The Elliot–Gedling House Portrait

Unknown Lady
by Unknown artist
17th or 18th Century
oil on canvas
13.25 x 10 in
Private Collection
     The Elliot–Gedling House portrait is presented here primarily because Richard Davey included it in his inventory of portraits attached as an appendix to his biography of Jane Grey, written in 1909. It therefore requires some comment, though Davey rightly dismissed identifying the sitter as Jane Grey based on the costume, noting rather sharply that ‘Lady Jane could no more have worn such a hat and costume than a lady in 1909 could be painted as wearing the crinoline and spoon-shaped bonnet of the mid-Victorian days’.[1]
     The portrait had once been in the possession of a ‘Colonel Elliot’ in the nineteenth century, according to Davey. That provenance was confirmed by Sotheby’s (Olympia, London) when they handled the sale of the painting in October 2002.[2] Further research has revealed that ‘Colonel Elliot’ was Colonel John Stanford-Elliot (1757–1823) of Stanford House, 19 Castle Gate, Nottingham, and of Gedling House, Carlton, Nottinghamshire.[3] Colonel Stanford-Elliot was the son of William Stanford, a wealthy Nottingham stocking-maker. The Colonel’s father, despite his own advanced age, changed his surname to Elliot in 1792 in compliance with the terms of an inheritance from the Colonel’s great-uncle, textile manufacturer William Elliot (1704–1792), though William Stanford had already made his own sizable fortune after perfecting a process for achieving a stable black color when dying silk stockings. Colonel John Stanford-Elliot and his brother, William Elliott Stanford-Elliot, subsequently also took their great-uncle’s Elliot surname in 1796 upon the death of their father. The elder of the two, afterward known more simply as William Elliott Elliot, used his portion of the combined Stanford-Elliot fortunes to purchase the Gedling estate and to build Gedling House in about 1804, while his brother, by then known as Colonel John Elliot, resided at Stanford House in the city of Nottingham.[4] The painting may already have been in the Elliot collection at Stanford House (built by William Stanford circa 1775), or it may have been purchased circa 1804 to furnish newly-built Gedling House.

     Colonel John Elliot predeceased his brother William in 1823, and the portrait remained thereafter in William’s possession at Gedling. When William died in 1844, he bequeathed Gedling House and the portrait it contained to his sister’s sons, William Stanford Burnside and the Reverend John Burnside (Jr.).[5] The elder son, barrister William Burnside, occupied Gedling House until his own death in 1870. The house and painting then passed to William’s son John Elliot Burnside (1817–1904), and thence to John’s grand-nephew, Walter Hugh Rawnsley.[6]

     Rawnsley was already possessed of Well Vale House near Alford, in Lincolnshire. He therefore removed some of the contents of Gedling, including the portrait, to Well Vale and put Gedling out to lease.[7] Walter Rawnsley died in 1936, and his son, Major John Richard Chaplin Rawnsley, inherited Well Vale and the portrait. Major Rawnsley in turn died some twenty years later, leaving Well Vale and the portrait to his wife, Susan Reeve Rawnsley. Mrs Rawnsley then bequeathed the portrait to her cousin and god-daughter, Mary Fane Fry (1947–2000) of Fulbeck Hall, near Leadenham, Lincolnshire. Mary’s sons, Michael Fane Fry and Samuel Fane Fry, sold Fulbeck and liquidated the contents in 2002. The portrait was sold at auction by Sotheby’s on 8 October 2002.

     The Elliot–Gedling portrait is now in an unknown private collection.
     The painting is oil on stretched canvas and measures 13.25 by 10 inches. The paintwork appears to be largely intact, though photographs suggest that the overlying varnish is severely dirty and partially opacified.

     The portrait is unsigned, but has been generically attributed by Sotheby’s to ‘Anglo-Dutch School’, a default attribution when no individual artist can be identified. It was at one early point attributed to Hans Holbein, though that attribution was dismissed by the end of the nineteenth century.

     The portrait depicts a fully adult woman at bust length and facing slightly to her proper left. She wears a costume that is, as Davey noted, largely inconsistent with mid-sixteenth-century English attire. Her headgear, for example, consists of an embroidered head-wrap over which has been placed a large hat, itself worn asymmetrically on the proper left side of the head. The hat appears to have an upturned brim, and the underside is heavily embroidered with pearls. A large gold and pearl hat badge or ornament is attached to the brim as well. While the jeweled embellishment of the hat brim is certainly reminiscent of sixteenth-century styles, the overall form of the hat is more consistent with fashions of the seventeenth century. The embroidered turban-like head-wrap is likewise more consistent with late seventeenth and even eighteenth-century women’s headgear. The close-fitting and high-standing stiff collar arising out of the yolk of the gown has no direct parallel in English fashion of either the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries. Similarly, the embroidered and spangled appliques forming a window-pane pattern (and vaguely suggestive of Tudor half-timbering) on the bodice of the gown is not otherwise seen in authentic portraiture of the sixteenth century. The laces, or ‘points’, attaching the sleeves to the bodice, though common in clothing of the sixteenth century, are here much too conspicuous. Likewise, while the slashing of the upper sleeve appears authentic for the general period indicated, the ballooned effect created at the shoulder by the banding seen on the proper left upper arm developed only after the mid 1550s, and thus after Jane Grey’s death. Overall, the costume worn by the lady gives the impression of having emerged from the imagination of an artist who had seen only a limited number of authentic portraits from the end of the sixteenth century, or perhaps one who had seen similar costumes in stage plays. The costume is not at all accurate, however, for the mid-sixteenth century in which Jane Grey lived.
     The available evidence forces the conclusion that this portrait is not an authentic life-portrait of Lady Jane Grey. That it is painted on canvas rather than wood board indicates a likely origin after 1600. The sitter’s position, turned slightly to her proper left, is essentially unseen in English female portraiture prior to the seventeenth century.[8] The costume bears many hallmarks of having been pieced together in an artist’s imagination and is inappropriate for any sitter of the sixteenth century. In all likelihood, the painting was created as a deliberately imaginary one, probably in the period between 1675 and 1750. How it found its way into the Elliot collection is unclear, but is undoubtedly related to the newfound wealth of stocking-maker William Stanford Elliot circa 1750–1775, and to the desire of his even-wealthier sons to transition from the status of city merchant to that of country gentleman. Becoming a country gentleman required collecting art, and historic portraiture was a popular genre, especially early in the nineteenth century. Indeed, the engraver Robert William Sievier engraved this portrait in 1822 (below, at bottom) specifically to meet the growing demand for historical portraits.
J. Stephan Edwards, Ph.D.
Palm Springs, California
29 December 2011 
     Thanks to an astute and well-informed visitor to this site, Marianne Steinbauer of Germany, this portrait can now be reliably identified and its origin detailed. Ms Steinbauer recognized the portrait as a copy from an original in the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid.
     The Elliot-Gedling House portrait is a seventeenth-century or later copy of an original work by Hans Maler (1480–1526 or 1529). Maler was a German-born artist who worked extensively for Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, younger brother of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Several of Maler’s portraits of this sitter survive, as do portraits of her by other artists (e.g: in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin and the Landesmuseum Ferdinandeum, Innsbruck).
     The portrait depicts Anna (1503–1547), daughter of Wladislav, King of Hungary and Bohemia, as she appeared in 1519 before her marriage to Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria. Ferdinand was a younger son of Queen Joanna (“The Mad”) of Castile and her husband Philip of the House of Habsburg. Following the marriage in 1521, Ferdinand inherited through Anna the Kingdoms of Bohemia and Hungary in 1526, and in 1531, as heir apparent to his brother the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, he became King of the Romans. Anna was thus Queen Regnant of Bohemia and Hungary as well as Queen-Consort of the Romans and a potential future Holy Roman Empress-Consort (though she died a decade before Ferdinand became Holy Roman Emperor in 1558). She was also “niece-in-law” of Ferdinand’s maternal aunt, Katherine of Aragon, and thus a distant “cousin-in-law” of Mary Tudor as well as of Jane Grey herself.
     The Maler painting was part of the Barberini Collection as early as 1671, and remained there until sold to the Thyssen-Bornemiszas in the 1930s. The Barberinis were a prominent Florentine family that included one Pope (Urban VIII, reigned 1623–1644), several Cardinals, and such descendants as the Dukes of Modena (after 1737). The Thyssen-Bornemiszas all descend from Frederich Thyssen, a nineteenth-century German banker. The family is today one of the wealthiest in Europe with interests in steel, manufacturing, banking, and ship-building. The current claimant to the abolished Imperial Crown of Austria, Archduke Karl of Austria, is married to a Thyssen-Bornemisza: Francesca, daughter of Hans Heinrich, Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon et Impérfalva. The Archduchess Francesca is herself curator of the Thyssen-Bornemisza family’s extensive collection of art and antiquities.
     I am very grateful to Ms Steinbauer for alerting me to the proper identification of this painting.

     A second pre-modern copy of the portrait of Anna of Hungary and Bohemia exists under an identification as “Lady Jane Grey.” The painting is at Hartlebury Castle in Worcestershire, former seat of the Bishops of Worcester. The Hartlebury copy was created by Charles Linsell in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, reportedy working directly from the Elliot-Gedling Portrait. The portrait was labeled “Lady Jane Grey” at the time it was painted by Linsell and retains that identification today.
Anna of Bohemia and Hungary
Hans Maler, 1519
17.3 x 13 inches

Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

Called Lady Jane Grey
engraved by Robert William Sievier, 1822
18 x 14 inches

National Portrait Gallery, London
Richard Davey, The Nine Days’s Queen: Lady Jane Grey and Her Times (London: Methuen, 1909), 360.
The Contents of Fulbeck Hall, Lincolnshire, Sotheby’s, Olympia, London, 8 October 2002, Lot 372, p. 158.
John Elliot acquired the title ‘Colonel’ through his role as commander of the Nottinghamshire Volunteers Regiment during the Napoleonic Wars.
Charles Gerring, A History of the Parish of Gedling, in the County of Nottingham (Nottingham: Murray's Nottingham Book Co., 1908), 165; Torven Zeffert, ‘Gelding House’, unpublished MA dissertation, University of Nottingham, 1995.
Ann Stanford Elliot had married John Burnside (Sr.) in 1786.
John Elliot Burnside’s paternal aunt, Catherine Elizabeth Burnside, married Sir William Franklin, and their daughter Catherine Anne subsequently married the Reverend Robert Rawnsley. The latter couple’s sons were Walter Hugh Rawnsley, who inherited Gedling, and Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley, a co-founder of the National Trust. In bequeathing Gedling to Walter Rawnsley, John Burnside inexplicably overlooked his own son, William Elliot Burnside (1845–1911). See Zeffert, note 3 above.
Gedling was eventually sold by W.H. Rawnsley’s son Major John Richard Chaplin Rawnsley in 1954, to the War Department. It is currently owned by New Charter Housing Group, which uses it as its corporate headquarters.
The positioning of sitters in English portraiture of the sixteenth century was governed by a fairly rigid set of customs and practices, with women almost always turned slightly to their proper right and men to their proper left. It is very rare to see those positions inverted, but see the portrait of Mary Neville Fiennes and her son Gregory for a much-studied and all-but-unique example. It is equally rare to see sitters facing full frontal, that position being more commonly reserved for monarchs.
    Introduction to Portraiture of Lady Jane Grey
    The Althorp Portrait     The Anglesey Abbey Portrait  
    The Bodleian Library Portrait     The Chawton House–Hever Castle Portrait  
    The Fitzwilliam Museum Portrait     The Houghton Hall Portrait  
    The Jersey Portrait     The King’s College Portrait  
    The Madresfield Court Portrait     The Melton Constable Hall Portrait  
    The Norris Portrait     The Northwick Park Portrait  
    The Portland Portrait     The Rotherwas Portrait  
    The Somerley Portrait     The Streatham Portrait  
    The Syon House Portrait     The van de Passe Engraved Portrait  
    The Wrest Park Portrait     The Yale Miniature  
    Other Portraits Called
‘Lady Jane Grey’


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Page Created 28 December 2011, Revised 16 February 2012

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