The Portland Portrait

Unknown Lady
by Unknown artist
circa 1565-1575

Private Collection
     Several files in the Heinz Archive and Library refer cryptically to a portrait once in the collection of the former Dukes of Portland and which was at various times thought to depict Lady Jane Grey. Though the picture has apparently never been mentioned in any published account, it required evaluation in order to eliminate it as a ‘lost’ portrait of Jane. The painting is now in a private collection (the dukedom of Portland became extinct in 1990, and the portrait’s present owner wishes to remain anonymous).

     The portrait is miniature in size and depicts a young lady with strikingly blue eyes and extremely curly brown hair. She wears a French hood with goffering along its forward edge, though no coif is visible. The hood is white with dark edging and jeweled billiments. A long black fall is attached to the back and encases the hair. Her gown is black. The neckline of the bodice of the gown is square-cut, and the bodice is embellished with pearls in a geometric pattern. The sleeves are stuffed and slashed, with large bits of a white linen chemise pulled through the slashes. A chemise, or perhaps a partlet [1], covers the upper chest, shoulders, and neck. It is richly embroidered in a cross-hatched pattern and appears to be set with goldwork and stones. A necklace of pearls set in squares and interspersed with pieces of goldwork is worn over the chemise or partlet. The goldwork is in the form of Tudor roses, each set with a single central stone. The neckline of the chemise or partlet is high and bears a ruffle which is edged in gold thread. The lady appears before a brilliant blue background of a kind commonly seen in miniatures throughout the sixteenth century.

     The portrait was purchased at auction by the 5th Duke of Portland on 4 August 1859 under the label ‘Lady Jane Grey’, with an attribution to Nicholas Hilliard (1547–1619).[2] It was previously in the collection of the 2nd Baron Northwick. When or whence it entered the Northwick collection is unknown.

     The portrait was re-identified by 1889 as a depiction of Mary Tudor Brandon (d.1533), sister of Henry VIII and grandmother of Jane Grey, and re-attributed to Holbein, though the costume is incorrect for such an early date. By the turn of the twentieth century, it was suggested that the sitter might be Marguerite de Valois, wife of Henry IV of France (below, left
). Richard Goulding, in cataloguing the miniatures in the Portland collection in 1916, believed she was Lady Elizabeth Fitzgerald, based on comparison to a similar but larger portrait in the collection of the Duke of Bedford (below, center).[3]

     The Portland miniature actually bears closest direct resemblance to a portrait of Gabrielle de Rochechouart by Corneille de Lyon
(below, right). The portrait by Corneille is thought to have been painted in about 1574. Like the Portland portrait, it is a miniature (6.5 x 5.5 inches).[4] The costumes worn by the two ladies are remarkably similar, though that of the Portland sitter is more heavily jeweled. The Portland lady is perhaps actually distinguished from the Corneille lady by the jewels, especially the necklace with its design that includes English Tudor roses, seemingly out of place on a French sitter.
Marguerite de Valois
by Francois Clouet
circa 1572
Musée Condé, Chantilly, France

Lady Elizabeth Fitzgerald

by Unknown artist
circa 1560
Collection of the Duke of Bedford,
Woburn Abbey
Gabrielle de Rochechouart
by Corneille de Lyon
circa 1574
Musée Condé, Chantilly, France
       While the identity of the lady in the Portland portrait will perhaps continue to be debated, there is no evidence to support identifying her as Jane Grey. Quite the contrary, as the costume appears to date to the 1560s or 1570s, long after Jane Grey had been executed.  
J. Stephan Edwards, Ph.D.
Palm Springs, California
17 November 2010
  NOTES :      
A partlet is similar to a modern ‘dickie’ in that it covers the neck, shoulders, and upper chest but does not extend down the length of the torso. Partlets worn by the wealthy were often heavily embroidered and jeweled.
Catalogue of the late Lord Northwick’s extensive and massive collection of ancient and modern pictures ..., Phillips auction catalogue, sale dates 26 July – 30 August 1859, page 64, Lot 643. The ‘exquisite miniature’ sold for 125 guineas, or 131l 5s.
Richard W. Goulding, The Welbeck Abbey Miniatures Belonging To His Grace The Duke Of Portland K.G., G.C.V.O. A Catalogue Raisonné (Oxford: The University Press, 1916).
Gabrielle de Rochechouart by Corneille de Lyon, circa 1574, oil on wood, 16.5 x 14 cm (6.5 x 5.5 in), Musée Condé, Chantilly, France. Gabrielle was the second wife of Louis de Lansac (d.1589), bastard son of Francis I of France by his mistress Jacquette de Lansac. Following Gabrielle’s marriage in 1565, she served as a lady-in-waiting to the Queen Mother, the indomitable Catherine d' Médici. See J. Massiet du Biest, Inventaire Sommaire Archives Départementales Antérieures à 1790, Série E: Famille (Tours: Gibert-Clarey, 1955), 204.
    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 Northwick Park 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 17 November 2010, Revised 28 December 2011, Updated 20 August 2012

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