The Northwick Park Portrait

Called Lady Jane Grey
Unknown artist
Oil on wood panel
Size unknown
Private collection
     In his biography of Lady Jane Grey published in 2009, Eric Ives cited a well-known inventory compiled in about 1590 for John Lumley, 1st Baron Lumley that includes a portrait said to be ‘of the Lady Jane Graye, executed’. Ives apparently understood the inventory to be describing a full-length portrait, leading him to conclude that ‘if located, [it] would be conclusive’ as an authentic portrait of Jane Grey.[1] Ives then discussed what he believed to be a second half-length portrait also thought to have come from the Lumley collection and which was until the 1960s in the collection at Northwick Park, the former Gloucestershire seat of the Rushout Barons Northwick.[2] Ives seems to have assumed that the sitter in the second, half-length picture has never been identified, leading him to suggest that the second painting should be properly compared to the Streatham and Houghton Portraits since ‘a single sitter does, superficially, not seem impossible’.[3] The supposed second portrait was reproduced in Ives’s book as plate 2, ‘Lady conjectured to be “The Lady Jane Graye executed” [The ‘Northwick Park Jane’]’.

     There was only one portrait of Lady Jane Grey inventoried in the Lumley collection, however, and that a half-length. The single portrait described in the Lumley inventory of 1590 as ‘The Lady Jane Graye executed’ is actually listed among dozens of others all categorized as ‘scantlinges’, or small-scale pictures, which includes half-lengths.[4] No full-length portrait of Jane Grey is listed in the inventory of 1590, nor is one listed in a second inventory of 1609.[5] Thus what Ives seems to discuss as two separate and distinct objects are in fact a single painting.

     That the painting discussed by Ives, seen above in a photograph taken in 1954, may have originated in the Lumley collection is indicated by the ‘cartellino’ or trompe l’œil painted label in the upper right corner. Baron Lumley is known to have had the cartellinos added to all of his paintings in order to identify the sitter depicted. The presence of this distinctive cartellino has allowed art historians today to identify over fifty pictures surviving from a collection that once numbered well over two hundred items. Unfortunately, many of the cartellinos themselves have not survived the years intact and have instead become illegible or been removed altogether. Others are forgeries added to bolster the provenance of a painting for marketing purposes. Further, other owners are known also to have had cartellinos added to their paintings, while some artists also included them in their own original work. The ‘Sitter File’ for Lady Jane Grey at the National Portrait Gallery’s Heinz Archive and Library indicates that the cartellino on this portrait was examined in the 1960s by Sir Roy Strong, then Director of the NPG, and found to be faded beyond legibility. In part because of the lack of legibility, Strong was able to say only that the cartellino “may be a Lumley one”, not that it was definitely so. Until the painting can be studied in person, let us accept, if only for the sake of discussion, the likelihood that the cartellino is authentic.

     The core of the Lumley collection was acquired en masse by Lord Lumley in 1580 through inheritance from his wife’s father, Henry Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel. Fitzalan was the same Earl of Arundel who figured prominently in the events of July 1553. His change of allegiance from Queen Jane to Queen Mary was critical to Mary’s eventual success. It is therefore unlikely that Arundel, as both a Marian supporter and a Roman Catholic, would have deliberately sought to acquire a portrait of the Protestant ‘usurper’ Jane Grey. It is far more likely that the portrait, whomever it depicts, came to Arundel, and thence to Lumley, when the former purchased Nonsuch Palace from the Crown in 1556.[6] Lumley later inherited Nonsuch from Arundel, together with its collection of paintings.

     When and how the Barons Northwick acquired the portrait is unknown. If the painting authentically originates with Nonsuch, Arundel, and Lumley, the bulk of that collection was passed down by inheritance until it came into the possession of Richard Lumley-Saunderson, 4th Earl of Scarborough (d.1782). Distressed financial circumstances forced Scarborough’s heirs to sell off much of the Lumley properties in August 1785 and again in late 1807. In the final sales of 2 November and 18 December 1807, no fewer than twenty nine portraits could no longer be properly identified.[7] Additionally, no portrait explicitly identified as Jane Grey was included in either Scarborough sale of 1807. (The records for the sales of August 1785 are not readily available.) Because the 2nd Baron Northwick was already engaged in amassing his collection as early as 1800, it is possible that he acquired the painting through one of the Lumley-Scarborough sales from among the twenty-nine unidentified portraits, though this cannot now be fully documented.[8]

     It is also possible that the painting entered the Northwick Collection as late as the middle of the twentieth century. The 2nd Baron Northwick died intestate in 1859, and the contents of Thirlestane House (Cheltenham) were sold over the course of twenty two days in July of the same year. That sale did include two portraits reputed to depict Jane Grey, but both were miniatures.[9] No portrait identifiable as the Northwick-Lumley portrait was listed in the catalogue of 1859. The collection at Northwick Park itself was inventoried twice thereafter, in 1864 and again in 1921[10]. Those inventories are not readily available, and I have yet to locate and consult them for evidence of the painting having been in the collection in or before 1921.

     Potential evidence that the painting was acquired in the middle of the twentieth century does exist but is frustratingly vague. The NPG’s Sitter File for Jane Grey contains a press clipping, with photograph, from the Kentish Mercury newspaper reporting that this painting or a close copy sold through Sotheby’s on 23 July 1948 for £144, but was identified by the seller, the picture dealer George Fripp of the Forest Hill district of South London (SE23), as Elizabeth I. The issue is complicated by the known existence of a much later copy of the Northwick portrait owned in 1955 by a Mr P.J. Ely.[11] Because the Kentish Mercury photograph is of such poor quality, it is not possible to determine with certainty whether the Fripp ‘Elizabeth I’ is the Northwick picture itself or is instead the Ely copy.

     The painting was certainly in the Northwick collection by the early 1960s. Following the death of the childless widow of the last Baron Northwick in 1912, the collection passed to George Spencer-Churchill, a cousin of the 7th Duke of Marlborough. Spencer-Churchill died at age 88 in 1964, and the contents of Northwick Park were partially liquidated at auction by Christie’s in June 1965. The Northwick Portrait was included as Lot 23: “Portrait of a Lady, said to be Katherine Parr”, with attribution to Hans Holbein (no photo was included in the catalogue so that no direct comparison to the Northwick ‘Jane’ can now be made, but no portrait described as Jane Grey was otherwise included in the sale).[12] The painting almost immediately passed into the possession of Sir Hugh Wontner, former chairman of the Savoy Hotel, who believed that it actually depicted Lady Jane Grey.[13] The painting is thought to be held now by Sir Hugh’s son, Mr Giles Wontner, a London attorney. Multiple attempts to contact Mr Wontner for permission to examine the painting have gone unanswered.

     The ‘Jane Grey’ Sitter File at the Heinz Archive indicates that the painting was cleaned and ‘repainted’ in 1954 by the New Bond Street firm of William Drown. The extent of the ‘repainting’ is unknown, however. More importantly, the same file indicates that the identity of the sitter was in 1965 thought by Sir Roy Strong to be Katherine Parr, consistent with the description given by Christie’s at the Northwick sale in the same year. The Grey/Parr discrepancy has never been fully resolved, in large part because the painting has been with just one family since 1965, out of public view and unavailable to researchers.
     The sitter in this portrait is clearly a woman of exalted rank and status, consistent with the upper nobility or royalty. This is evidenced by the profusion of her jewels and the richness of her gown. Her French hood and the bodice of her gown are embellished with matching lengths of pearls sequenced as groups of four pairs with pieces of rose-shaped goldwork set with colored stones interspersed between each group of pearls. No fewer than 256 pearls and 35 pieces of goldwork can be seen on the hood and bodice alone. She also wears two necklaces, one short and one long, that repeat the design, showing an additional 76 visible pearls and 10 pieces of goldwork. From the shorter necklace hangs a round pendant of goldwork set with one large rectangular colored stone surrounded by six smaller stones. A large round pearl is suspended from the pendant. A gold brooch is attached to the bodice, and appears to be set with more than 15 colored stones of various shapes. Two pairs of gold aiglettes are visible, one on each sleeve. The turned back oversleeves of the gown are embroidered with gold or silver metallic thread in a double-cross-hatch design. The undersleeve is embroidered in a vaguely-floral pattern, while the underlying chemise protruding through the slashing of the undersleeve displays extensive blackwork embroidery. These costume elements are all appropriate for either Jane Grey or Katherine Parr (as well as for a number of other ladies of the mid-Tudor period).

     None of the jewels depicted in this portrait can be definitively associated with any items in the known inventories of portions of Katherine Parr’s jewels, and no inventory of Jane Grey’s personal jewels survives.[14] Thus unlike the Melton Constable and Jersey Portraits, the jewels seen here do not allow for confirmation of the identity of the sitter.

     It is possible, however, to compare the face depicted in the Northwick Portrait with faces seen in other portraits of the period. This is always a very subjective undertaking, especially when more than one artist is involved, but in the absence of other methodologies, one must ‘make do’ with the evidence at hand. At least three images of Katherine Parr are available (NPG 4451, the Melton Constable Portrait, and the Jersey Portrait), though obviously no authentic facial image of Jane Grey is available for contrasting comparison. As noted in the discussion of the Melton Constable Portrait of Parr, the face in that portrait (detail, below right) correlates quite closely with the face seen in NPG 4451 (detail, below left), which is now accepted as an authentic life-portrait of Parr. When these two are compared to the Northwick Portrait (detail, below center), the resemblance is readily apparent, though perhaps not conclusive. It is necessary in this context, however, to again note that the Northwick was ‘repainted’ in 1954, and the extent of any alteration of the original painted figure is unknown.
     The identity of the sitter in the Northwick Portrait was lost at some point in the distant past when the cartellino became illegible. Absent any definitive identification, successive collectors, dealers, and art historians have put forward at least two potential names: Katherine Parr and Jane Grey. Parr was favored by the last descendant of the Northwick family line, Captain Edward Spencer-Churchill, until his death in 1964. Christie’s auction house supported that identification at the time of the Northwick sale in 1965. Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, curators at the NPG likewise favored Katherine Parr, according to notes at the Heinz Archive and Library. Not until the NPG acquired NPG 4451 in 1965 and Roy Strong relabeled it ‘Jane Grey’ did the Northwick Portrait also become known as ‘Jane Grey’. Now that the identity of the lady in NPG 4451 has once again been re-assessed as Katherine Parr, it seems altogether reasonable to treat the Northwick Portrait similarly. Initially known as ‘Katherine Parr’, the Northwick Portrait was, like NPG 4451, somewhat arbitrarily relabeled ‘Jane Grey’. But again like NPG 4451, the available evidence suggests that the initial identification is by far the more probable. The Northwick Portrait is almost certainly a portrait of Queen Katherine Parr, the last of the six wives of Henry VIII.
J. Stephan Edwards, Ph.D.
Palm Springs, California
28 April 2012
  NOTES :      
Eric Ives, Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), 16–17.
John Rushout (1738–1800) was created 1st Baron Northwick in 1797. The Baron’s son and heir, also named John (1770–1859), was an avid art collector and antiquarian. Northwick Park contained a purpose-built gallery for his collection, but when it proved too small, the 2nd Baron purchased Thirlestane House. The house was soon opened to the public to allow access to the collection, as was the Baron’s London residence of Connaught Place. Connaught Place and its collection were sold in 1838. When the 2nd Baron died intestate in 1859, much of his collection at Thirlestane was sold at auction. See n. 9 below.
Ives, 17.
In contrast, full-length portraits are categorized in the Lumley inventory as ‘Statuary’, explicitly defined by the compiler of the inventory as ‘Pyctures caryinge the fowrme of the whole Statuary’[i.e., stature]. No ‘full stature’ portrait of Jane Grey is listed in the inventory. In contrast, statues are termed ‘marbles’ in the inventory. Mark Evans, ed., The Lumley Inventory and Pedigree: Facsimile and Commentary on the Mansucript in the Possession of the Earls of Scarborough (Roxburghe Club, 2010), f.39v–40r; p.65, fig.1; and p.164. See also Lionel Cust, Appendix to ‘The Lumley Inventories’ in The Sixth Volume of the Walpole Society 1917–1918 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1918), 21–35.
Mary S.F. Hervey, ‘A Lumley Inventory of 1609’ in The Sixth Volume of the Walpole Society 1917–1918 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1918), 36–50.
David Piper, ‘The 1590 Lumley Inventory: Hilliard, Segar and the Earl of Essex’, The Burlington Magazine 99:652 (July 1957), 224–229.
Sale of the Contents of Sandbeck Park (Bawtry, Yorkshire), property of the Rt. Hon. the Earl of Scarborough, Dawson Auction House, 2–7 November 1807, Getty Research Institute Catalogue Number Br-532; Sale of the Contents of Lumley Castle (Durham), Dawson Auction House, 16–19 December 1807, Getty Research Institute Catalogue Number Br-538.
A search of the extensive Sale Catalogs Database at the Getty Research Institute reveals several hundred pictures bought by Lord Northwick early in the nineteenth century, none of them identifiable as Jane Grey and bearing a Lumley provenance.
See Catalogue of the late Lord Northwick’s Extensive and Magnificent Collection ... at Thirlestane House, Cheltenham (London: J. Davy & Sons, 1859). Of the two portraits reputed to depict Jane Grey offered in the sale, the first, Item 643 (page 64), was a painted miniature then attributed to Nicholas Hilliard, which sold to the Duke of Portland. See The Portland Portrait. The second was Item 1616 (page 145), an enamel miniature by Henry Bone (ca.1820) based on the Melton Constable Portrait and now in a museum in New Orleans.  
A Catalogue of Pictures, Works of Art, Etc., at Northwick Park (1864; reprinted by J. Davy, 1908); Tancred Borenius and Lionel Cust, A Catalogue of the Collection of Pictures at Northwick Park (London: Chiswick Press, 1921).
See Heinz Archive and Library (NPG), Sitter File for Lady Jane Grey. The Ely picture can be spotted as a later copy through its treatment of the face, which displays a nineteenth-century technique and artistic sensibility.
Catalogue of Important English Pictures circa 1550 circa 1880 from the Northwick Collection, Christie’s (London), 25 June 1965, Lot 23, p.14. The cartellino was described as “faintly inscribed”, and the size was given as 21.25 x 16.5 inches. Handwritten marginal notes in the catalogue indicate that it sold for 60 guineas or $177 (at 1965 exchange rates). The buyer was listed as “Bailey”, probably a dealer or agent for a buyer not present in the auction room.  
See Roy Strong, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits (London: HMSO, 1969), I:78.
British Library, Additional Manuscripts 46348, ff.167v–171v.
    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 Norris 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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