During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a small number of portraits identified as being of Lady Jane Grey and attributed to the artist Antonis Mor Dashorst where sold through auction houses. Images of all but one have not been located today. Vague descriptions referring to the portraits, however, do survive in the auction catalogues.
Before looking at these, we must first examine the artist and identify whether Antonis Mor would have had access to paint Jane Grey in the first place. It must be remembered that little information was known regarding the various artists working during the sixteenth century during the period of sales for these paintings.
Paintings sold between the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries where simply grouped and attributed to the most famous names of artists working within the sixteenth century known at that time. Little evidence to support the identifications was given by the auction houses, and access to information and research into lesser known artists was limited.
When looking at catalogues from this period, we see very few paintings attributed to an unknown artist, but a large amount attributed to Holbein, Clouet, and Mor. Today, with the use of scientific investigation taking place, most paintings are now being correctly re-attributed to artists that may be well known, or the artist is explicitly stated as unknown, rather than the name assigned at some earlier period.
Antonis Mor was born between 1516-1520 in Utrecht and worked for members of the Habsburg family in Brussels, Portugal and Spain. He died in Antwerp between 1576 and 1577. At some period between 1553-1554, he was sent by Charles V to London to paint a portrait of Mary Tudor, his future daughter in law, as part of the marriage negotiations taking place between her and Charles’s only son, Philip of Spain.
The exact date on which Mor arrived in London to paint Mary’s image is unknown. It can be established that it was between July of 1553, the time at which Mary ascended to the throne, and July of 1554, the month during which Mary married Philip.
During this period, Jane was locked away in the Tower of London. In the November of 1553, she had appeared at trial and was thereafter classed as a convicted traitor. It would have been highly unlikely that any artist would have been granted permission by the queen to paint Jane’s image. Yes, security had been reduced in December of 1553, and Jane was allowed to walk in the gardens of the Tower. During the period after her trial Mary granted some favour to her younger cousin, though Jane was still a prisoner and was heavily guarded. Some still viewed her as a threat to Mary’s position due to the Device of the succession produced by King Edward VI that had named Jane as his heir.
The Frick Portrait
The first portrait to be discussed is known today only through an image stored in the Frick Art Reference Library, New York. Notes stored along with the image inform us that this portrait came into public knowledge when it was sold at Christie’s, London on the 4th July 1927. It was described in the auction catalogue as:
“Lot 141 – Mor, Head of Lady Jane Grey, with embroidered dress. Oil on panel 10 x 7 ¾ inches”.
The notes also record the buyer as “Werthemier,” who purchased the painting for the sum of £15. This painting appears to resurface again in 1953 when it was sold at Sotheby’s, but by this period the identification as a portrait of Jane Grey appears to have been downgraded. It was then described in 1953 as:
“A portrait of a lady said to be Lady Jane Grey, in black and gold dress and braided headdress”.
During this sale the portrait was again attributed to Antonis Mor. It is also recorded to have come from the collection of Emile Wertheimer, probably the same person who had purchased the Frick portrait in the July of 1927.
This painting has not yet been examined by historians when discussing the iconography of Lady Jane Grey, neither does it appear to have been exhibited in any public exhibition as a representation of her. Its current location is unknown, and access to the actual painting is therefore not possible.
What is seen in the photograph is that the portrait depicts a young female sitter at bust length facing the viewers left. The image shows a lady wearing what appears to be a Spanish gown or coat (probably edged with gold) with a high fitted collar and small ruff. This style of coat became fashionable in England after the marriage of Mary Tudor to Philip of Spain in 1554. After this event English fashion was influenced more by the Spanish marriage. The entry into England of Philip and other Spanish dignitaries allowed others of the court to view new fashions worn by the Spanish court.
By the 1560’s, ladies had started to abandon the traditional loose gowns or night gown worn for decades. These fell loosely from the shoulders to the floor and were usually worn over a fitted kirtle. English Ladies instead embraced this new look influenced by the Spanish fashion. This newer garment was generally cut to be fitted to the upper torso and was worn open, being fastened only at the throat, as seen in the Frick painting, to reveal an underdress or fitted bodice of a different colour. It could also be worn completely fastened from the waist to the neck and slashed at the front to reveal a contrasting fabric.
The costume seen in the painting is more consistent with this newer style of garment that became fashionable after the death of Jane Grey. The false hanging sleeves seen in the painting attached to the gown at the sleeve head indicate a period toward the end of the 1560’s when this style of sleeve became favourable and was worn by both men and women. The padded rolls also seen at the sitter shoulders were becoming more fashionable during this period as a decorative feature and would become larger in size during the 1570’s.
The style of hair is also of interest as the sitter is wearing her hair pulled back from her face and arranged into what appears to be some sort of decorative hairnet. This again indicates a later style worn by ladies during the reign of Elizabeth I rather than the style worn by ladies during the reigns of Edward and Mary, when ladies hair was parted in the middle and worn in an arrangement to surround the face.
It is my opinion from viewing the photograph that this Image may have been painted over or is painted by another hand than that of Antonis Mor. The Frick portrait does not correlate with other paintings by Mor and is missing the finer details seen in other works produced by this artist. The painted treatment of the hair, face and costume appears not to have been painted from life. This is missing the subtle shading and highlights seen in other works by Mor which identifies that he was of a higher skill when using paint to create the illusion of skin tones and falling fabric than the artist who created the Frick portrait.
To me, it is more characteristic of a painting based on an existing portrait, pattern, or sketch by another artist of the sixteenth century than that of Mor. This may then have been copied on multiple occasions within a workshop to create an image and fill the demand for portraits to be used as decoration within the home. Workshop portraits were in high demand towards the end of the sixteenth century, and their creation required a lesser skilled artist than that of the great masters who may have painted the image in the first place. This theory is pure speculation at this time and will not be known for certain until the Frick portrait is located and studied further, however, the survival of other images which are close in comparison do suggest this.
The Frick portrait does show some similarities to a group of paintings depicting unidentified female sitters wearing similar clothing, including one once thought to depict Anne Boleyn. That painting is now identified as a portrait of an unknown woman and is in the collection of the Musee Conde in France.
The Musee Conde portrait is dated to the second half of the sixteenth century, according to the museum’s website records. Like the Frick Portrait, it is painted on wood, which does indicate that it may have been painted at a similar period. It is highly likely that the artist who created the Frick portrait used an image or pattern similar to this painting as a source of reference when creating the portrait and that the identity of the original sitter and artist who painted it have been lost, allowing Jane’s name to be associated at a later point in time.
Until the Frick portrait is located and dendrochronology testing is done to establish a date of creation, we cannot know for certain whether this is a genuine sixteenth century painting or is instead one of the many produced during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries when demand for sixteenth century portraits was at its height. Further research and testing also needs to take place to establish more information regarding the possible artist and subsequent related images in order to understand the Frick Portrait better. Whether or not this portrait is deemed important enough to have this done is also debatable as all evidence supports a conclusion that it is not an image of Jane Grey and that it was not painted by Antonis Mor.
On 14th July 1820, a portrait was sold by a Mr Bullock of London, and that was formerly in the collection of a Mr David Holt Esq of Manchester. The catalogue describes the painting as being by a Sir A. Mor. The entry for the lot is as follows:
“A portrait of lady jane Grey and Lord Guildford Dudley in one frame, the latter portrait is the only one known to exist of Lord Guildford”.
This pair of portraits has yet to be located, and little information is known about them. The painting does appear to have been auctioned again in 1833 by Edward Fosters of London, when it was again referred to as:
“Portraits of Lord Guildford Dudley and Lady Jane Grey by Antonis Mor”.
In an attempt to locate this image, I have managed to locate three portraits in collections today that have in the past been associated with Lord Guildford Dudley, in the hope of one possibly being the double portrait indicated in the Catalogues. None of the paintings located contain another image in the same frame and supposed to represent Lady Jane Grey, which suggests that the portrait sold in 1820 must be treated as a separate image that is unfortunately lost today.
Until located and studied further it can not be known whether it was indeed an authentic likeness of Jane and Guildford or another image with those names incorrectly attached.
In an auction that took place on March 11, 1910 at Mendelssohn Hall of the collection of the late American collector Frederick Charles Hewitt, a portrait referred to as a depiction of Jane Grey by Mor Van Dashorst was sold.
The catalogue for this sale describes the portrait in detail:
“No. 206 – Portrait of Lady Jane Grey- 42 x 30 ½ inches, the figure is shown three-quarters length, standing against a dark almost black background, very slightly inclined to the left, while the eyes gaze full to the front. The blond hair is softly frizzed and decorated with three jewels and a hoop of pearls and garnets. The eyes are hazel-brown, the lips daintily curved and the flesh tones delicately warm. The lace ruff, erect at the back, is drawn down in front, revealing a little of the neck, on which lies a necklace, composed of two loops of gold hung with pearls and pearl drop. A geranium-coloured rosette of four petals, stubbed with an amethyst and pearls, is fastened at the stomacher. The latter is carried down to a point and bordered with tabs. Its material is the same as that of the skirt – pearly silk damask with roses and green leaves and tendrils. Over this dress is a robe of geranium red with slashed sleeves”.
As with the double portrait discussed above, this painting has not yet been located and only the sales catalogue exists to report that it was ever thought to be a portrait of Jane Grey.
The detailed description does give us some clues that allow us to rule out Lady Jane Grey as the sitter depicted in the portrait, however. This description mentions the ruff as being “erect at the back.” This indicates that the portrait depicts a young female painted towards the end of the sixteenth century when ruffs worn by both men and women where larger in size than the small ones seen in the 1560’s that surrounded only the face. As the ruff grew and became wider during the 1580’s, support was required to keep it upright. This consisted of a wire frame that was attached to the back of the garment and that held the ruff high at the back, giving the “drawn down in front” look that is described in the description. A good example of this is the many portraits painted of Queen Elizabeth during the later period of her life. In these, she often wears a full ruff that surrounds the whole neck and is high at the back and low at the chest. In other cases, such as the Ditchley portrait seen at the NPG London, the ruff is supported at the back though does not surround the entire neck and is pinned to the neckline of her dress allowing the chest to be revealed.
Since the description mentions the use of a ruff that is
“erect at the back,” it is more likely that this portrait was painted after the
1580’s rather than as a portrait of Lady Jane Grey from life.
Frick Art Reference Library, https://arcade.nyarc.org:443/record=b1324033~S6 accessed 02/03/19
 https://rkd.nl/en/explore/excerpts/record?query=lady+jane+grey&start=2 accessed 02/03/19
 https://rkd.nl/en/explore/excerpts/record?query=lady+jane+grey&start=0 accessed 02/03/19
 Catalogue of pictures of David Holt Esquire of Manchester, 14th July 1820
 https://archive.org/details/franklyv00amer/page/n10 accessed 02/03/19