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.