Portrait of a lady returns to Dunham

Portrait of a lady thought to be Vere Egerton, Mrs William Booth, attributed to Robert Peake (1541-1619). Acquired with the assistance of the Art Fund. ©Sotheby's

We have just purchased at auction a spectacular portrait of a young woman, dating from the early seventeenth century, which for several hundred years hung at Dunham Massey, in Cheshire. The acquisition was made possible by a major grant from the Art Fund.


The portrait is thought to depict Vere Egerton, who married into the Booth family of Dunham in 1619. Vere was the granddaughter and potential heiress of the immensely wealthy Lord Chancellor Egerton, and this portrait marks the Booth family’s social and political rise.


The male line of the Booths died out in the eighteenth century and the Dunham estate was inherited by the Greys, Earls of Stamford. In the nineteenth century the portrait of Vere was moved to the family’s Staffordshire seat, Enville Hall.


In 1905 the Dunham and Enville estates were divided again between different branches of the family. When a number of works of art were sold from Enville in 1928 Roger Grey, the 10th Earl of Stamford, tried to buy the portrait of Vere back for Dunham, but he was unsuccessful.


It came up again in the Sotheby’s London Old Master and British Paintings evening sale on 6 July. We managed to buy it for £157,250, with the help of a grant from the Art Fund and with funds from Dunham and from gifts and bequests to the National Trust.


The painting also provides a fascinating record of Jacobean ladies’ fashions, lovingly detailing Vere’s sumptuously embroidered clothes. The picture is also apparently unique for the period in including a sofa.


The portrait is currently undergoing some conservation work, but we hope it will be on show at Dunham once again in the near future.   

7 Responses to “Portrait of a lady returns to Dunham”

  1. columnist Says:

    This is indeed a stunning picture, with exquisite detail of her clothes. Well done, and I’m glad it’s in its rightful place.

  2. little augury Says:

    I know my mind works in “mysterious” ways-but doesn’t this say Alexander McQueen? I am in love with this dress-as was Vere and her Peake portraitist apparently. pgt

  3. CherryPie Says:

    I love the intricate detailing on her clothes.

  4. artandarchitecturemainly Says:

    Robert Peake must have been a very patient man. The face and hands always took a long time to paint in portraits, but the sumptuously embroidered clothes must have taken him much longer. Even the couch, carpets and curtains were carefully done.

    I hope the family loved this luscious portrait. However since the portrait was only _thought to be_ Vere Egerton Mrs William Booth, we have to assume that no written contracts or sales records remain.

  5. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Columnist, thanks, yes she is a stunner 🙂

    Gaye, yes in some ways Vere’s clothes are very ‘now’ – McQueen, and possibly a bit ‘Vivienne Westwood’ as well?

    Cherie, God is in the details 🙂

    Helen, I think the solution for a painter having to do all that detail was having lots of assistants and apprentices who could help you with it 🙂

    No there aren’t any records from the time it was painted, and the identification is based on the fact that Vere ‘fits the bill’ for such a sumptuously dressed young woman being painted at that time for that family. The fact that the Greys took it to their main residence, Enville, shows that they appreciated it as part of their inheritance, and of course the 10th Earl later tried to buy it back from his cousin – so it seems to have exerted a fascination on a number of different generations. And it will now soon be put back as the spectacular centrepiece of the early family portraits at Dunham.

  6. Painting1 Says:

    More information on the costume – compare it with portrait in the V and A – Margaret Layton – not only do you see the portrait but the embroidered jacket survives as well. V and A textile curator could probably provide more information about the jacket as its length changed with fashions

  7. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Thank you for reminding us of that beautiful portrait in the V&A, which can be seen here: http://bit.ly/hipGR7

    Fascinating similarities and differences between the two portraits: showing similar use of embroidery and lace, and the clear distinction between skirt and bodice; but Margaret Layton also wears a cap and some kind of cape, whereas Vere Egerton has a low-cut bodice and wears her hair long.

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