Archive for the ‘Portraits’ Category

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.

The world and his dog

November 6, 2013
Peter Palmer, huntsman to Sir John William de la Pole, 6th Bt, by Thomas Beach, 1793, at Antony. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Peter Palmer, huntsman to Sir John William de la Pole, 6th Bt, by Thomas Beach, 1793, at Antony. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

I have just been looking at the six volumes on the oil paintings owned by the National Trust which have been published by the Public Catalogue Foundation (PCF).

Fury, a dappled grey, and his groom, by Francis Sartorius I, 1784, at Antony. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Fury, a dappled grey, and his groom, by Francis Sartorius I, 1784, at Antony. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

The Public Catalogue Foundation is an extraordinary venture, in some ways reminiscent of Pevsner’s Buildings of England series, which has succeeded in digitising the UK’s publicly owned oil paintings.

Bruen, a spaniel, and Squirrel, a black horse, by Francis Sartorius I, 1790, at Antony. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Bruen, a spaniel, and Squirrel, a black horse, by Francis Sartorius I, 1790, at Antony. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

The database can be accessed digitally via the Your Paintings site, but the PCF is also publishing a series of hardback catalogues, six of which cover the National Trust’s collections.

A groom, two greys and a currick in a courtyard, by Francis Sartorius I, at Antony. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

A groom, two greys and a currick in a courtyard, by Francis Sartorius I, at Antony. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

It is wonderful to see the collections of individual historic houses spread out across the pages, in all their variety, splendour and incongruity. Some are undoubted masterpieces by famous artists while others, though more humble, speak eloquently of social attitudes, changing fashions and family preoccupations.

Atlas, Master Pole's pony, which he rode at four year's old, by Francis Sartorius I, c. 1785-6, at Antony. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Atlas, Master Pole’s pony, which he rode at four year’s old, by Francis Sartorius I, c. 1785-6, at Antony. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

The pictures shown here are from the collection of the Carew and Pole families which have been associated with Antony, in Cornwall, since the early fifteenth century.

A Proustian moment at Mount Stewart

July 16, 2013
Charles Vane-Tempest-Stewart, 7th Marquess of Londonderry, by Philip de Laszlo, 1914. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Charles Vane-Tempest-Stewart, 7th Marquess of Londonderry, by Philip de Laszlo, 1914. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

As I came upon these portraits of Charles Vane-Tempest-Stewart, 7th Marquess of Londonderry (1878-1949), and his wife Edith, née Chaplin (1879-1959), it struck me how redolent they are of the generation that bridged the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries.

Edith, Marchioness of Londonderry, in the uniform of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps, by Philip de Laszlo, 1918. ©Imperial War Museum, on loan to Mount Stewart

Edith, Marchioness of Londonderry, in the uniform of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, by Philip de Laszlo, 1918. ©Imperial War Museum, on loan to Mount Stewart

The society portraitist Philip de Laszlo (1869-1937), who was very good at depicting people as they wished to be seen (and who was of the same generation), has imbued the Marquess and Marchioness with a Proustian mixture of aristocratic grandeur, earnest patriotism and modern self-awareness.

The 7th Marquess of Londonderry, with a portrait of Lord Castlereagh behind him, by Philip de Laszlo, 1924. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The 7th Marquess of Londonderry, with a portrait of Lord Castlereagh behind him, by Philip de Laszlo, 1924. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Lord Londonderry was descended from the one of the great politicians of the Napoleonic era, Lord Castlereagh, and he continued that tradition by participating in Irish and British politics. Lady Londonderry was one of the last great political hostesses, holding magnificent receptions at Londonderry House on Park Lane in London.

Edith, Marchioness of Londonderry, by Philip de Laszlo, 1927. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Edith, Marchioness of Londonderry, by Philip de Laszlo, 1927. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The portraits hang at Mount Stewart, which was one of their secondary homes and where Lady Londonderry created a notable garden. The house is currently undergoing a restoration project which should eventually make this Proustian moment even more palpable to visitors.

The shock of the old

July 9, 2013
Dress worn by Rosamund Anstruther, Mrs Edward Windsor Hussey (1877-1958). ©National Trust

Dress worn by Rosamund Anstruther, Mrs Edward Windsor Hussey (1877-1958). ©National Trust

Dame Helen Ghosh, the director-general of the National Trust, writes an internal blog about her experiences and thoughts while traveling around National Trust places and meeting colleagues. Recently she mentioned coming upon this Edwardian dress at Scotney Castle and suddenly being transported back in time.

Portrait of Rosamund Hussey by James Jebusa Shannon, painted shortly after 1900. ©National Trust Images/John HammondMRS EDWARD WINDSOR HUSSEY ON THE TERRACE by James Jebusa Shannon, (1862-1923), an American artist, on the Staircase in the new house at Scotney Castle, Kent

Portrait of Rosamund Hussey by James Jebusa Shannon, painted shortly after 1900. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The dress belonged to Rosamund Hussey who lived at Scotney during the first half of the twentieth century. She was painted wearing it by the society portraitist J.J. Shannon shortly after her marriage to Edward Windsor Hussey in 1900.

Mrs Hussey being painted by Shannon. National Trust Images

Mrs Hussey being painted by Shannon. National Trust Images

I have previously touched on the poignant juxtaposition between historic items of clothing and portraits showing them being worn, as also seen at Antony and in the Victoria & Albert Museum.

The Scotney pairing is even more layered in that there exists a contemporary photograph showing the portrait being painted – an interestingly self-conscious celebration of the event of having one’s portrait painted, and an equally fascinating contrast between the new medium of photography and the old medium of oil on canvas.

View from the new house at Scotney down to the castle. ©National Trust Images/John Miller

View from the new house at Scotney down to the castle. ©National Trust Images/John Miller

And I suppose the garden at Scotney, shown in the background of the picture (and of the photograph), adds yet another visual layer which – like the dress – is still there.

Painted pomp

April 23, 2013
Portrait of Lady Anne Sackville, Lady Beauchamp (1586–1664) or Frances Prynne or Prinne, Lady Seymour of Trowbridge (d.1626), attributed to William Larkin, at Petworth House (inv. no. NT486187). ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Portrait of Lady Anne Sackville, Lady Beauchamp (1586–1664) or Frances Prynne or Prinne, Lady Seymour of Trowbridge (d.1626), attributed to William Larkin, at Petworth House (inv. no. NT486187). ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Over the weekend I visited an excellent small exhibition at the Holburne Museum in Bath, entitled Painted Pomp, about portraiture and fashion in the Jacobean period.

Ushak carpet at Gawthorpe Hall, Lancashire (inv. no. NT42883). ©National Trust Collections

Ushak carpet at Gawthorpe Hall, Lancashire (inv. no. NT42883). ©National Trust Collections

The exhibition includes nine full-length portraits by William Larkin (early 1880s-1619) of relatives of Thomas Howard, 1st Earl of Suffolk (1561-1626). The paintings originally hung at Charlton Park, Malmsbury, a seat of the Earls of Suffolk and Berkshire, and were given to the nation in 1974. They are now in the care of English Heritage at Kenwood in north London.

In this post I am showing some other portraits by and after Larkin in various National Trust collections.

Portrait of Francis Seymour, 1st Baron Seymour of Trowbridge (c.1590-1664), in the style of William Larkin, at Petworth House (inv. no. NT486188). ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Portrait of Francis Seymour, 1st Baron Seymour of Trowbridge (c.1590-1664), in the style of William Larkin, at Petworth House (inv. no. NT486188). ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The pictures document some of the extravagant and highly crafted fashions of the period, such as pinked silk, embroidered shirts, punto in aria (‘stitches in the air’) lace collars and shoes and gauntlets trimmed with gold and silver thread.

Ushak carpet at Sudbury Hall, Derbyshire (inv. no. 653287). ©National Trust Collections

Ushak carpet at Sudbury Hall, Derbyshire (inv. no. 653287). ©National Trust Collections

It is interesting to see how the men are sometimes more gorgeously attired than the women. This was clearly an age when ‘power dressing’ meant dressing as flamboyantly as possible.

Portrait of Mary Curzon, Countess of Dorset (1585 -1645), by William Hamilton RA (1751-1801) after William Larkin, at Kedleston Hall (inv. no. NT108775). ©National Trust Images/Ian Blantern

Portrait of Mary Curzon, Countess of Dorset (1585 -1645), by William Hamilton RA (1751-1801) after William Larkin, at Kedleston Hall (inv. no. NT108775). ©National Trust Images/Ian Blantern

Prominently visible in the portraits are the Turkish Ushak rugs, expensive status symbols in the early 17th century, and the exhibition includes an actual Ushak rug.

Ushak carpet at Chastleton House, Oxfordshire (inv. no. NT1430658). ©National Trust Collections

Ushak carpet at Chastleton House, Oxfordshire (inv. no. NT1430658). ©National Trust Collections

There are also a few surviving items of Jacobean clothing on show, as well as two replica costumes made for use at Shakespeare’s Globe, London.

The people behind the objects

March 21, 2013
Conservator inspecting the back of the headboard of the King James II bed at Knole. ©National Trust Images/David Levenson

Conservator inspecting the back of the headboard of the King James II bed at Knole. ©National Trust Images/David Levenson

Perhaps I don’t feature people often enough in this blog.

Conservator the late Linda Shelley dusting an urn in the Entrance Hall at Osterley Park. ©National Trust Images/Ian Shaw

Conservator the late Linda Shelley dusting an urn in the Entrance Hall at Osterley Park. ©National Trust Images/Ian Shaw

It is easy to overlook the people who actually preserve and open up the collections of the National Trust. Many of them beaver away modestly behind the scenes.

Volunteers conserving textiles at Tyntesfield. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Volunteers conserving textiles at Tyntesfield. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Also, unlike objects, people tend not to stay still for very long and are therefore more difficult to capture in photographs.

Food historian Peter Brears carrying a silver item to the Dining Room at Attingham Park. ©National Trust Images/David Levenson

Food historian Peter Brears carrying a silver item to the Dining Room at Attingham Park. ©National Trust Images/David Levenson

But here are a few of the many different types of people involved with the collections of the National Trust, with some of the objects in their care.

When is a Rembrandt a Rembrandt?

March 19, 2013
Attributed to Rembrandt van Rijn, self-portrait wearing a white feathered bonnet, at Buckland Abbey. NT810136 ©National Trust/Steve Haywood

Attributed to Rembrandt van Rijn, self-portrait wearing a white feathered bonnet, at Buckland Abbey. NT810136 ©National Trust/Steve Haywood

Rembrandt’s oeuvre is a fascinating case study in how paintings are evaluated differently by succeeding generations.

When the above portrait of Rembrandt was donated to Buckland Abbey in 2010 it was catalogued as ‘studio of’ rather than as by the artist himself. It had been described like this since 1968 when Rembrandt scholar Horst Gerson suggested that it was painted by one of the artist’s pupils. This judgement was then confirmed by the Rembrandt Research Project, a committee dedicated to tracking down and authenticating the artist’s oeuvre.

David Taylor, the National Trust's curator of pictures, scrutinising the self portrait. ©National Trust/Steve Haywood

David Taylor, the National Trust’s curator of pictures, scrutinising the self portrait. ©National Trust/Steve Haywood

Prior to that it had been considered a work by the artist himself. It had previously been in the collection of the Princes of Liechtenstein and in the 1960s it was acquired by Harold Samuel, Lord Samuel of Wych Cross, from the London dealer Edward Speelman.

©National Trust/Steve Haywood

©National Trust/Steve Haywood

Lord Samuel was a property developer (who founded and built up Land Securities) and philanthropist who assembled an important collection of Netherlandish old master paintings, many of which were bequeathed to the City of London and are now on display at Mansion House.

In 2010 two paintings from the estate of Lord Samuel’s wife, Edna, Lady Samuel, were accepted by the Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to Buckland. At the same time the estate donated three more paintings directly to Buckland, including the Rembrandt self portrait – then still described as ‘studio of’.

The self portrait being rehung after inspection ©National Trust/Steve Haywood-

The self portrait being rehung after inspection ©National Trust/Steve Haywood-

But now Ernst van de Wetering, the chair of the Rembrandt Research Project, has reversed his assessment of the picture, in view of subsequent research into the artist’s work. He has noted that the same relatively crude brushwork can also be seen in other Rembrandt pictures of the 1630s, such as Belshazzar’s Feast in the National Gallery, London, and the Rabbi in the Royal Collection.

The frame being given a once-over by Patricia Burtnyk, house steward at Buckland. ©National Trust/Steve Haywood

The frame being given a once-over by Patricia Burtnyk, house steward at Buckland. ©National Trust/Steve Haywood

The picture will soon undergo further technical analysis funded by the People’s Postcode Lottery, to try to firm up this re-attribution. The research will include dendrochronology, study of the pigments and the paint layers, infrared reflectography and ex-ray photography.

Regardless of the ultimate verdict, however, one undoubted benefit of this ongoing process of attribution (and reattribution, and re-reattribution) has been to make us all look more closely at this beautiful and intriguing portrait.

Scrubs up nicely

March 14, 2013
Portrait of ‘young’ Sir George Booth, 1st Baron Delamer (1622-1684), by circle of Sir Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723), at Dunham Massey, photographed following conservation. ©National Trust Images/Matthew Hollow

Portrait of ‘young’ Sir George Booth, 1st Baron Delamer (1622-1684), by circle of Sir Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723), at Dunham Massey, photographed following conservation. ©National Trust Images/Matthew Hollow

In June 2012 we managed to buy this portrait of ‘Young’ Sir George Booth, 1st Baron Delamer of Dunham Massey (as I reported at the time). It was sent to London-based conservator Sophie Reddington for treatment and Sophie has just sent me these images of the work.

The portrait before conservation. ©Christie's

The portrait before conservation. ©Christie’s

The picture was quite dusty and dirty and even had some white splash marks which appeared to be emulsion wall paint. At some point it had also been relined using too much heat, causing the paint to melt in places.

The portrait midway during varnish removal. ©Sophie Reddington

The portrait midway during varnish removal. ©Sophie Reddington

Sophie cleaned the painting with deionised water and then removed several layers of discoloured varnish with various solvents. Old retouching and overpainting was removed, again with solvents and also mechanically with a scalpel.

Lord Delamer's sleeve during varnish removal. ©Sophie Reddington

Lord Delamer’s sleeve during varnish removal. ©Sophie Reddington

Then Sophie refilled the small paint losses with acrylic putty, applied a first coat of new varnish and added new retouchings, followed by a final coat of varnish sprayed on in several thin layers.

The portrait after the filling in of the losses and the application of the first coat of varnish, but before retouching. ©Sophie Reddington

The portrait after the filling in of the losses and the application of the first coat of varnish, but before retouching. ©Sophie Reddington

Where the canvas had become brittle and torn around the sides and the back of the stretcher Sophie mended it with nylon gossamer impregnated with adhesive.

Fragile and brittle tacking edges before treatment. ©Sophie Reddington

Fragile and brittle tacking edges before treatment. ©Sophie Reddington

Sophie also treated the frame, consolidating loose parts, retouching damaged areas with watercolours and bronze paint, lining the rebate with paper tape and felt and reinserting the picture.

The same tacking edges after treatment. ©Sophie Reddington

The same tacking edges after treatment. ©Sophie Reddington

On the back of the frame there is a label of James Bourlet and Sons, London frame makers, as well as the more recent Christie’s label.

Labels old and new on the back of the frame. ©Sophie Reddington

Labels old and new on the back of the frame. ©Sophie Reddington

All this has vastly improved the readability of the image and given it a new lease of life.

Living history

January 31, 2013
HM Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, Palace of Huis ten Bosch, 2010. © RVD, foto: Vincent Mentzel © RVD, photo: Vincent Mentzel

HM Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, Palace of Huis ten Bosch, 2010. © RVD, photo: Vincent Mentzel

Earlier this week HM Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands made the announcement that on 30 April 2013 she will abdicate in favour of her son, the Prince of Orange. By then she will have been on the throne for 33 years, and at 75 she will have been the oldest reigning Dutch monarch.

As constitutional monarch Queen Beatrix represents an element of continuity, an embodiment of ‘living history’. Various members of the House of Orange have had a connection with the Dutch nation from its foundation in the 1570s and 1580s, first as stadtholders and later as monarchs. Now Queen Beatrix’s reign, too, will become ‘history’.

HM Queen Beatrix signing legislation at her desk at the Palace of Huis ten Bosch, 2011. © Rijksoverheid

HM Queen Beatrix signing legislation at her desk at the Palace of Huis ten Bosch, 2011. © Rijksoverheid

The recent portraits shown here hint at that continuity in various, almost old-masterly ways. The photograph at the top was taken in the Witte Eetzaal (White Dining Room) of the Palace of Huis ten Bosch in The Hague. This room is in one of the wings added to the building by Daniel Marot for Prince William IV of Orange between 1734 and 1737. The image of the Queen at her desk shows her under a portrait of the Dutch pater patriae, Prince William I of Orange.

It girls of the Elizabethan age

November 20, 2012

Portrait of Margaret Gerard, Lady Legh, attributed to Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger. Accepted in lieu of inheritance tax by HM Government and allocated to the National Trust for display at Lyme Park, 2011. ©National Trust Collections

This striking full-length portrait is among the objects recently accepted by the Government in lieu of tax and allocated to Lyme Park.

Portrait of Blanche Parry, possibly by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, at Tredegar House, Newport. ©National Trust Collections, supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

It depicts Margaret Gerard (1569/70-1603), the wife of Sir Peter Legh IX (1563-1636), who completed and extended the Elizabethan house at Lyme.

Portrait of Elizabeth I, by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger. ©Trinity College, University of Cambridge, supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

The portrait is attributed to the Tudor court painter Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger (1561/2-1636) who, together with his father, came to England from the southern Netherlands.

Portrait of Elizabeth Vernon, Countess of Southampton, by school of Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger. ©Glasgow Museums, supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Gheeraerts the Younger introduced a more three-dimensional style of portraiture to English art, with more emphasis on capturing the character of the sitter. Moreover, he occasionally portrayed people with a smiling expression, which was rare at this time.

Portrait possibly of Anne Keighley, Mrs William Cavendish, by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, at Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire. ©National Trust Collections, supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

I did a search on the excellent Your Paintings database of oil paintings in UK public collections and found a number of other portraits of ladies by or in the style of Gheeraerts the Younger.

Portrait of an unknown pregnant lady, attributed to Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to Tate, 1999. ©Tate, supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Seeing the Lyme portrait in the company of these portraits of other Elizabethan ‘it girls’ by the same artist really brings home the strangeness and splendour of Elizabethan court dress and body language.

Portrait of an unknown lady, aged 31, holding a glove and fan, in the style of Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, at Nostell Priory. ©National Trust Collections, supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

It also demonstrates the huge value of both the Acceptance in Lieu scheme and the Public Catalogue Foundation/Your Paintings project to preserving and opening up our heritage.