible connection between the two portraits.      


[1]Frick Art Reference Library, New York, https://arcade.nyarc.org/record=b1512889~S1, accessed August 2020

[2] See NPG668 Object File for More information.

New Project Announcement!

Anne Boleyn: The B Pattern

Introduction:

Anne Boleyn was the second Queen of Henry VIII, she was executed in 1536, and she is arguably one of the more popular figures in Tudor history today.  Similar to Lady Jane Grey, many portraits have been associated with Anne’s name over the course of time.  None have produced the documentation to conclusively prove an identification and Anne continues to go without a portrait painted from life to this day.

One of the most famous depictions of Anne is what I refer to as the B pattern. This image has been extensively reproduced in history books when discussing Anne’s story.   The B pattern depicts a lady wearing a black French Hood and a pearl necklace with a gold letter ‘B’ hanging from it.  All surviving portraits were probably produced as part of portrait sets illustrating Kings and Queens of England, but what I find interesting about these portrait’s, is, we know so little about them.

During the latter half of the sixteenth century it had become popular for ‘portrait sets’ to be produced.  These sets were often displayed in public places, in galleries, in homes across Tudor England and in some of the royal palaces occupied by the Monarch.  Portrait sets were not only produced to document historic figures, but also demonstrated loyalty to a specific cause.  As the mother of the Reigning Monarch, Elizabeth I, Anne was often depicted within the sets as the wife of Henry VIII. 

Portrait sets were created in workshops and required a lesser skilled artist than the Great Masters who were probably commissioned to paint the original, thus making them cheaper and more accessible to the individual living in Tudor England.  An image was often derived from a standard pattern of an individual, based on an existing image, description, engraving or in some circumstances a tomb effigy.  These could be used by the workshops to quickly trace the desired image on to a wooden panel so that the portrait could be produced as quickly and effectively as possible.[1]

A small number of portraits based on the B pattern and dated to the end of sixteenth century still exist today.  Some are in public galleries whilst others remain in private collections across the world.  Most of the individual portraits depicting Anne, first appear in documentation during the turn of the twentieth century, with little known regarding there provenance prior to this.   

The B pattern was most certainly accepted as an image of Anne Boleyn during the latter half of the sixteenth century.  As for what source it was based on, in truth, we do not really know today. The purpose of this study is to look at the surviving collection of portraits depicting Anne that derive from the B pattern.  In compiling this study, I hope to establish a better understanding about the production of ‘portrait sets’, and the use of Anne’s image. I hope to Look at each portrait as an individual, in the hope of establishing some sort of database of information concerning each portrait.  Where possible I will attempt to document information relating specifically to the date and provenance of each image in the hope of ascertaining more information and identifying a possible sequence in which the portraits were painted.      


[1] For more information on the production and use of portrait sets see: Daunt. Catherine, Portraits Sets in Tudor and Jacobean England, May 2015

The Frick Portrait


Gabrielle de Rochechouart
(previously called Lady Jane Grey)
Corneille de Lyon
Oil on Panel
©The Frick Art Museum  

Another portrait which has in the past been associated with Lady Jane Grey is currently in the collection of the Frick Art Museum, Pennsylvania.  Today, the museum rightfully lists the sitter as Gabrielle de Rochechouart, Lady Lansac as there appears to be more evidence to support this identification than the sitters previous identification.

The painting depicts a lady facing the viewer’s left and painted to just above the waist. She wears a bodice of black fabric cut square at the neck with small puff sleeves, decorated with pearls.  A partlet of white fabric with a small ruffle is seen at her neck, and over her shoulders the sitter wears the fur of an animal. The sitter wears a large chain of goldsmith work around her neck and pearls and suspended from this is a large jewel containing one gemstone. Pinned to the front of her bodice is a large jewel containing three gemstones and one large hanging pearl. On her head she wears a French hood constructed with the same fabric used for her fitted sleeves. Upper and lower billiaments consisting of goldsmith work and pearls are attached to the hood, and a black veil is seen hanging down the sitters back.

Nothing is known regarding the early provenance for this portrait or how the image became identified as a portrait of Lady Jane Grey. The first record I have been able to locate regarding this portrait and its one-time association with Lady Jane Grey is an auction catalouge for a sale at Christie’s Auction House, London on 28th February 1930. The portrait was listed among the vast collection of antiques and paintings from the collection of a Barnet Lewis Esq.  Lewis died in 1929 and his collection was subsequently sold off at auction. The Frick painting is described in this catalouge as

Lot 94. Lucas De Heere, Portrait of Lady Jane Grey.

In a black dress, with yellow sleeves and jewel ornaments. Oil on panel – 6 ½ in. by 5 ¼ in.[1]

The description given in the catalouge differs from with what is seen in the portrait today. As listed above, the description states that the sitter wears yellow sleeves, however, when purchased by the current owner, it was apparent that the portrait had been heavily over painted during its history. Recent restoration work has taken place on the painting to remove the discoloured varnish and overpaint, resulting in the colour of the sitter’s sleeves being taken back to the original intended colour of pink.

The Frick Portrait
(prior to restoration)
©The Frick Art Museum  

The artist associated with the creation of the portrait, in the 1930 catalouge, is also inconsistent with the dates surrounding Jane Grey’s life. The Flemish painter Lucas de Heere (1534-1584) fled the Netherlands for England to escape religious persecution. He is first recorded in England in 1566, much later than Jane’s death in February 1554, so he is highly unlikely to have painted an authentic portrait of Lady Jane Grey.[2]

The portrait entered the Frick collection when it was purchased from the Wildenstein Galleries, New York by Helen Frick on 16th April 1931.[3]  On entering the collection, the painting was installed in the Librarian’s Office of the Frick Art Reference Library. The identification of the sitter as Lady Jane Grey was immediately challenged, and the Frick portrait was compared to another identical copy once in the collection of the Duke of Sutherland at Stafford House.

Gabrielle de Rochechouart
Corneille de Lyon
Oil on Panel
©Musee Conde

This copy had been donated in 1897 to The Musee Conde by Henri d’Orléans, Duke of Aumale and along with other paintings from the Duke of Sutherlands collection had been associated with the Dutch artist Corneille de Lyon.

Corneille de Lyon was actively working in France from the 1530’s until his death in 1575. He was nationalised as French in 1547 and was employed as the painter to the king under Henry II and Charles IX.  Frustratingly, de Lyon did not sign or date his work, so although this artist is widely documented within sixteenth century records, very few works can be reliably associated with his hand today. [4]

The panel surface of the portrait in The Musee Conde’s collection has been extended, at a later date to include the early inscription detailing the sitters name as GABRIELE. DE. ROCHECHOART. DAME. DE. LANSAC.[5]  It was therefore decided by the curators of the Frick collection that their identical copy must also depict the same individual and not Lady Jane Grey.


[1] Christie, Manson & Woods, London. Catalogue of the Important Collection of Ancient and Modern Pictures and Water Colour Drawings: The Property of the Late Barnet Lewis, Esq, page 19

[2] Strong. Roy, Gloriana The Portraits of Queen Elizabeth I, Pimlico, 2003, page 71

[3] Fazio. Carl Vincent, Helen Clay Flick: Architectural Patron & Art Collector, University of Pittsburgh, 1998, page 36

[4] For the most up to date record of work associated with Corneille de Loyn see Dubois de Groer. Anne, Corneille de Lyon, Arthena, Paris, 2003

[5] Dubois de Groer. Anne, Corneille de Lyon, Arthena, Paris, 2003, Page 215

The Skeffington Portrait

Research into sixteenth century portraiture is a complex but fascinating subject. In many cases, the search starts with the surviving painting itself and then continues with the search for any written documentation concerning its provenance and any clues to the possible identification of the sitter.

When discussing portraits that have a history of approximately four hundred and fifty years behind them, it must be remembered that it is hard today to discover a portrait that has not been altered in some shape or form.  Over the years the original painted surface of a portrait may have been repainted due to bad restoration or over cleaning.  Inscriptions and coats of arms may also have been added at a later period in time, and in some cases the composition, original inscriptions and signatures may have been cut down to enable the portrait to fit in a new frame.

In the case of the Skeffington portrait, much of the above has happened.  This portrait has also been identified as at least four separate individuals during its modern recorded history.  Three out of the four sitters suggested have all faced execution, and today the portrait is now identified as an unknown lady.  

Our first documented record regarding this portrait’s survival is a book in the collection of the Society of Antiquaries, London.  This book contains copies of minutes of meetings held by the society during the nineteenth century and records that a portrait thought to depict Lady Jane Grey was presented to the Society by Sir William Skeffington on 6th February 1806.[1]

The portrait presented depicts a lady, seen to just below the waist and facing the viewer’s left.  Both hands are clasped in front of the sitter, and four gold rings can be seen on her fingers.   The sitter has grey eyes and auburn hair that is parted in the middle.  On her head, she wears a French hood constructed of crimson and white fabric with both upper and lower billaments of goldsmith work.  A black veil is also seen hanging down from the back of the hood, and under this she wears a gold coif.  A black loose gown with a fur collar and mutton leg sleeves is worn by the sitter and is fastened to the waist.  Under this the hint of a crimson kirtle is seen, and at her neck and wrists the sitter wears a figure-of-eight ruff which is embroidered with red thread.  The lady also wears a pendant of goldsmith work containing three square cut gemstones and three pearls suspended at her neck.  She is depicted in front of a plain background, and the image is painted on wooden panel.

Unknown Lady Called Anne Askew
Oil on Panel
27 x 21 inches
Associated with Hans Eworth
©The National Trust

Sir William Farrell-Skeffington adopted the Skeffington name in 1786 and inherited the fifteenth century manor house Skeffington Hall in East Leicester.  Prior to his death he began to sell objects off from the estate and eventually sold the house, land and contents in July 1814.[2]

Skeffington presented the painting for sale to the Reverend John Brand, Secretary of the society of Antiquaries. He informed the Society that the portrait represented Lady Jane Grey and was painted by Lucas de Heere.  No information is provided in the minutes of this meeting to inform us why Skeffington thought the portrait was a depiction of Lady Jane, and no information concerning the paintings provenance was recorded.  It appears that Mr Brand immediately challenged Skeffington’s identification as a painting of Jane Grey, noting that a fragment of an inscription can be seen on the top left-hand side of the panel surface which identified the date that the portrait was painted as 1560.  Brand rightfully recalled that the date painted on the surface did not coincide with the death of Lady Jane Grey and suggested that the portrait must in fact represent Jane’s mother Lady Frances Brandon, with Brand noting that she died in 1563.[3]   

One possible reason for the misidentification as a portrait of Lady Jane Grey is the inscription seen on the right-hand side of the panel surface.  This inscription reads ‘Rather deathe / than false of Faythe,’ which suggest that the sitter depicted would rather die or may possibly have died as a result of religious conflict.  The inscription itself appears to have been painted in a slightly different shade of yellow than the other one detailing the year and artists initials on the left side.  This suggests that one of the inscriptions was possibly added at a later date, though scientific testing would be required to establish if this theory is correct.

There is a popular tradition that Queen Mary offered Jane a pardon if she was willing to convert to Roman Catholicism. The tradition appears to have emerged shortly after Jane’s death as a way for Protestants to promote Jane’s dedication to the Protestant cause even when faced with death.  There is no surviving evidence to document that Jane was ever offered an actual pardon if she would convert, but there was indeed an effort made to get her to convert

Jane was visited by John Feckenham, Queen Mary’s personal chaplain, on 8th Feburary 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 a pardon because the Spanish demanded that Jane die as a condition of the marriage between Mary and Philip of Spain. Her execution had originally been set for the following day.  Mary was able to try to save Jane’s immortal soul, however, and she sent Feckenham to see Jane with that specific task, to try and convert Jane to Catholicism prior to her death.

Jane’s execution was postponed for three days, and a debate was had between Feckenham and Jane which resulted in Jane staying strong to the Protestant faith rather than relinquishing it.  This debate was recorded and apparently signed in Jane’s own hand. Within months of her death it appeared in printed format, along with a letter written by Jane to her former tutor Thomas Harding in which she condemned him for his change to Catholicism, thus promoting Jane’s strong belief in the Protestant faith.  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 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.[4] 

It is quite possible that the inscription seen on the right-hand side of the portrait and the myth that Jane had been offered the promise of a pardon if she was willing to change her faith led Skeffington or a previous owner to believe that the painting must in fact depict Jane Grey. 

The Skeffington portrait was purchased by the Society of Antiquaries and remained in their collection where it was last recorded in 1847.[5]   How the portrait left the Society remains a bit of a mystery, but it was officially recorded as a ‘missing painting’ in one of the more recent publications on its collection.[6]

As discussed above, the portrait disappeared sometime after 1847, but it reappeared again in 1866 when it was exhibited as a painting of Anne Askew in the National Portraits Exhibition from the collection of a Reginald Cholmondeley.[7]  Reginald Cholmondeley’s principal estate was the sixteenth century Condover Hall in Shrewsbury.   On his death the contents of the Hall were sold at auction on March 6th 1897.  The identification of the sitter appears to have changed once again, and by 1897 the portrait was then referred to as:

Item 43. Lucas de Heere, Queen Mary (of Scots), in black with pink-edged ruff and cuffs, cap with gold chain and jewelled badge. Inscribed “Rather Deathe than false of Faythe,” dated 1560.

The portrait was purchased at this auction on behalf of Wilbraham Egerton, Earl Egerton, brother-in law of Reginald Cholmondeley, and was then displayed at Tatton Park.  In 1958 Tatton Park and its contents were bequeathed to The National Trust by Maurice Egerton, 4th Baron Egerton of Tatton, and the portrait remains on exhibition there today. 

It is my opinion that until scientific investigation has taken place on this portrait to establish if the inscriptions are original or added later then the true identity of its sitter may continue to be unknown.   The portrait is currently listed today on The National Trust collections website as an Unknown Lady, called Anne Askew.  As discussed in detail in other articles on this website, the size of the ruff worn by the sitter and the date inscribed on the left- hand side are both inconsistent with the date of both the deaths of Jane Grey and Anne Askew.  The Skeffington portrait can now be removed from the list of any potential likenesses thought to depict Lady Jane Grey


[1] Proceedings of the society of antiquaries of London, volume 1, page 47

[2] A large fifteen-day sale of the contents of Skeffington Hall commenced on 11th July 1814.  William Ferrell-Skeffington moved to London that same year however died less than a year later on 26th January 1815

[3] Proceedings of The Society of Antiquaries of London, vol 1, page 47. John Band appears to have inaccurately listed the date of Frances Grey’s death.  Frances died on 20th November 1559 and not 1563 as listed in these minutes. One interesting point is that John Brand also owned a portrait thought to depict Lady Jane Grey.  The portrait sold on his death at Stewards Auctions, Piccadilly on June 23rd 1807.  It was purchased by the book collector Richard Heber Esq for the sum of eight pounds.  No portrait described as Lady Jane Grey appears in the sales catalogues of Heber’s collection.

[4] The Life, Death and Actions of The Most Chaste, Learned and Religious Lady, The Lady Jane Grey, Printed by G. Eld for John Wright, 1615, page 22

[5] Electronic communication, Lucy Ellis, Museums Collections Manager, Society of Antiquaries, September 2018

[6] Franklin. J. A, Catalouge of Paintings in the Collection of The Society of Antiquaries of London, 2015, page 411-412

[7] Catalogue for the 1866 National Portrait Exhibition page 21.  Anne Askew was burnt as the stake as a heretic in 1546 for refusing to acknowledge that the sacrament was the ‘flesh, blood and bone of Christ’.

History of The IANE Inscriptions

After watching the recent channel 5 television programme ‘inside the Tower of London’ that focused on the story of Lady Jane Grey, I noted that the famous Dudley carvings on the walls of the Beauchamp Tower were discussed as part of the programme.  Not discussed within this interesting documentary were the two other carvings associated with Jane’s story also carved into the walls of the same room.  

In 2018, I finally got the chance to visit the Tower of London as an adult.  Upon seeing the two small carvings in the Beauchamp Tower in person, I was instantly struck with an air of sadness.  To me, these two carvings symbolised so much of the history that had interested me for most of my life, and I knew so little about them.  Over the years, my interest in the story of Lady Jane Grey has led me to read a lot of printed material about her.  I was aware of the survival of the carvings, though I had read very little about the history that surrounds them.

My initial thought had been that the inscriptions had always been known about and that the tradition that they were associated with the story of Jane Grey had travelled down through the centuries.  This in turn prompted me to dig a little deeper in the hope of gaining a better understanding.

The aim of this article is to establish what is known about the two IANE inscriptions and to document some details regarding the history of these important artefacts, as so little has been written about them since their discovery. 

During my research for this article I have been unable to locate any reference regarding the two carvings of Jane’s name prior to the eighteenth century.  According to John Foxe’s Acts and Monuments, first published in 1563, Jane was supposed to have written the following two verses into the wall of her apartment with the use of a hair pin.

Do never think its strange,

Though now I have misfortune,

For if that fortune change,

The same to thee nay happen.”

“If God do help thee,

Hate shall not hurt thee;

If God do fail thee,

Then shall not labour prevail thee.”

Fox makes no mention of any other carvings showing Jane’s name within the walls of the Tower of London in his book.  Various searches over the years have been made at the Tower in the hope of locating the above inscriptions noted by Fox, but the house in which Jane is recorded as being held was demolished in the eighteenth century.  It was replaced with the existing building today which stands between the Queens House and the Beauchamp Tower.[1]

The two inscriptions were first discovered in 1796. During this period, the upper room of the Beauchamp Tower was being converted for the use of officers of the garrison.  Prior to this, the room had been used for domestic use, and the walls had been plastered over and painted, thus eliminating any traces of earlier inhabitants.

During the renovations, the plaster was removed from the walls, which in turn revealed a large number of inscriptions etched into the stonework.  On discovery of these, it was immediately noted that a lot of the carvings where associated with prominent figures in history who had been imprisoned within this room at the tower.

Reverend John Brand, Secretary to the Society of Antiquaries, was the first to discuss the carvings in a meeting held on 17th November 1796.  Notes from the meeting were published in the Archaeologia Journal in 1800, and this also gave us our first visual view of the inscriptions found.

Within this meeting, Brand discussed the discovery of the inscriptions, referring to them as ‘undoubted autographs made at different periods.’ Brand was also noted to firmly claim that the IANE inscription was made by Lady Jane Grey herself, reporting that this had been done ‘as a statement that not even the horrors of prison would force her to relinquish her title as queen.’[2]  This in turn led to a number of artists creating images of Jane either making the inscription herself or depicted within the room containing an inscription of her name.

It is not known how or why Brand had come to this conclusion as the exact place in which Jane was housed when prisoner at the Tower was documented within the Chronical of Queen Jane and of Two Years of Queen Mary.  This book was thought to have been written by a resident at the Tower of London who notes that Jane was imprisoned in Partridge’s House and not the Beauchamp Tower. [3]

This claim was eventually corrected with the publication of a book in 1825 by John Bayley.  In this, Bayley discussed the fact that Lady Jane herself was imprisoned in the house of the Gentleman Gaoler on Tower Green, also known as Partridge’s House.  He reports that due to this, the inscriptions could not have been made by her hand, noting that it’s highly unlikely that Jane would have been allowed to spend time in the prison cell allotted to her husband.  Bayley then suggests that the inscriptions were actually made by Guildford Dudley himself or one of his brothers in memory or honour of Jane Grey.[4]

It is Bayley’s theory that sticks today.  It could be argued that if the inscription was made by one of the Dudley brothers, then it might not in fact represent Lady Jane Grey but their mother, who was also called Jane Dudley.  The face that two inscription of the same name survives may represent the two Jane’s within the brothers lives, though it is up to the individual viewer to decide.   


[1] Treasures of the Tower Inscription, Her Majesty’s Stationary Office, page 14

[2] Brand. John, An Account of The Inscriptions Discovered on The Walls of An Apartment in the Tower of London, Archaeologia, XIII, Page 68-91

[3] Nichols, J. G, The Chronicle of Queen Jane and of Two Years of Queen Mary and Especially of the Rebellion of Sir Thomas Wyatt, Written by a Resident in the Tower of London, Llanerch Publishers, 1850, page.25

[4] Bayley, John, History and Antiquities of the Tower of London, 1825, page.162

The Ketteringham Hall Portrait

Previously Called Lady Jane Grey
Watercolour on Ivory
45mm

On 25th April 1912, Prince Frederick Duleep Singh visited Ketteringham Hall in Norfolk.  Singh visited a large number of properties across Norfolk where he documented the art collections seen and published a book in 1927 detailing his findings.  In the book, entitled Portraits in Norfolk Houses, Singh recorded a portrait thought in 1912 to represent Lady Jane Grey.

Ketteringham Hall was built in the fifteenth century and was home to Henry Grey of Ketteringham.  By 1492 the property had passed to the Heveningham family. It was purchased in the nineteenth century by John Peter Boileau, archaeologist, Vice-President of the Society of Antiquaries, London, and collector of antiquaries.  The hall was dramatically remodelled during the nineteenth century when it was purchased by Boileau to house his vast collection of antiques and collectables.

In the past and today, Ketteringham Hall has laid claim that it was once the childhood home of Lady Jane Grey, and it is only fitting that it should have housed a portrait of her.  As discussed above, the house was no longer in ownership of the Grey family during the sixteenth century, and there is no documented evidence to state that Jane Grey ever visited the property.[1]   

At the time Prince Frederick Duleep Singh visited the property, it had passed by descent to Sir Maurice Colborne Boileau, grandson of John Peter Boileau. The Hall would eventually be used as an active US Air Force base, and by 1948 the family opted to sell Ketteringham off, when it was then purchased by the Duke of Westminster.

Singh provides a detailed description in his book of the portrait thought to depict Lady Jane Grey seen in 1912.  The entry reads as follows.  

Lady Jane Dudley, H(ead) and S(houlders). Body, face and blue eyes all turned towards the sinister (viewers left), fair hair parted and flat, roll over each ear, and small row of rolls over the head, black cap on the head falling at one side and behind. Dress: black with white fur round the neck and down the front, also on each side of the arms. Blue background, min(iature) square. Age 18.[2]

No other information concerning this portrait has surfaced, and it appears never to have been exhibited as a portrait of Lady Jane Grey.  The painting was initially thought to be lost due to the contents of Ketteringham Hall being sold off over the years at auction.

During his own research into the many portraits thought to depict Lady Jane Grey, John Stephan Edwards was the first to acknowledge and create awareness of the Ketteringham Hall portrait in modern times.  He briefly discussed it in the appendix of his book concerning lost portraits once thought to be Jane Grey.  Edwards compared Singh’s description of the painting to a portrait also thought to depict Lady Jane Grey at the Bodleian Library, Oxford. He expressed uncertainty as to whether the portrait was still at Ketteringham Hall today.[3]  

Further research into the Ketteringham Hall portrait completed by myself suggests that it was actually sold in 1947. By this point the portrait had lost its identity and no connection was made at that time that the portrait was ever thought to depict lady Jane Grey.

In 1947, a large four-day auction took place of the contents of Ketteringham Hall. It is highly likely that the portrait once seen by Singh and given a detailed description in his book as a portrait of Lady Jane Grey was sold on the first day of sale as part of one lot containing three items.

Lot 357. Miniature, Lady with a white lace collar, ditto fur collar and silhouette.[4]

It appears that this lot was purchased, along with several other lots from the 1947, sale by Rev William Hall and his son Bryan Hall.  Both father and son were avid collectors of antiques and frequent visitors to sales of county house collections.  Bryan Hall would eventually acquire a large collection of more than 2,200 antiques during his lifetime and all where held within his home of Banningham old Rectory, which on occasions he would open for public viewing.

The miniature portrait remained in Hall’s collection until 2004. By this point, the elderly Bryan Hall put his entire collection up for auction, facilitated by Bonham’s Auctioneers.  This consisted of a three-day sale of the contents of Banningham Old Rectory.  The Ketteringham Hall portrait, along with another miniature close in comparison to the 1947 catalogue description of ‘a woman in a lace collar, and a large quantity of silhouettes were sold during this sale.  The provenance for these items could be traced back to Ketteringham Hall.[5]   Lot 89 of the Bonham’s sale is of particular interest when looking at the lost Ketteringham Hall portrait of Lady Jane Grey.  It is referred to in the catalogue as

Lot 89. Bernard Lens III (1750/6-1808), A portrait of a lady dressed as Mary Queen of Scots, in black dress slashed to reveal white fur, pearl necklace and black cap Water colour on ivory rectangular 45mm, in a gilded wood frame.[6]

Though the provenance for lot 89 was not fully documented in the auction catalogue, Singh’s description was included in the literature accompanying the lot.  The auction house commented that this portrait does not conform to other known portraits of Lady Jane Grey and lists the sitter’s identity as Mary Queen of Scots.

When comparing Singh’s description to the photograph of lot 89, there does appear to be a match. If this picture is the lost Ketteringham Hall portrait, then this brings about the question as to why an eighteenth-century portrait of Mary Queen of Scots became known as Lady Jane Grey by 1912.

NPG764
Previously Called Lady Jane Grey
Oil on Panel
(c)NPG

One possible reason for this is the purchase of NPG764 by the National Portrait Gallery, London.  By 1912, this was being exhibited as a portrait of Lady Jane Grey, and this does share some similarities in style and composition to the Ketteringham Hall portrait.   It may just be possible that the Boileau family or Singh himself concluded that, due to the similarities, the portrait at Ketteringham Hall must also depict Lady Jane Grey. During the early 20th century, several books were written and published concerning the iconography of Mary Queen of Scots, including one written by Lionel Cust, who briefly discussed the similarities in costume between both images.[7]

The portrait on which the Ketteringham Hall image is based was widely copied during the eighteenth century as an image of Mary and would generally be referred to as the Okney type by art historians.  It appears that the copy produced by Bernard Lens in vast quantities was based on a sixteenth century miniature portrait once in the collection of the Duke of Hamilton prior to 1710. 

George Vertue discussed this in his notebooks, having seen the original miniature in person.       

“This duke of Hamilton that lived at the manor house at East Acton had great collections of Indian work and china and many curious limning portraits some of them excellent and rare in number about fifty or sixty… so many as was exposed to sale in 1745.  No. 28 Mary Qu. Scots, this is the original limning which the Duke of Hamilton had recovered and valued most extremely – showed it at court and everywhere for a true genuine picture of the queen everywhere from thence it was copied in water colours enamel many and many times for all persons pining after it thousands of illuminated  copies – spread everywhere – this picture itself – tho amended by or repaired by L. Crosse who was ordered to make it as beautiful as he could – by the duke.  Still is a roundish face not agreeable to those most certain pictures of her – but his attestation of its being genuine, later part of Qu. Anns time it took and prest upon the public in such an extraordinary manner”[8]

The fact that Vertue himself expressed doubt in the eighteenth century as to whether the original miniature portrait was a representation of Mary Queen of Scots is interesting and today doubt as to the true identity of the sitter continues.  

Called Mary Neville, Lady Dacre
Watercolour on Vellum
Size Unknown

The above image was sold through Phillips Auctions of London, on 10th November 1998 and was associated with the court painter Levina Teerlinc.  Painted on vellum and applied to card, a faint description on the back was recorded in the auction catalogue identifying the sitter as “Queen Mary”.  The painting was officially sold as a portrait believed to be that of Mary Neville, Lady Dacre, with the auction house noting similarities to other known portraits of this sitter.

The provenance for this miniature is recorded as being in the collection of the Duke of Buckingham at Stowe house.  It appears in the 1849 sales catalogue were it was again described as a portrait of “Mary Tudor, Queen of England”[9].  The portrait was then purchased by John Webb who was a prominent collector of antiques in the mid nineteenthcentury and on his death in 1880, it then passed to his daughter Edith Webb and was eventually sold at Christie’s Auction, London, on the 24th June 1925.

When looking at this miniature it does appear to be too much of a coincidence to suggest that the similarities to the Okney Type is purely chance.  The similarities between this portrait and early copies made by Bernard Lens are exceedingly close, though Lens’s later copy has been altered to portray a younger and thinner sitter and some slight differences are seen with the gold coif worn under the hood.  Due to the similarities seen it is my opinion that this may just be the original miniature owned by the Duke of Hamilton and reported by George Vertue to have sold in 1745. 

The fact that the Teerlinc miniature also includes an early inscription identifying the sitter as “Queen Mary” does give this opinion some back up.  It may just be possible that the identification as to which Mary it was meant to represent may have just got lost during its history.  What is for certain is that the Teerlinc miniature neither represents Mary Tudor or Mary Queen of Scots and the similarities to portraits of Mary Neville as discussed in the auction catalogue is striking.

The ketteringham Hall portrait most certainly was created during the eighteenth century and therefore cannot be a portrait of Lady Jane Grey painted from life.  The portrait was originally painted as an image of Mary Queen of Scots that was mislabelled by 1912 when seen by Prince Frederick Duleep Singh.  This can now be removed from any list of potential likenesses of Lady Jane Grey.


[1] https://www.bidwells.co.uk/assets/properties/commercial/pdfs/256-786-1.pdf accessed July 2019

[2] Singh. Prince Frederick Duleep, Portraits in Norfolk Houses, Jarrold and Sons, Ltd, Vol I, Page 361

[3]Edwards. John Stephan, A Queen of a New Invention Portraits of Lady Jane Grey, Old John Publishing, 2015, page 189. Electronic communication, David Adams, Property Manager suggest that no portrait matching Singh’s description is currently in the collection at Ketteringham Hall today.

[4] K.H Fielding Auctioneer. Ketteringham Hall, Norwich. Catalogue of Antique Furniture Old Silver, Glass, oil Paintings and other Effects, 22nd July 1947, Page 9.  My sincere thanks to Mary Parker for the assistance with the location of a copy of this catalogue and information regarding the Ketteringham sale.

[5] https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/11166/ accessed July 2019. A total of twenty-four items sold in the 2004 sale were provenance could be connected to Ketteringham Hall and the Boileau Family including https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/11166/lot/90/ which could be identified as “miniature, Lady with a lace collar” seen in the 1947  auction catalogue.

[6] Bonham’s auction catalogue, Bannigham Old Rectory, 22nd March 2004 

[7] Cust. Lionel. Notes on Authentic Portraits of Mary Queen of Scots, 1903, page 137

[8] Cust. Lionel. Notes on authentic portraits of Mary Queen of Scots, 1903, page 137

[9] Collection of the Duke of Buckingham  and Chandos, Stowe House, Christie’s sale, 15th March 1849, Lot 4.

The Royal Collection Miniature Portrait

RCIN420944
Called Elizabeth I
Watercolour on Vellum Applied to Card
5.2 cm in diameter
©Royal Collection

Purchased as a portrait of Mary Tudor when Princess on behalf of Queen Victoria during the Christies sale on 24th May 1881, RCIN20944 has caused much debate among art historians over the years.  The sitter has been identified as at least three different members of the royal family from the Tudor period, and for around twenty-six years the sitter was thought to be Lady Jane Grey.  Two artists have been associated with its creation, though no proof has surfaced to establish a known creator.  Due the sitter once being identified as Lady Jane Grey, I have decided to discuss this painting on this website.     

RCIN420944 depicts a young lady facing full frontal, with grey eyes and light red hair.  She wears a bodice of gold damask fabric cut square at the neck and a partlet of contrasting fabric with small figure-of-eight ruff that surrounds her face.  A black loose gown with small puff sleeves and false hanging sleeves is also seen worn by the sitter and is fastened at the front with the use of gold aglets.  The sitter wears two chains around her neck of goldsmith work and pearls, and suspended from one is a large jewel containing five square cut diamonds and a large hanging pearl.  On her head she wears a hair net which again consists of goldsmith work, and a pink and white flower is also arranged within the sitter’s hair.  She is depicted on a blue background within a gold boarder. The beginning of an inscription stating “AÑO” is also seen on the left-hand side.    

Nothing is known regarding the early provenance for this painting or how the image became identified as a portrait of Mary Tudor when Princess.  The first documented record concerning the provenance of this portrait located to date is the sales catalogue for the collector and poet Samuel Rogers.  Following his death in 1855, his vast collection of art and antiques were sold as part of an eighteen-day sale commencing on 28th April 1856 at Messrs. Christie and Manson, St James Square.  RCIN420944 was sold on the eighth day of sale and is officially recorded in the catalogue as “lot 960. Princess Mary, daughter of Henry VIII, after Holbein.”[1] 

The portrait was purchased by collector Charles Sackville Bale, who appears not to have questioned the identity of the sitter or artist associated with it.  An early photographic image of the portrait appears in a book published in 1864 by Amelia B Edwards, and the portrait was also submitted to The Miniature Portrait Exhibition of 1865 at the South Kensington Museum.  Both the book and exhibition catalogue again refer to the portrait as “Queen Mary I of England, by Holbein,” with the exhibition catalogue also noting that the portrait was purchased from the collection of Samuel Rogers.

Upon the death of Charles Sackville Bale in 1880, the miniature sold from his collection and entered the Royal Collection.  The auction took place on 24th May 1881 and again the miniature was noted as “lot 1420 Mary Tudor, Queen of England, by H. Holbein”[2] within the catalogue for the sale.

Within years of entering the Royal collection, the sitter’s identity and the artist associated with its creation was challenged.   Lady Jane Grey was put forward as a possible candidate and the miniature would continue to be described as a portrait of Jane for the next two decades.

An article written by Richard Holmes, librarian to Queen Victoria, and published in 1884 in the English Illustrated Magazine does give us some clues as to the reason for the change of identification.  This article appears to be the first time the portrait was publicly published as an image of Lady Jane Grey, and the article also included an engraving of the painting noting Jane as the sitter in its title.  Holmes reports the reasons for the change in identity as follows

Engraving From English Illustrated Magazine 1884

“of the painters who must have worked in England between the time of Holbein and Hillard, a capital specimen has within the last few years been added to the number of royal portraits.  It is that of Lady Jane Grey, of which we give an engraving.  It had passed for many years as a portrait of princess, afterwards Queen Mary, but it is unlike her in every feature.  That it represents a Tudor Princess is undoubted, as in her hair are the red and white roses. It corresponds with all that is known of the characteristics of the unfortunate Lady Jane, and fills an important gap in the series of portraits of the Tudor Line”[3]

What is interesting about the above statement is that Holmes reports that the sitter depicted in the miniature was thought at that time to correspond with all that was known of the characteristics of Lady Jane Grey.  This then brings about the question as to what was actually known about Jane’s characteristics at that time. This article was written prior to the publication of Richard Davey’s biography on Jane in 1909, which contained the only detailed description of a small, freckled and red haired, Jane Grey entering the Tower of London as Queen on 10th July 1553, known to date.  Today, this description has been discovered to be a mere forgery.[4]  No other description documenting the details of Jane’s features has surfaced, which suggest that almost nothing was known regarding what Jane looked like, other than vague references referring to her as pretty which were made at a later date.

The miniature portrait was publicly exhibited in 1890 at the Royal House of Tudor Exhibition held at the New Gallery, London.  Within the exhibition catalogue, the portrait is recorded as coming from the collection of Her Majesty the Queen and referring to as “1068. Lady Jane Grey. By N. Hilliard, formerly in the collection of Charles Sackville Bale.”  It was probably around this point in time that a red leather label was attached to the back of the frame noting that the sitter depicted was “Lady Jane Grey/Born 1537-Died 1554/Hilliard”

The portrait continued to be displayed as an image of Lady Jane Grey and was Exhibited in the New Gallery exhibition of 1901 as a portrait of her.  In 1906, Richard Holmes again discussed the miniature in an article written for the Burlington Art Magazine on Nicholas Hillard.  

Lionel Cust, director of the National Portrait gallery, London, appears to be the first to question the identification of Lady Jane Grey as the sitter in RCIN420944.  In 1910, he produced a privately printed catalogue for the Royal Collection regarding the miniature portraits held within the Royal Palaces at that time.  In this, Cust dismisses the identification of Jane Grey and suggests Elizabeth I as an alternative sitter, noting that the miniature may have been produced by Levina Teerlinc and not Nicholas Hilliard.  Nothing is documented in the book to inform us as to why Cust came to this conclusion, though it would be tempting to speculate that he noted the costume worn by the sitter was a little too late in period to be an authentic portrait of Lady Jane Grey.

RCIN420987
Called Elizabeth I
Watercolour on Vellum
4.5 cm in diameter
©Royal Collection

The Identification of the sitter as Elizabeth was further strengthened in 1962 when the Royal Collection purchased another miniature portrait similar in composition and style to RCIN420944 at Christie’s auction.  This miniature is recorded in the catalogue for sale, taking place on April 10th at Christie’s auction house, London, as “A Lady, probably Princess Elizabeth, Later Queen Elizabeth I.” A description also noted that the miniature was painted on a playing card, and seen on the reverse of is blind stamp consisting of the letter C and a Crown. [5]   This was immediately associated with a description made in 1637 of a miniature portrait seen by Abraham Van der Doort, Surveyor of the Kings Pictures and described in an inventory made of the collection of King Charles I.

“Item don upon the right lighte in a white ivory box/ wthout a Christall a Certaine Ladies Picture in her haire/ in a gold bone lace little ruff, and black habbitt/ lined wth furr with goulden tissue sleeves/ with one hand over another supposed to have bin/ Queen Elizabeth before shee came to the Crowne. By an unknown hand”[6] 

Upon the purchase of the second miniature by the Royal Collection, both were thought to depict the same individual.  Due to the early Van der Doort description it was therefore thought that both miniatures represented the young Queen Elizabeth in the early years of her reign. Both images continue to be catalogued as Elizabeth I today.

Author Roy Strong was noted not to include either miniature in his 1963 book entitled Portrait of Queen Elizabeth.  He was observed to briefly discuss them in the 1987 revised version Gloriana The Portraits of Queen Elizabeth I.  When discussing both miniatures, he interestingly notes that “of the two miniatures, one is more certainly of her than the other.”[7]  It could be argued that both images depict separate individuals rather than a portrait of the same person.  There does appear to be significant differences in the composition and costume worn by both individuals to identify that one is not a direct copy of the other. 

Whoever RCIN420944 depicts will continue to be debated among art historians, but Lionel Cust was right back in 1910 to question the identity of the sitter being Lady Jane Grey. There appears to be nothing within the image to suggest that the portrait was painted of her, and no detailed description survives today that tells us anything about what she looked like.  This image can now be removed from any list of potential likenesses thought to depict her.


[1] Messrs. Christies and Manson, Sales Catalogue, April 28th, 1856, Page 90, lot 960

[2] Christie’s, Sales Catalogue, 24th May 1881, Page 109, lot 1420

[3] Holmes. Richard, The Royal Collection of Miniatures at Windsor Castle, English Illustrated Magazine, July 1184

[4] For more details on the new finding regarding Davey’s description of Jane see: Edwards John, Queen of a New Invention, Old John Publishing, 2015, page 177 and DeLisle. Leanda, Sisters Who Would Be Queen, Harper Press, 2008 

[5] Christie’s Sale Catalogue, 10th April 1962, Page 20

[6] O’Donoghue,F.M, A Descriptive and Classified Catalogue of Portraits of Queen Elizabeth , 1894, page 27, no 7

[7] Strong. Roy, Gloriana The Portraits of Queen Elizabeth I, 1987, Page 55

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.