Archive for the ‘Portraits’ Category

The tragic Arbella Stuart at Hardwick Hall

June 4, 2015
Lady Arbella Stuart as a child, 1577, at Hardwick Hall. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Lady Arbella Stuart as a child, 1577, at Hardwick Hall. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

2015 marks the 400th anniversary of the death of Lady Arbella Stuart, granddaughter of the redoubtable Bess of Hardwick and at one time a candidate to succeed Queen Elizabeth I.

Elizabeth Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury, by Rowland Lockey, 1590s, at Hardwick Hall. ©National Trust Images/John Bethell

Elizabeth Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury, by Rowland Lockey, 1590s, at Hardwick Hall. ©National Trust Images/John Bethell

To mark the anniversary, the colleagues at Hardwick Hall have put on an exhibition about Arbella’s privileged but tragic life.

The south front of Hardwick Hall seen from the Orchard. ©National Trust Images/John Millar

The south front of Hardwick Hall seen from the Orchard. ©National Trust Images/John Millar

Orphaned at the age of seven, she was brought up by her grandmother, Elizabeth Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury – known as Bess of Hardwick – at Hardwick Hall. She received a princely education, studying several languages and learning to play the lute, the viol and the virginals.

Lady Arbella Stuart aged 13, by Rowland Lockey after an unknown artist, 1589, at Hardwick Hall. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Lady Arbella Stuart aged 13, by Rowland Lockey after an unknown artist, 1589, at Hardwick Hall. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Through her father’s side Arbella was the great-great-grandaughter of King Henry VII of England and therefore potentially in line to the throne. Ultimately, however, the influential courtiers Lord Burghley and his son Sir Robert Cecil invited Arbella’s cousin King James VI of Scotland to become Elizabeth I’s successor.

Lady Arbella Stuart, by Robert Peake, 1605, in the National Galleries of Scotland. ©National Galleries of Scotland, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Lady Arbella Stuart, by Robert Peake, 1605, in the National Galleries of Scotland. ©National Galleries of Scotland, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Because of Arbella’s connection to the royal line, the question who she might marry was a fraught political issue. In 1610 Arbella secretly married William Seymour, Lord Beauchamp, who himself was sixth in line to the throne. King James imprisoned them for marrying without his permission. They managed to escape separately, but Arbella’s ship was overtaken by the King’s men just before it reached France.

The Tower of London, by Wenceslaus Hollar, 1647. Source: Project Gutenberg

The Tower of London, by Wenceslaus Hollar, 1647. Source: Project Gutenberg

After being imprisoned in the Tower of London, Arbella refused to eat, fell ill and finally died on 25 September 1615. Her life and death are a poignant illustration of the uncertainties and upheavals of Elizabethan and Jacobean Britain.

A portrait of Dame Jane Wilson for Wallington

April 7, 2015
Portrait of Jane Weller (1749-1818) aged sixteen, English School. ©Bellmans

Portrait of Jane Weller (1749-1818) aged sixteen, English School. ©Bellmans

We have just bought this portrait of Jane Weller (1749-1818) at auction at Bellmans, West Sussex. Jane’s daughter Maria married Sir John Trevelyan, 5th Bt. in 1791, and this picture will now join the collection at Wallington, the Trevelyan ancestral home.

The portrait is said to show Jane aged sixteen – and so would appear to have been painted in about 1765. She looks a bit younger than that to me, but this may be due to the relatively naive style of the unknown painter.

The white flowers on her pink dress are a nice touch, echoing the real flowers she holds in her hands – and which in turn may reflect an interest in natural history, which would become more evident later.

Portrait of Jane Weller, Lady Wilson (known as 'Dame Jane'), with Charlton House, Greenwich, in the background, by R.C. Saunders, after Giovanni Trossarelli. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Portrait of Jane Weller, Lady Wilson (known as ‘Dame Jane’), with Charlton House, Greenwich, in the background, by R.C. Saunders, after Giovanni Trossarelli. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Jane was an heiress, the beneficiary of several family fortunes. In 1767 she married Sir Thomas Spencer Wilson, 6th Bt., a soldier and politician. This picture shows her in later life, in front of Charlton House, Greenwich, which she had inherited from her great uncle, the Rev. John Maryon.

A recent photograph of Charlton House, Greenwich. ©Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust

A recent photograph of Charlton House, Greenwich. ©Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust

The Jacobean mansion of Charlton House still survives. One of Jane’s descendants, Sir Spencer Maryon Wilson, sold it to London County Council in 1925 and it is now in the care of the Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust. It has also lent its name to the local Charlton Park rugby club.

Group of stuffed birds in the Museum at Wallington. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Group of stuffed birds in the Museum at Wallington. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Jane was a pioneer beetle expert, or coleopterist. She enjoyed going on beetle and fossil hunting expeditions and assembled a collection of natural history specimens which formed the basis of the ‘museum’ still at Wallington.

‘A delight in her business’

November 4, 2014
Portrait of Mrs Mary Garnett by Thomas Barber the elder, c.1800, at Kedleston Hall, inv. no. 108766. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Portrait of Mrs Mary Garnett by Thomas Barber the elder, c.1800, at Kedleston Hall, inv. no. 108766. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

I was recently made aware of this portrait of Mrs Mary Garnett (1724-1809), the housekeeper at Kedleston Hall. She is shown in the Marble Hall at Kedleston, with the guidebook to the house in her hand, as if ready to take a visitor round. Mrs Garnett must have been considered a fairly important member of the household to have had her portrait painted. The presence of the guidebook in the picture hints at the already well-established practice of respectable sightseers being allowed entry to country houses. By all accounts Mrs Garnett was rather good at this ‘public-facing’ part of her job.

Caesars' Hall, the everyday ground-floor entrance hall at Kedleston Hall. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

Caesars’ Hall, the everyday ground-floor entrance hall at Kedleston Hall. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

Several appreciative descriptions of Mrs Garnett’s performance as a house guide have been preserved, but the most glowing and informative was one by James Plumptre who visited in 1793:

‘We entered the house at the Servant’s Hall, by a door under the Portico, put down our names, and were then shewn up into the Grand Hall, where the Housekeeper joined us. Of all the Housekeeper[s] I ever met with at a Noblemans Houses [sic], this was the most obliging and intelligent I ever saw. There was a pleasing civility in her manner which was very ingratiating, she seem’d to take a delight in her business, was willing to answer any questions which were ask’d her, and was studious to shew the best lights for viewing the pictures and setting off the furniture.’

Part of the Marble Hall at Kedleston Hall. ©National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

Part of the Marble Hall at Kedleston Hall. ©National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

So not just country house visiting and country house guidebooks, but also visitor reviews were already clearly in evidence in the eighteenth century.

The weight of family tradition

October 9, 2014

 

Portrait of the Right Hon. Charles Yorke (1722-70) as a young man, attributed to Thomas Hudson (1701–79), at Wimpole Hall, inv. no. 2900098. ©Cheffins

Portrait of the Right Hon. Charles Yorke (1722-70) as a young man, attributed to Thomas Hudson (1701–79), at Wimpole Hall, inv. no. 2900098. ©Cheffins

We have just purchased this portrait at auction at Cheffins in Cambridge. Attributed to the painter Thomas Hudson, it depicts Charles Yorke (1722-70), second son of the 1st Earl of Hardwicke and father of the 3rd Earl. The portrait has now joined the other Yorke family portraits, a number of which are also by Hudson, at Wimpole Hall.

Portrait of the Right Hon. Charles Yorke (1722-70), at the time he became Solicitor-General in 1756, by Thomas Hudson (1701-79), at Wimpole Hall, inv. no. 207788. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Portrait of the Right Hon. Charles Yorke (1722-70), at the time he became Solicitor-General in 1756, by Thomas Hudson (1701-79), at Wimpole Hall, inv. no. 207788. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Charles Yorke might be seen as a paradigm of the pressures of family expectation. A good potted biography of him can be found on the History of Parliament website. From an early age he was expected to do well in the law profession. His mother’s uncle, Lord Somers, had been Lord Chancellor, and his father had held the same post for nearly twenty years.

Portrait of Sir Philip Yorke, 1st Earl of Hardwicke (1690-1764), by Thomas Hudson (1701-79), at Wimpole Hall, inv. no. 207887. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Portrait of Sir Philip Yorke, 1st Earl of Hardwicke (1690-1764), by Thomas Hudson (1701-79), at Wimpole Hall, inv. no. 207887. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Charles was indeed clever, was called to the bar and became a Member of Parliament. But he seems to have been indecisive and over-analytical, and those traits became more pronounced as his career progressed.

Portrait of Lady Elizabeth Yorke (1725–60), Lady Anson, sister of Charles Yorke, by Thomas Hudson (1701-79), at Shugborough Hall, inv. no. 1271067. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Portrait of Lady Elizabeth Yorke (1725–60), Lady Anson, sister of Charles Yorke, by Thomas Hudson (1701-79), at Shugborough Hall, inv. no. 1271067. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

In Parliament he was constantly veering between the Government and the opposition and couldn’t make up his mind when offered posts. Nevertheless he did become Solicitor-General in 1756 and Attorney-General in 1762 and again in 1765.

Portrait of Catherine Freman (1736/7-59), who married Charles Yorke in 1755, by Thomas Hudson (1701-79), at Wimpole Hall, inv. no. 207789. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Portrait of Catherine Freman (1736/7-59), who married Charles Yorke in 1755, by Thomas Hudson (1701-79), at Wimpole Hall, inv. no. 207789. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

When in January 1770 the Duke of Grafton finally did offer Yorke the Lord Chancellorship he felt caught out between his ambition and family tradition, the apparent instability of the Grafton administration, and his ties to friends and relations (including his brother) who were associated with the opposition. He ultimately accepted the post but the stress had so affected him that he died just three days later.

 

The Gilded Age at Waddesdon

September 30, 2014
Joanna Leigh, Mrs Richard Bennett Lloyd, inscribing a tree, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1775-6, at Waddesdon Manor. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Joanna Leigh, Mrs Richard Bennett Lloyd, inscribing a tree, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1775-6, at Waddesdon Manor. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

I attended a fascinating conference at Waddesdon Manor last week about the ‘Gilded Age’,  the period towards the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century when a group of American industrialists and entrepreneurs became incredibly wealthy and started to buy European art.

Lady Anne Luttrell, Duchess of Cumberland, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1772-3, at Waddesdon Manor. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Lady Anne Luttrell, Duchess of Cumberland, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1772-3, at Waddesdon Manor. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

The booming of the Amercian economy during the second half of the nineteenth century, coupled with a light taxation and legislation regime, allowed a select group of ‘robber barons’ to build up unprecedented fortunes. These men included John Jacob Astor (fur, real estate), Henry Clay Frick (steel), Collis Potter Huntington (railways), J.P. Morgan (finance), Andrew Mellon (finance, oil) and John D. Rockefeller (oil).

Emma Hart, Lady Hamilton, as Circe, by George Romney, 1782, at Waddesdon Manor. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Emma Hart, Lady Hamilton, as Circe, by George Romney, 1782, at Waddesdon Manor. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Some of them used some of their wealth to build palatial ‘cottages’ in Newport and elsewhere and to collect art. This ‘demand’ coincided with the opening up of ‘supply’ in Europe, where aristocratic families were hit by the agricultural depression of the 1870s. In addition, in Britain the Settled Land Acts of the 1880s allowed families to sell land and chattels that had hitherto been designated as heirlooms.

Frances Browne, Mrs John Douglas, by Thomas Gainsborough, 1783-4, at Waddesdon Manor. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Frances Browne, Mrs John Douglas, by Thomas Gainsborough, 1783-4, at Waddesdon Manor. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

A number of art dealers stepped in to service both sides of this particularly frothy market, including Agnew’s, Colnagi’s (whose archive has recently been deposited on loan to Waddesdon), Goupil’s, Knoedler’s and Wertheimer’s.

Lady Jane Tollemache, Lady John Halliday, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1778-9, at Waddesdon Manor. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Lady Jane Tollemache, Lady John Halliday, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1778-9, at Waddesdon Manor. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Sometimes the dealers formed syndicates to acquire and redistribute large collections, while at other times they competed with climactic tenacity for the opportunities to buy and sell important and fashionable works of art.

Sophia Charlotte Digby, Lady Sheffield, by Thomas Gainsborough, 1785-6, at Waddesdon Manor. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Sophia Charlotte Digby, Lady Sheffield, by Thomas Gainsborough, 1785-6, at Waddesdon Manor. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Some of the types of paintings that were particularly popular in this period were Dutch seventeenth-century landscapes and interiors and English eighteenth-century portraits.

Mrs Abington as the comic muse, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1764-8 and 1772-3, at Waddesdon Manor. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Mrs Abington as the comic muse, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1764-8 and 1772-3, at Waddesdon Manor. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Visiting Waddesdon, it struck me that this house and collection, built and assembled by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (1839-98) has strong Gilded Age overtones. Indeed it could be said that the goût Rothschild and Gilded Age taste were partially overlapping and mutually influential.

Thaïs, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1781, at Waddesdon Manor. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Thaïs, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1781, at Waddesdon Manor. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

The ‘grand manner’ English portraits collected by Baron Ferdinand would have been equally desirable, and occasionally hotly contested, by the robber barons across the pond.

Portraits from outer space

February 6, 2014
Thomas Gainsborough, portrait of Caroline Conolly, Countess of Buckinghamshire, 1784, at Blickling Hall. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Thomas Gainsborough, portrait of Caroline Conolly, Countess of Buckinghamshire, 1784, at Blickling Hall. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

We have been having a discussion about the relative merits of Arthur Devis and Thomas Gainsborough. I love the little details in Devis’s portraits, but I can also see that Gainsborough lifted British portraiture onto an altogether different plane.

Thomas Gainsborough, portrait of John Hobart, 2nd Earl of Buckinghamshire, 1784, at Blickling Hall. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Thomas Gainsborough, portrait of John Hobart, 2nd Earl of Buckinghamshire, 1784, at Blickling Hall. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Gainsborough’s portraits zoom in on the sitters’ appearance, glamourising them in the manner of today’s media personalities. Gainsborough’s foregrounding of a person’s ‘aura’ contributes to the characteristic vividness and brilliance of his portraits.

Thomas Gainsborough, portrait of a lady, possibly Elizabeth White, Mrs Hartley, c.1786-7, at Ascott. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Thomas Gainsborough, portrait of a lady, possibly Elizabeth White, Mrs Hartley, c.1786-7, at Ascott. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

However, it seems to me that in some ways Gainsborough’s pictures are – paradoxically – less realistic than Devis’s more muted portrayals.

Thomas Gainsborough, portrait of the Hon Thomas Needham, 1768, at Ascott. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Thomas Gainsborough, portrait of the Hon Thomas Needham, 1768, at Ascott. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Gainsborough’s settings are often very effective in hinting at the sitter’s role, personality or achievements, but they do that by being very theatrical. Pillar = grandeur and permanence. Pike = military hero. Anchor = naval prowess. Devis’s hints of domestic life have been replaced by emblematic props and backdrops.

Thomas Gainsborough and another hand, portrait of Susanna 'Suky' Trevelyan, Mrs John Hudson, 1761, at Wallington. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Thomas Gainsborough and another hand, portrait of Susanna ‘Suky’ Trevelyan, Mrs John Hudson, 1761, at Wallington. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

The way the sitters are dressed, and their body language, is again often rather theatrical. They appear like beautifully dressed and charismatically posed actors on a stage.

Thomas Gainsborough, portrait of Commodore the Hon. Augustus Hervey, later Vice-Admiral and 3rd Earl of Bristol, 1767-8, at Ickworth. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

In their glamorous artifice Gainsborough’s portraits remind me of film posters or trailers.

Thomas Gainsborough, portrait of Louisa Barbarina Mansel, Lady Vernon, 1763-7, at Sudbury Hall. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Thomas Gainsborough, portrait of Louisa Barbarina Mansel, Lady Vernon, 1763-7, at Sudbury Hall. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

All this makes his pictures at once very present and very distant. Gainsborough people seem a bit like beautiful aliens who have just arrived from outer space, surveying the assembled earthlings with gentle surprise and benign disdain.

Rococo lifestyle

February 4, 2014
Arthur Devis, portrait of Lucy Watson, Mrs Thornton, at Uppark. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundationk

Arthur Devis, portrait of Lucy Watson, Mrs Thornton, at Uppark. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Waldemar Januszczak has recently been entertaining and educating us about the rococo on British TV. By pure coincidence I just spotted these charming rococo-period portraits of English gentry by Arthur Devis (1712-87).

Arthur Devis, portrait of Lascelles Raymond Iremonger, at Uppark. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Arthur Devis, portrait of Lascelles Raymond Iremonger, at Uppark. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Devis’s portraits always have something slightly stilted about them, but at the same time they show lots of telling little details of people’s dress and furnishings.

Arthur Devis, portrait of a lady, possibly Elizabeth Lacey, Mrs Joshua Iremonger III, at Uppark. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Arthur Devis, portrait of a lady, possibly Elizabeth Lacey, Mrs Joshua Iremonger III, at Uppark. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

The chimney board in the portrait of Mrs Thornton, for instance, appears to be decorated with a Chinese picture or section of wallpaper, a practice that was fairly widespread at the time – Lucy Johnson has found references to them being introduced at Woburn Abbey in the early 1750s.

Arthur Devis, portrait of Joshua Iremonger III, at Uppark. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Arthur Devis, portrait of Joshua Iremonger III, at Uppark. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

It is also fascinating to see how empty the interiors are in Devis’s pictures, with just the occasional chair or table, a vase in the fireplace or a few porcelain jars and statuettes on the chimneypiece. Some of the floors are just bare boards, others appear to be covered by plain floorcloths with an occasional Turkey rug on top.

Arthur Devis, portrait of a man seated in a park, supposedly Sir James Burrow, at Uppark. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Arthur Devis, portrait of a man seated in a park, supposedly Sir James Burrow, at Uppark. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Was life just elegantly simple then, or did they have hidden closets bulging with stuff, like 1990s minimalists?

Arthur Devis, portrait of a boy or young man fishing, possibly Christopher Lethieullier, at Uppark. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Arthur Devis, portrait of a boy or young man fishing, possibly Christopher Lethieullier, at Uppark. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Or was Arthur Devis a stylist as well as a portraitist, skilfully editing his clients’ interiors? The little book propped on the dado rail in the portrait of Lascelles Raymond Iremonger, for instance, seems to betray the casually perfect touch of the stylist.

Arthur Devis, portrait of Sarah Lascelles, Mrs Christopher Lethieullier, at Uppark. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Arthur Devis, portrait of Sarah Lascelles, Mrs Christopher Lethieullier, at Uppark. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

The outdoor portraits are equally fascinating, showing the sitters enjoying ‘nature’ in carefully composed settings. Mrs Christopher Lethieullier seems to have been provided with a floorcloth to protect her shoes and dress from the dirt, while the gentlemen appear to be slightly more carefree, seated on green-painted garden chairs and even putting their tricorn hats on the ground.

Arthur Devis, portrait of a man seated in a parl, possibly Benjamin Lethieullier MP, at Uppark. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Arthur Devis, portrait of a man seated in a park, possibly Benjamin Lethieullier MP, at Uppark. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

These portraits somehow seem to epitomise the rococo in Britain, delicately – or awkwardly – poised between baroque formality and Romantic sensibility.

In the van Dyck tradition

December 18, 2013
The Hon Edith Helen Chaplin (1878–1959), Marchioness of Londonderry, DBE, with her favourite greyhound Fly, by Philip de László, 1913. Accepted in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Mount Stewart. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

The Hon Edith Helen Chaplin (1878–1959), Marchioness of Londonderry, DBE, with her favourite greyhound Fly, by Philip de László, 1913. Accepted in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Mount Stewart. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Following the mention in the previous post of the van Dyck self-portrait which the National Portrait Gallery is trying to acquire, I was struck by how some of the portraits at Mount Stewart are very much in the van Dyck tradition.

The 7th Marquess of Londonderry sitting in front of a portrait of his ancestor, Lord Castlereagh, by Philip de László, 1927. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The 7th Marquess of Londonderry sitting in front of a portrait of his ancestor, Lord Castlereagh, by Philip de László, 1927. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

One of these, the Diana-esque portrait of Edith, Marchioness of Londonderry by de László, has just been accepted in lieu of tax and allocated to Mount Stewart, along with a portrait by Lavery of her husband, the 7th Marquess, and a number of other objects associated with Mount Stewart and the Vane-Tempest-Stewart family.

Edward Charles Vane-Tempest-Stewart (1902–1955), Lord Stewart, later 8th Marquess of Londonderry, as a page at the coronation of King George V, by Philip de László, c.1911. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Edward Charles Vane-Tempest-Stewart (1902–1955), Lord Stewart, later 8th Marquess of Londonderry, as a page at the coronation of King George V, by Philip de László, c.1911. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The National Trust already owned a number of other family portraits at Mount Stewart, including a de László of the 7th Marquess draped with splendid van Dyckean nonchalance across a sofa in front of a portrait of his famous ancestor, Lord Castlereagh.

Lady Mairi Stewart (1921–2009), later Lady Mairi Bury, at the age of two, by Philip Alexius de László, 1923. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Lady Mairi Stewart (1921–2009), later Lady Mairi Bury, at the age of two, by Philip Alexius de László, 1923. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

The are also two charming portraits by the same artist of Lord Edward and Lady Mairi Stewart as children. Lady Mairi lived at Mount Stewart until her death in 2009.

Save van Dyck’s Self-portrait

December 12, 2013
Sir Anthony van Dyck, self-portrait, 1640-1. ©Philip Mould & Co.

Sir Anthony van Dyck, self-portrait, 1640-1. ©Philip Mould & Co.

The National Portrait Gallery and the Art Fund have launched a fundraising campaign to purchase a rare self-portrait by Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641). The painting has been sold to an overseas buyer, but a temporary export stop is giving the National Portrait Gallery the chance to acquire it.

Sir Anthony van Dyck and studio, King Charles I, 1638-9, at Ham House (acquired by HM Treasury 1948, transferred to the National Trust 2002) ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Sir Anthony van Dyck and studio, King Charles I, 1638-9, at Ham House (acquired by HM Treasury 1948, transferred to the National Trust 2002) ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Van Dyck was born in Antwerp and trained under Rubens. In 1632 he came to Britain where he had a transformative effect on portraiture, capturing a ‘careless romance’ that has epitomised British aristocratic insouciance ever since. He worked as Principal Painter to King Charles I and painted the royal family and those close to the court.

After Sir Anthony van Dyck, self-portrait with sunflower, at Ham House (acquired by HM Treasury 1948, transferred to the National Trust 2002). The original of 1635-6 is in the collection of the Duke of Westminster. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

After Sir Anthony van Dyck, self-portrait with sunflower, at Ham House (acquired by HM Treasury 1948, transferred to the National Trust 2002). The original of 1635-6 is in the collection of the Duke of Westminster. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

In this self-portrait Van Dyck shows himself as if in the act of painting, looking at himself in a mirror but at the same time gazing directly at us. The sunflower motif in the frame – associated with Van Dyck – refers to the relationship between art and nature, and between the artist and his patron-sovereign, as a flower who always follows the sun.

This portrait has previously been in private collections (including that of the Earls of Jersey who owned Osterley Park). This campaign is the last opportunity to preserve this picture, so relevant to British art, for public display in Britain.

Meeting Sophonisba

November 26, 2013
Sir Anthony van Dyck, portrait of Sophonisbna Anguissola in old age, c. 1624. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Knole. ©National Trust Knole, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Sir Anthony van Dyck, portrait of Sophonisbna Anguissola in old age, c. 1624. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Knole. ©National Trust Knole, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Arts Council England has just published its 2012-13 report on the Acceptance in Lieu scheme. This report includes the recent allocation of a group of portraits to the National Trust which have a historic connection to Knole. Among these pictures is this portrait by Sir Anthony van Dyck of the artist Sophonisba Anguissola in old age.

Copy by Hugh Howard of a sketch by Sir Anthony van Dyck of Sophonisba Anguissola. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Copy by Hugh Howard of a sketch by Sir Anthony van Dyck of Sophonisba Anguissola. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Sophonisba Anguissola was born into the minor nobility in Cremona, Lombardy. Her father ensured that all of his children received a cultivated upbringing, and four of her sisters also became painters. Sophonisba studied with local painters, setting a precedent for women to become art students.

Sophonisba Anguissola, portrait of the artist's sister in the garb of a nun, 1551. ©Southampton City Art Gallery, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Sophonisba Anguissola, portrait of the artist’s sister in the garb of a nun, 1551. ©Southampton City Art Gallery, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

At the age of twenty-two, Sophonisba travelled to Rome, where she received informal instruction from Michelangelo. Although, as a woman, she was not allowed to study anatomy or life-drawing, she became an accomplished portraitist.

In 1559 she was invited to join the Spanish court as painter and lady in waiting to Elizabeth of Valois, King Philip II’s third wife. She married Don Francisco de Moncada, son of the Viceroy of Sicily, and they eventually went to live in Palermo. After her first husband’s death she married the considerably younger Orazio Lomellino, a ship’s captain whom she had met while travelling to Cremona. Both of her husbands supported her career as a painter.

Sophonisba Anguissola, portrait of the granddaughter of the Duke and Duchess of Parma, c. 1580. ©Maidstone Museum & Bentlif Art Gallery, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Sophonisba Anguissola, portrait of the granddaughter of the Duke and Duchess of Parma, c. 1580. ©Maidstone Museum & Bentlif Art Gallery, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

In 1624, a year before her death, the by now famous artist was visited by Sir Anthony van Dyck, who sketched her and recorded her advice about painting. This sketch formed the basis for the portrait now at Knole.


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