A man and his purse

Cornelius Janssen van Ceulen, portrait of Sir Thomas Savage, 1st Viscount Savage. ©National Trust/Amy Howe

Cornelius Janssen van Ceulen, portrait of Sir Thomas Savage, 1st Viscount Savage. ©National Trust/Amy Howe

Melford Hall has recently acquired a portrait of one of its seventeenth-century owners, Sir Thomas Savage, 1st Viscount Savage (c. 1586-1635). Previously only one likeness of him was known, in a private collection in Yorkshire.

©National Trust/Amy Howe

©National Trust/Amy Howe

The newly acquired picture was long thought to be of John Williams (1582-1650), a seventeenth-century Archbishop of York. But when it was recently consigned for sale at Christie’s the red purse of office bearing the cipher ‘HMR’ shown in the picture caused some interest.

©National Trust/Amy Howe

©National Trust/Amy Howe

‘HMR’ stands for ‘Henrietta Maria Regina’, or Queen Henrietta Maria, the wife of King Charles I, and the sitter would therefore have been the queen’s chancellor, a post not held by John Williams.

©National Trust/Amy Howe

©National Trust/Amy Howe

But Sir Thomas Savage was the queen’s chancellor from the mid-1620s until his death in 1635. Moreover, comparison with the Yorkshire portrait suggested this was indeed Savage.

©National Trust/Amy Howe

©National Trust/Amy Howe

The National Trust purchased this portrait at auction in April 2013 and sent it to the Hamilton Kerr Institute for conservation. Cleaning revealed the signature of the artist, Cornelius Jonson (or Cornelius Janssen van Ceulen, to give him his original Flemish name), and the date 1632.

English School, portrait of Lady Elizabeth Darcy, Viscountess Savage and Countess Rivers. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

English School, portrait of Lady Elizabeth Darcy, Viscountess Savage and Countess Rivers. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

The picture is now on display at Melford near that of Savage’s wife, Lady Elizabeth Darcy (1581-1651). Lord and Lady Savage extended and refurbished Melford Hall, but appear to have overspent. That and the sacking of the house at the start of the Civil War forced their son to sell it in 1649.

4 Responses to “A man and his purse”

  1. Susan Walter Says:

    What a nice piece of detective work. Well done to whoever figured it out.

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    The kudos should go to Christie’s and to the Hamilton Kerr.

  3. Andrew Says:

    And here is a link to the painting’s entry in the NT Collections database – http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/2900055

    Love the ring! Did you see the Cheapside Hoard at the Museum of London?

    The Savages also owned Rocksavage in Cheshire and St Osyth in Essex, both of which were also damaged in the Civil War.

  4. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Thanks very much Andrew. Here is more about Rocksavage: http://bit.ly/1nny8TW – now just a pile of rubble – and here is something about St Osyth Priory, still standing: http://bit.ly/1mHEU7I

    The tempestuous poet Richard Savage (c. 1697-1743), a friend of Samuel Johnson, claimed to be the illegitimate son of the (also rather wild) Richard Savage, 4th Earl Rivers (c. 1654-1712), the great-grandson of the Thomas and Elizabeth Savage shown here – something I half remembered from the riveting biographical study of Savage the poet published by Richard Holmes in 1993, entitled ‘Dr Johnson and Mr Savage’.

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