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

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

William Frederick Yeames circa 1884
Joseph Parkin Mayall
© Public Domain

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

Setting The scene

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

Detail Image showing Yeames signature and date

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Philip Portrait – Does it Change Anything?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UPDATE: 16th November 2021

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

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

UPDATE: 22nd November 2021

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

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

http://somegreymatter.com/berryhill.htm


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Streatham Portrait Revisited

NPG 6804 (c) National Portrait Gallery, London

Lady Jane Grey – NPG 6804

By Unknown Artist

Oil on oak panel, circa 1590-1600

33 ¾ x 23 ¾ inches

The Streatham Portrait Revisited

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Provenance and Background

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

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

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

The costume and headdress dates from c.1550

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

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

The inscription reads Lady Jayne and seems to be of period

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

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

NPG 6804 before conservation (c) NPG Archive

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

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

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

Scientific Investigation / Findings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Houghton Portrait (C) NPG Archive

Other Versions

The Houghton Portrait

Private collection

Oil on panel

30 x 24 inches

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

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

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

The Norris Portrait (C) NPG Archive

The Herbert Norris Portrait

Oil on oak panel

Size unknown

Whereabouts unknown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Francesco Bartolozzi Engraving (C) NPG Archive

The Magdalene portrait

Unknown size

Unknown whereabouts

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

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

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

The Dauntsey Portrait (c) NPG Archive

The Dauntsey Portrait

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

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

Ieanne Gray Engraving (c) Royal Collection

IEANNE GRAY Engraving

Ink on paper

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

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

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

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

CATHARINA REGIINA Portrait (c) Private collection

CATHARINA REGINA PORTRAIT

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

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

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

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

Called Lady Mary Dudley (c) National Trust Collection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

[3] As above

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

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

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

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

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

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

[10] Tyers. Ian, Dendrochronology Survey, 2006

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

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

[13] Tyers. Ian, Dendrochronology Survey, 2005