The Norris Portrait

Lady Jane Grey
Unknown artist
Oil on wood panel
Size unknown
Whereabouts unknown
     This portrait has yet to be located and fully studied. It became known to me by way of the single black and white photograph above generously provided by Christopher Foley of Lane Fine Art (London).

     Files in the Heinz Archive and Library at the National Portrait Gallery (London) reveal that in 1931 the painting belonged to Herbert Norris (d.1950), an English costume designer for stage and screen and a prolific costume historian. Norris acquired the picture from an unnamed ‘friend’ who had in turn purchased the portrait from an unidentified ‘picture shop’ in 1870.[1] In his volume on Tudor costume published in 1938, Norris included a watercolour illustration of Lady Jane Grey (below) that was based directly on this portrait.[2]

     The portrait completely disappears from both the historical record and from historiography written after the 1930s. To my knowledge, even the NPG’s photograph of it has never been reproduced in any of the modern texts on Tudor portraiture, in any biography of Jane Grey, or in any study of the Tudor period. It has been, in essence, virtually ignored by every historian working after the 1930s.
     The Norris Portrait is almost certainly a posthumous one, based on the faded inscription in the upper left corner which reads, ‘LADYE JANE GRAY, DIED 1553 AET 17’. The inscription pre-dates 1752, the year in which the beginning of the calendar year was moved from 25 March to 1 January. Absent technical study, however, it is not possible to know whether the inscription is original to the painting or was added at some point after the painting was created.

     The painting was probably originally part of a portrait set, much like the Houghton and Streatham Portraits. This is suggested by the inscription, which served to identify the subject to a viewer otherwise unfamiliar with her appearance. Portraits specially commissioned by a sitter or by the sitter’s family or friends would not have needed an identifying inscription, and name inscriptions are seldom seen in commissioned portraits.[3] That the painting was once part of a portrait set is also suggested by the relatively inferior quality of artistry and workmanship, typical of most portrait sets, which were produced on speculation rather than by special commission.

     Until this portrait can be located and properly studied, no firm conclusions can be drawn. For now, however, it appears most probable that the Norris Portrait is a posthumous one created late in the sixteenth century for inclusion in a portrait set and, absent a documented original life-portrait from which it was demonstrably copied, is unlikely to be an authentic portrait of Jane Grey.
     A regular visitor to this site, Lee Porritt, has kindly alerted me to another version of this portrait, and that version has led to an entire additional string of paintings and engravings. Thank you, Ms Porritt! I am always grateful to readers for their contributions.

     Ms Porritt directed me to an etching (below, left) she found which is remarkably similar, though not identical, to the Norris Portrait. The image was apparently both a popular one and produced in large numbers, since vintage copies of it are readily available today on eBay and elsewhere. Getty Images dates the etching to 1754, while a watercolour copy of it (below, center) dates to about 1790.[4] A stipple engraving of the same picture and also dated 1790 is held by the National Portrait Gallery (D24103). The original engraved caption to this latter image (below, right) states that it was taken ‘from an original picture in the possession of Peter Peckard, D.D., Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge’.[5] Rather surprisingly, however, all three images seen below are identified by their individual creators as depictions of Jane Shore rather than of Jane Grey.
Called Jane Shore
Unknown artist
Etching printed on paper 
Size unknown
Hulton Archive, Getty Images
Called Jane Shore
Sylvester Harding
Watercolour on paper 
Size unknown
Folger Shakespeare Library
Called Jane Shore
Francesco Bartolozzi
Engraving printed on paper 
7 1/2 x 5 3/8 inches
National Portrait Gallery
     The three later pictures are exceedingly similar to the earlier Norris panel portrait, though some conspicious embellishments were added by the creators of the former. These include a double-strand pearl necklace, as have jeweled borders to the bodice and sleeves. What appears to be appliqué jeweling has also been added in a vertical strip down the center of the bodice. The farthingale oversleeves have been removed, as well as the nether billiment of the French hood. The festooned pearl necklace is identical in all four images, however, as is its attached goldwork pendant and teardrop pearl. The lower portion of the bodice brooch together with its own pendant pearl in the panel portrait is reproduced identically in both the etching and the watercolour. The similarity between the several gowns is striking. Each has a solid-colored bodice and upper sleeves, plus lower sleeves heavily embroidered in a floral motif. Each portrait features a partlet over the shoulders with an open standing collar and a white linen lining with extensive blackwork embroidery, again in a floral design, and lace edging on the partlet lining (only faintly visible in the panel portrait). The similarities are so extensive that there can be little question that the eighteenth-century etching, watercolour, and engraving must all have been based on the (apparently) earlier panel portrait, whether directly or indirectly. The sitter’s face has, of course, been noticeably fleshed out and softened in the later versions.

     The certain association between the various versions renders the artists’ identification of the later ones even more puzzling. Why would an artist of the eighteenth century use an image unambiguously inscribed as a depiction of Lady Jane Grey to portray the notorious Jane Shore? The two women cannot have been more dissimilar. Jane Grey is of course remembered as a virtuous, pious Protestant maiden who died at age seventeen, while Jane Shore, a divorcée and mistress to King Edward IV between 1476 and 1483, was in her mid-thirties by the time of her infamy. Further, Shore was reputedly promiscuous, having granted her favors not only to the King but also to Thomas Grey, 1st Marquess of Dorset and Jane Grey’s paternal great-grandfather, as well as to other men of high standing.[7] That these obviously connected images are said to portray two distinctly dissimilar persons in two distinctly separate eras only serves to highlight the caution with which artists’ identifications of engraved portraits, in particular, must be approached. Clearly some etcher or engraver of a later period had no qualms about using the image of a Protestant quasi-saint to portray a Catholic sinner!

     The saint/sinner contrast requires us to focus closer attention on the original ‘picture’ on which the others were reportedly based. As noted above, the NPG’s engraved version of 1790 cites an ‘original picture in the possession of Peter Peckard, D.D.’ Already Master of Magdalene College (Cambridge), Reverend Peckard later became Dean of Peterborough Cathedral as well. He published extensively on religious topics and was a notable early opponent of slavery. Why, we must ask, would pious Reverend Peckard own a portrait of the notorious Jane Shore? In all probability, he did not.

     Peckard did have a small collection of painted pictures, though only four family portraits are itemized in his and his wife’s separate wills.[8] But he also indulged in the eighteenth-century fondness for collecting prints — distinct in eighteenth-century terminology from pictures  — by amassing a collection of well over 600, all of which he left to the Pepysian Collection at Magdalene College, Cambridge. Prints depicting subjects of a religious nature or theme comprise more than ninety-five percent of the Peckard collection, with the remainder devoted to educational and moral topics or to ancient history. Virtually no print-portraits of English historical figures are included, nor are any prints identified as either Jane Grey or Jane Shore listed.[9] It therefore seems all but impossible that the NPG’s engraving of 1790 was based on any print of the earlier 1754 etching, since no such print is listed in Reverend Peckard’s collection. The ‘original picture in the possession of Peter Peckard’ must therefore have been one of the unidentified painted portraits in his smaller collection of ‘pictures’. Given the evidence of Reverend Peckard’s interests as they are reflected by his print collection, his painted pictures must also been largely religious in theme, with the already-noted exception of four family portraits. It is therefore very probable that the picture from Reverend Peckard’s collection upon which the etcher based ‘Jane Shore’ was, in actuality, a painted portrait of Jane Grey that the artist freely adapted to depict Shore. A portrait of Jane Grey would have been thematically appropriate among Reverend Peckard’s other pictures and prints, while a portrait of Jane Shore would not have been.[10]

     The disposition of Peckard’s presumed portrait of Jane Grey/Shore is difficult to establish. Peckard left all but four of his ‘pictures’ to his wife Martha.[11] The four exceptions were portraits of himself, his wife Martha, and Martha’s parents.[12] She in turn left at her death in 1801 all of her household goods, explicitly including her ‘pictures’, to her distant maternal cousin, the Reverend Philip Castel Sherard.[13] Philip’s son, also named Philip Castel Sherard, became 9th Baron Sherard of Leitrim in 1859 upon the death of the his distant cousin the 8th Baron. It is not known whether Philip (II) Sherard inherited his father’s Peckard legacy, though he did sell the Sherard family seat of Stapleford Park near Melton Mowbray (Leicestershire) to John Gretton, 1st Baron Gretton in 1894.[14] Even if it is assumed that he did inherit the picture, it is not now known whether it remained in some former Peckard residence that he may also have inherited, or was removed to Stapleford between 1859 and 1894, or was removed to some other Sherard residence.

     Lastly, it is not presently known whether the Norris Portrait and the painting supposedly owned by Peter Peckard are one and the same. It was common practice in the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries for collectors with a fondness for a particular image to commission copies of the regional. Such was the case with the Wrest Park Portrait and its two copies now at Dunham Massey, and with the Syon Portrait and its copies at Audley End and formerly with Berry-Hill Galleries and with Gardner Soule. Thus the Peckard version may have been a copy of the Norris Portrait, or both may have been copied from some third image. Further research is required.

     Even if multiple versions of this portrait are eventually located, copies are distinguished from originals and a hierarchy of production established, it seems exceedingly unlikely that the original was an authentic life portrait of Lady Jane Grey. More probably, the painted versions were based on some imaginary posthumous image created to depict Jane Grey, while the engravings called Jane Shore were based — very anachronistically — on that posthumous image of Jane Grey.
J. Stephan Edwards, Ph.D.
Palm Springs, California
28 April 2012
National Portrait Gallery, Heinz Archive and Library, Sitter File for ‘Lady Jane Grey’.
Herbert Norris, The Tudors, Volume 3 of Costume and Fashion (London: J.M.Dent & Sons, Ltd., 1938), plate XXIV. Norris’s published works on costume history include the monumental Costume and Fashion (London: J.M.Dent & Sons, Ltd.) published as a multi-volume series in the 1920s and 1930s, which includes Volume 3: The Tudors plus a half-dozen other volumes, as well as Church Vestments: Their Origin and Development (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1950). All of Norris’s works remain in print and readily available today.
Rather than name inscriptions, individually commissioned portraits are more likely to contain an inscription identifying the age of the sitter at the time the portrait was created, and/or an inscription indicating the year in which the portrait was painted. Less commonly, they may occasionally include the heraldic arms of the individual or his/her family.
The Folger Shakespeare Library (Washington, DC) reports that this watercolour was published in 1790 as an illustration to a brief historical pamphlet entitled The life and character of Jane Shore: Collected from our best historians, chiefly from the writings of Sir Thomas More; who was her cotemporary [sic], and personally knew her (Printed and sold by J. Morphew near Stationers-Hall, and A. Dodd at the Peacock without Temple-Bar, 1714). The pamphlet of 1790 was a reprint of the original from 1714 and was intended to inform those attending performances of the play The Tragedy of Jane Shore, by Nicholas Rowe. Rowe wrote Jane Shore in 1714, and it was so well-received that it was restaged regularly throughout the succeeding century. Rowe’s next work was Lady Jane Grey: A Tragedy in Five Acts (1715) which, like Jane Shore, was very popular and continued to be staged until the end of the nineteenth century. The watercolour was created by Sylvester Harding (1745–1809), best known as a miniaturist but who was also himself an engraver. Harding’s watercolour of Shore was based on an earlier engraving by Francesco Bartolozzi (1727–1815), a Florentine engraver who had come to London in 1764 under the patronage of King George III.
The Reverend Peter Peckard was Master of Magdalene College from 1781 until 1797.
The Getty Images catalogue dates the etching (Editorial Image #51239545) to 1754, but does not offer any further information. The Hulton Archive from which the photographic image came is part of the massive Getty Images, founded by a member of the same family responsible for the larger Getty organization that includes the Getty Museum, the Getty Research Institute, the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, and Getty Trust, all based in Los Angeles, California.
Shore’s sexual reputation was such that she was required to do public penance at Paul’s Cross in 1485 and was then sent to Ludgate Prison. She later remarried Thomas Lynom, Solicitor General to Richard III. She died in about 1527 at an advanced age.
See National Archives (UK) PROB 11/1302, ff.245v–248v. The will of Martha Peckard, NA PROB 11/1424, ff. 186v–193r, lists approximately a dozen pictures, mostly landscapes, painted by Martha’s own hand and exempted from the larger collection of ‘pictures’ left by her to Magdalene College in memory of her husband.
See The Ferrar Papers 1590–1790 in Magdalene College, Cambridge, introduction by Dr David Ransome (Wakefield: Microfirm Academic Publishers, n.d.), 144–181.
  A second series of engravings of Jane Shore is known, one in which she is depicted barebreasted and wearing a heavy necklace. That second series was based on a painted portrait that was, in both 1774 and 2006, in the Provost’s Lodge at King’s College, Cambridge.  
NA PROB 11/1302, ff.245v–248v. See note 8 above for the disposition of the four excepted pictures.
No picture identifiable as the Norris Portrait is listed today in published inventories of the picture collection at Magdalene College, and enquiries to the current Master, Duncan Robinson, and to the College’s archivist have yielded no pictures, published or unpublished, of either Jane Grey or Jane Shore. 
NA PROB 11/1424, ff.186v–193r. The Reverend Philip Castel Sherard’s father, also named Castel, was likewise an Anglican minister, as was Philip’s brother Robert, his paternal uncle also named Robert, and his father-in-law, the Reverend Richard Caryer. Philip’s second son continued the family tradition by also becoming a minister, while his eldest son Philip Castel Sherard (II) inherited the Barony of Sherard in 1859 from his fifth cousin, Robert Sherard, 6th Earl of Harborough and 8th Baron Sherard (the earldom became extinct for lack of issue of Robert Sherard).
Stapleford Park remained with the Grettons, partners in Bass Breweries, until shortly after the death of the 2nd Baron Gretton in 1982. The 3rd Lord Gretton sold Stapleford in 1987 to Bob Payton, a restaurateur turned hotelier, who restored the house and converted it into a hotel. It has remained a privately owned hotel to the present. The Norris Portrait is not with the hotel.
    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 Jersey Portrait  
    The King’s College Portrait     The Madresfield Court Portrait  
    The Melton Constable Hall 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, Revised 28 April 2012, Updated 20 August 2012

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