The Jersey Portrait
 
 
Called ‘Lady Jane Grey’
(frame label states ‘Queen Mary’)
by Unknown Artist
Oil on panel, 34 in. x 24 in.
The Earldom of Jersey Trust, Radier Manor
[1]
 
     
 
     Only limited information is available on the Jersey Portrait, in large part because the painting was for over 60 years reported to have been destroyed in a fire. In 1949, the 9th Earl of Jersey, George Child Villiers, donated his London home of Osterley House and Park to the British Nation but removed many of the valuable art objects beforehand. He stored them temporarily in a warehouse on the Isle of Jersey, location of the family seat, Radier Manor. A series of random arson fires plagued Jersey that same year, one of which involved the storage facility for the Earl’s collection. On Friday, 1 October 1949, a fire broke out in the furniture depository of F. Gallais and Sons in St Helier, Jersey, resulting in the loss of an estimated £100,000 worth of the Earl’s property (roughly £2,500,000 in purchasing power in 2010, without consideration for appreciation as collectible objects of art).[2] Sir Roy Strong reported in his book on Tudor portraiture (published 1969) that this painting was among those lost in the fire. Strong’s report has been largely unchallenged publicly until now. The current Earl of Jersey has, however, confirmed that the painting survives and is now owned by The Earldom of Jersey Trust and held at Radier Manor in the Isle of Jersey.[3]
 
     
 
     The first thing even the most casual of viewers of this portrait is likely to notice from the only available color photograph of the painting (seen above) is its similarity to the Melton Constable Portrait. The two are virtually identical except for the style and coloring of the costume: the gown seen here is more appropriate for cold weather while that in the Melton Constable Portrait is best suited to warmer weather. Other than the seasonal nature of the gown, the two portraits appear to be duplicates of each other, from the positioning of the sitter and the placement of her hands to her jewels and even the background elements. The single readily-discernible exception is the hair, which here appears to be artificially crimped while that of the Melton Constable Portrait appears naturally wavy.
 
     
 
     As noted above, little is known about the painting. It is oil on wood panel, consistent with sixteenth-century practices. It is about three-quarter life-size, according to the current Earl of Jersey, measuring 34 inches high by 24 inches wide. The frame bears a label of unknown age and origin identifying the sitter as Queen Mary. No detailed provenance information has ever been published, so that it is not possible to know when or how it came into the Jersey collection at Osterley House. It is worth noting that the original Tudor-era Osterley House had been built in the 1570s by Sir Thomas Gresham, who held Lady Jane’s sister Lady Mary Keyes in custody from 1569 to 1572. The Osterley House built by Gresham fell into ruin in the eighteenth century, however, making it unlikely that the portrait originated there. Osterley was acquired and rebuilt in the 1760s by Sir Francis Child, ancestor of the 9th Earl of Jersey. The painting almost certainly entered the Jersey collection after 1760 as decoration for the new house.

     Because the details in this portrait match so precisely those of the Melton Constable Portrait, it is certain that this is the same sitter as seen in the Melton Constable Portrait. Further, because the jewels in this portrait match exactly the jewels in the Melton Constable portrait, and those jewels correspond to items detailed in inventories of the royal jewels and of Katherine Parr’s jewels, it is exceedingly likely that the sitter see here is once again Queen Katherine Parr. Parr is known to have commissioned numerous portraits of herself while married to Henry VIII, and this portrait was no doubt one of the many produced and given to friends and family.[4]
 
 
 
J. Stephan Edwards, Ph.D.
Palm Springs, California
6 March 2012
(revised 12 November 2012)
     
     
  Addendum:  
 
     The Earl of Jersey informed me via email on 12 November 2012 that an unnamed friend of his mother had previously conducted an unpublished study of the painting. That friend concluded independently that the sitter was Katherine Parr. The friend’s findings were reviewed by experts at Sotheby’s auction house, and Sotheby’s “concurred” with the findings. None of this was known to me prior to 12 November, and neither the friend nor Sotheby’s have published that independent report.
 
     
     
  NOTES :      
 
[1]
  The image seen here is taken from a picture postcard produced over 50 years ago, presumably from a photograph dating to some time before 1949.  
         
 
[2]
 
‘Art Treasures in Fire’, The Times of London, 1 October 1949, page 4, column 4, bottom.
 
 
     
 
[3]
 
Earl of Jersey to J. Stephan Edwards, 8 November 2012, electronic correspondence.
 
         
 
[4]
 
Susan E. James, Catherine Parr: Henry VIII’s Last Love (Stroud: Tempus, 2008), 131–132.
 
         
         
         
    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 Elliot–Gedling House Portrait     The Fitzwilliam Museum Portrait  
                 
    The Houghton Hall 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 6 March 2012, Updated 20 August 2012, Revised 12 November 2012

Copyright © 2007 – 2014, J. Stephan Edwards
May not be reproduced in part or in whole without written permission of the author.