Assessment of Two Portraits Identified as Lady Jane Grey Dudley
in the Collection at Syon House
 
This assessment supersedes a previous one posted here in 2010.
 
 

 

Lady Jane Grey
by unknown artist
Oil on wood panel
56 x 44.5 cm oval
Collection of the Duke of Northumberland
Syon House, Middlesex, UK
(Click anywhere on image above to open larger version in new window)

 
 
 
     Among the twenty five monarchs that have ruled England over the past 500 years, authentic portraits are known for all but one: Lady Jane Grey Dudley, the ‘Nine-Days Queen’ of 1553. Various collectors, curators, antiquarians, art dealers, and historians have put forward a multitude of candidate paintings over the centuries, but to date none have been reliably documented as genuine likenesses. Yet a portrait that was certainly an authentic likeness was recorded among the possessions of Elizabeth Hardwick (aka ‘Bess of Hardwick’, later Countess of Shrewsbury) at Chatsworth in the 1560s.[1] The Chatsworth Portrait disappeared from the historical record prior to 1601, but a familial connection between Bess and the Percy Dukes of Northumberland briefly raised the possibility that one of a pair of portraits at Syon House might be the ‘lost’ Chatsworth Portrait.[2] Having exhaustively studied the Syon House Portraits over the course of more than three years, it can now be concluded that they are not, in fact, the ‘lost’ Chatsworth Portrait. Both date to the first half of the seventeenth century, more than fifty years after Jane’s execution in 1554. More probably, in the absence of an available authentic likeness, the artist that created the Syon House Portraits used ‘artistic license’ and adapted the image of an entirely different sitter, creating a portrait that potentially provides much-needed early corroboration of the legend that Jane Grey dressed austerely and in sharp contrast to the cultural and social norms for women of her status and era.
 
     
  PROVENANCE  
 
      The provenance of a portrait is often crucial to correctly identifying the sitter depicted. In the case of at least one of the Syon House Portraits, its provenance is well-documented back to 1674, when it was first mentioned in the will of Frances Devereux Seymour, second wife of William Seymour, 2nd Duke of Somerset.[3] William was the eldest surviving grandson of Edward Seymour, 1st Earl of Hertford, via Edward’s first wife Lady Katherine Grey.[4] Lady Katherine was, of course, Lady Jane Grey’s younger sister, so that William was Lady Jane Grey’s posthumous grand-nephew. Equally importantly, William’s own first wife was Arbella Stuart, a granddaughter of Bess of Hardwick, giving the couple close connections to Jane Grey, Chatsworth, and Hardwick Hall. The question therefore arose as to whether the ‘lost’ Chatsworth Portrait might be one and the same as the Syon House Portrait first documented with Frances Devereux Seymour. Did Bess of Hardwick give her portrait of Lady Jane to Arbella, who is known to have had a particular fondness for the memory of Jane, causing it to ‘disappear’ from Chatsworth or Hardwick Hall prior to 1601?[5] Did William Seymour then acquire the painting upon his marriage to Arbella in 1610, retain it after her death in 1615, and subsequently leave it to his second wife Frances at his own death in 1660?[6] Alternatively, did Bess instead give her portrait of Jane to Katherine Grey sometime between the early 1560s and Katherine’s death in 1568, or even to Katherine’s son Edward after 1568, allowing the portrait to pass to Katherine’s grandson William and thence to Frances Seymour? These possibilities are further complicated by the fact that Katherine Grey had been godmother in 1555 to Bess’s daughter Elizabeth Cavendish, whose own daughter was none other than Arbella Stuart.[7] Might the portrait instead have originated with Katherine Grey and been passed to her goddaughter Elizabeth, then to Arbella and William Seymour? The intricate web of inter-connections between Bess of Hardwick, Jane and Katherine Grey, Arbella Stuart, and the Seymours is thus so extensive that it initially seemed likely that the Syon House Portraits were authentic physical likenesses of Lady Jane, perhaps even one and the same as the ‘lost’ Chatsworth Portrait.
 
     
 
DENDROCHRONOLOGY
 
 
      In the absence of written documentation detailing the date at which a portrait was created, art historians are now often able to turn to the science of dendrochronology. Developed in the first half of the twentieth century and significantly advanced over the past twenty years, the methodology involves the measurement of heartwood growth rings in wooden artifacts and comparison of those measurements to firmly-dated reference samples. The last known year in which the artifact was still a growing tree can then be reliably determined. Dendrochronologists have more recently refined the methodology to account for post-harvest variables such as removal of fragile sapwood growth rings, curing time, processing, and transportation of the end product. Since wood boards were the preferred support for paintings produced prior to the first half of the seventeenth century, dendrochronology often allows for determining the earliest possible date at which paintings on panels could have been created.[8]

      Dr Ian Tyers of Dendrochronological Consultancy Ltd was commissioned to examine the larger portrait of Jane Grey on 30 November 2012. He found that the Eastern Baltic oak tree harvested to produce the boards of the painting was still growing in 1594. Allowing for trimming of additional fragile sapwood growth rings, curing, processing, transportation, and end-use marketing, the panel was probably painted no earlier than about 1602. If, however, one allows for delays at one or more points in the post-felling process, the creation date for the painting could potentially be as late as the 1620s.[9] In any event, the larger portrait of Jane Grey at Syon House can be conclusively eliminated as the ‘lost’ Chatsworth Portrait, since it was created at least four decades after the Chatsworth inventory of the 1560s.

     Attention then turned to the second portrait of Jane Grey at Syon House (below). The second picture is smaller than the first, on a much thicker board, and in poorer condition.[10] The painting is on a single board that is oriented horizontally, rather than the more common vertically-oriented multi-board panel. That board was examined by Dr Tyers in late July of 2013. The last visible heartwood growth ring was found to date to 1618. Again allowing for trimming of fragile sapwood rings, curing, processing, transportation, and end-use marketing, it is unlikely that the smaller portrait was created before about 1626. It may, however, date to as late as the 1640s.[11] Because the image is painted on a rectangular board, in contrast to the oval panel of the larger portrait, and the smaller image itself includes a faux-painted oval frame, it is very likely that the smaller is simply a slightly later copy of the larger original.

 
     
     
 
 
     
 
Lady Jane Grey
Unknown artist
Oil on panel
24x 28 cm
Collection of the Duke of Northumberland
Syon House, Middlesex, UK
 
 
 
 
AUTHENTICITY OF THE LIKENESS
 
 
     Because the two Syon House Portraits are both demonstrably posthumous depictions of Lady Jane Grey, we must question the authenticity of the painted physical likeness. Again, no documented authentic likeness of Jane Grey is currently known to exist, so there is no reference image available for comparison. Further, of the roughly two dozen surviving painted and engraved portraits dating from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that have been labeled as Jane Grey, the majority can readily be shown to depict some other historical or Biblical figure. The remainder are either products of the respective artists’ imaginations or entirely lacking in any objective evidence to support identifying them as Jane Grey.

     Further complicating the issue is the existence of numerous contemporary variations of the Syon House Portrait image, a few of which have been identified by one authoritative expert as portraits of Elizabeth I, either as a princess or very early in her reign. Writing in 1963 on the iconography of Elizabeth I, Sir Roy Strong listed two in addition to the larger Syon picture, all three of which he tentatively re-identified as portraits of Elizabeth created before 1558.[12] The first depicts what appears to be the same sitter, but with her hands held before her clutching a pair of gloves (below, left). It was acquired by John Pierpont Morgan in the nineteenth century and presented to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York) in 1917. The MMA de-accessioned the picture in 1956, and by 1960 it was with Berry-Hill Galleries of New York. Its current location is unknown.[13] The second was also in New York in 1960, in the possession of the author Gardner Soule (below, right). Extensive efforts to locate the Soule painting, including attempts to contact the heirs of Gardner Soule, have proven unsuccessful. The current whereabouts of the painting are unknown.[14]
 
     
     
 
 
 
         
 
The Berry-Hill Portrait Called Lady Jane Grey
Unknown artist
Date unknown
Oil on wood panel
12 5/8 x 9 in
Current whereabouts unknown
 
The Gardner Soule Portrait called Lady Jane Grey
Unknown artist
Date unknown
Oil on wood panel
13 1/4 x 11 in
Current whereabouts unknown
 
         
         
     Strong’s identifications as Elizabeth of the Syon House, Berry-Hill, and Soule Portraits were based in large part on the positioning of the sitters, each of whom faces the viewer squarely and gazes directly ahead.[15] Positioning of sitters in early-modern English portraiture often followed a specific formula derived from perceived power relations. Culturally, the left was and is considered the position of greater honor, status, or power.[16] Men were frequently positioned turned slightly to their own left, women to their own right. This positioning formula is most evident in male-female portrait pairs or family portraits which, when hung for viewing, aligns the male to the viewer’s left and the female to the viewer’s right. Monarchs are at the proverbial ‘center of power’, however, and are thus sometimes positioned squared front and gazing directly at the viewer.[17] Artists certainly used this ‘squared front’ positioning in Elizabeth’s coronation portrait (below, left) and at least one other early and reliably identified portrait of her (below, center).[18] A third ‘squared front’ portrait, the Chawton House-Hever Castle Portrait, is usually identified as Elizabeth when princess, based on its obvious similarity to this group, though that identification is not otherwise substantiated (below, right).

     Yet numerous examples are known of Tudor-era portraits of non-royal English women in which the sitter is positioned ‘squared front’, a fact that undercuts Strong’s hypothesis that such positioning is best associated with monarchs. The most important of these counter-examples are derived from the œuvre of the one artist who exerted the single greatest influence on portrait practice in Tudor England: Hans Holbein the Younger. Among surviving portraits by Holbein, whether preparatory drawings, miniatures, or full-sized paintings, non-royal female sitters constitute only about one third of the total. Within the Royal Collection’s well-known group of preparatory drawings, for example, 31 of 81 portraits depict non-royal women. Yet among those 31 drawings of non-royal women, no fewer than seven, or 22.5%, are positioned ‘squared front’. Five of those seven women also stare directly at the viewer in the same assertive manner demonstrated here in the confirmed portraits Queen Elizabeth.[19] Non-royal women were also depicted in the ‘squared front’ position by sixteenth-century artists other than Holbein. The most notable is the miniature portrait from ca.1562/3 of Katherine Grey holding her infant son, two large-scale variation-copies of which are at Syon House.[20] Additionally, the Bodleian Portrait formerly labeled Lady Jane Grey depicts the sitter essentially ‘squared front’, though she gazes towards her own right. A third example is the Rotherwas Portrait, now in the Minneapolis Institute of Art. In light of this total of ten initial examples of non-royal women depicted in the ‘squared front’ position, it would be improper to assume, as Strong did, that the sitter(s) in the Syon House Portrait and its variants are necessarily the monarch Elizabeth I, either when princess or after her accession in 1558.
 
     
     
 
 
 
 
             
 
Elizabeth I
‘The Coronation Portrait’

unknown English artist
oil on panel
127.3 x 99.7 cm
National Portrait Gallery, NPG 5175
 
Elizabeth I, ca.1566
‘The Cloth of Estate Portrait’

Circle of Hans Eworth
oil on panel
size unknown
private collection
 
Called Elizabeth I ca.1555
‘The Chawton House Portrait’
unknown artist
oil on panel
53.4 x 38 cm
Hever Castle 
 
 
 
 
 
  SAME OR DIFFERENT SITTERS?  
 
     While there is unquestionably a strong iconographic relationship between the six portraits in this group, several physical features exhibited by the lady in the Syon House Portrait distinguish her from the person(s) in each of the other portraits. Firstly, the Syon House lady’s hair lacks the waves or curls that feature so prominently in all but the ‘Cloth of Estate’ portrait, where Elizabeth’s hair is almost entirely covered by a headdress. Secondly, the Syon House lady’s eyes are brown, while the eyes in the ‘Cloth of Estate’ portrait are light in color (eye color is difficult to assess in the black and white photographs of the Berry-Hill and Soule Portraits, though they do appear dark). Lastly, the Syon House lady’s chin is more prominent and bears a readily discernible cleft, entirely absent in each of the other portraits in this group. These differences would seem to make the Syon House lady a unique sitter distinct from the ladies in the other four portraits, especially from Elizabeth in the ‘Cloth of Estate’ portrait.

     Other striking similarities between all of the five portraits cannot be ignored, however. Most obvious of these is the basic similarity of overall costume. Each wears a black gown with high collar overlaid by an ermine or miniver stole or lined coat. Only in the Chawton House Portrait is the black gown and/or coat heavily embellished with gold embroidery. All five ladies wear a two-layered gold-edged ruff with exceedingly similar, and in some cases virtually identical, patterns of folds, though the ruffs in the Syon House and Berry-Hill Portraits are slightly less voluminous. In all but the ‘Cloth of Estate’ portrait of Elizabeth, the ladies wear simple close-fitting black hoods. Those of the Syon House and Berry-Hill ladies are trimmed with loops of gold embroidery, and they are the only examples from the group in which the crowns of the hoods are visible. The Syon House, Berry-Hill, and Soule ladies are each wearing almost identical strands of beads looped twice around the neck, with the larger loop knotted high on the breast. The Syon House lady’s beads appear almost transparent, however, when compared to the completely opaque beads (pearls?) comprising the other ladies’ necklaces. Were it not for the uniqueness within this group of certain physical features of the Syon House lady, it might be tempting to declare them all to be the same sitter.

     Questions therefore arises as to why these several portraits are so similar if they depict different sitters, and what circumstantial relationship the portraits bear to each other. These two questions are particularly pressing with respect to the Syon House, Berry Hill, and Gardner Soule Portraits, since they are so nearly identical to each other in content. The Chawton House Portrait, in turn, seems almost to be an embellished variant of the first three. And the two portraits confirmable as Elizabeth I are sufficiently different in overall content to make it certain that they are related to the other four only by the coincidence of the ‘squared front’ positioning of the sitter and the possibility of a certain degree of facial resemblance.


a single reference pattern was used to create all five portraits. If digital images of each of the five faces are adjusted in size so that each of the respective interpupillary distances are rendered equal, and the resulting images are overlaid in transparency, the correlation is so startlingly close as to exclude the possibility of simple coincidence. Only the ‘Cloth of Estate’ portrait of Elizabeth deviates to any significant statistical degree from a near-perfect match, and that deviation is largely confined to the height of the forehead relative to the rest of the face.[21] Yet that deviation may readily be explained by her headgear hiding any hairline. We must conclude that the artists, even if five different ones working at five separate and discrete points in time between circa 1555 and 1640, worked from some single reference image or pattern.

     The use of patterns to create multiple variants of a single reference or prime image has been well documented.[22] Most commonly, a given pattern was used to reproduce the prime image of the same known individual, such as Henry VIII or Elizabeth I, and might be used for several decades by more than one artist or studio.[23] But it also appears to be the case that a pattern derived from a portrait of one person could sometimes be used to represent a second person, especially in the absence of a pre-existing reference image or pattern for that second person. This might be especially true if the prime image – and thus its pattern – were no longer relevant. In the specific case of Elizabeth I, the Court began in about 1562 to exert a degree of control over the production and reproduction of images of the Queen. Whereas portraits from the period between 1558 and 1562 depict her modestly attired in black and often wearing a black hood that concealed most or all of her hair, those produced after 1562 present her in regal finery and with large amounts of wavy red hair exposed. Patterns taken from early portraits became obsolete for use in portraiture of Elizabeth. Rather than being discarded, however, at least one such pattern was apparently ‘recycled’ and adapted to depict Elizabeth’s cousin Jane.

     The use of a pattern derived from an obsolete portrait of Elizabeth to create portraits of Jane has a certain logic. The two were cousins, both being descended from Henry VII, a familial connection readily known by the general public. But the two were also viewed by the wider public as having similar interests, intellectual abilities, and religious outlooks. Both were exceptionally well educated among women of their era. Both were reputed to be great intellects, with facility in multiple languages, including Latin and Greek. And both were heroines of the Protestant reformation in England, Jane as a Marian martyr and Elizabeth as the monarch who restored England to Protestantism after the Marian Catholic interlude.

     The likely context in which the larger Syon House Portrait was created also reflects the connections between Jane and Elizabeth. As noted, the larger Syon House Portrait dates to sometime after about 1602. Elizabeth I died in 1603, leaving the crown to her foreign-born Stuart cousin, James VI of Scotland. Yet a significant party within England favored a variety of English-born heirs from the line of Henry VII, most notably Jane’s younger sister Katherine Grey Seymour and her heirs, plus Arbella Stuart. Though Katherine had died in 1568, she had four male heirs still living in 1603: her son Edward Seymour, and three grandsons Edward, William, and Francis Seymour. For many, the Grey-Seymour line was preferable for having purely English blood and for being entirely male. Arbella Stuart was female, and though descended from a senior Tudor line and born in England of an English mother, she was the daughter of Charles Stuart, younger brother of James VI’s ill-fated father, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley.[24] For Englishmen of a more xenophobic hue, Arbella’s Scottish blood was unacceptable, as was her gender. The male Seymour line descended from Katherine Grey had the advantage, in cultural terms, and William Seymour was the senior heir in that line after 1618.[25] The portrait of Queen Jane Grey, together with that of her sister Katherine Grey Seymour holding her infant son Edward Seymour, can be read as dynastic portraits that visually asserted the Seymour claim to the throne of England. When displayed alongside portraits of Katherine’s grandsons Edward, William and Francis Seymour, the assertion would have been even more evident.[26]

     Jane Grey’s brother-in-law, Edward Seymour, 1st Earl of Hertford, survived until 1621, well into the broad timeframe during which the larger Syon House Portrait was created. Though Edward did not marry Jane’s sister Katherine until late in 1560, almost 7 years after Jane’s death, he was nonetheless well acquainted with Jane. The Seymours and the Greys had been close prior to the execution of Edward’s father, the Lord Protector, in January 1552. Tradition even holds that the elder Seymour attempted to betroth young Edward to Jane in 1550, though the Greys declined.[27] But Edward was nonetheless certainly personally acquainted with Jane. Was he consulted on the Syon House Portrait for his opinion on the authenticity of the likeness? Was it he who suggested the changes made in the pattern used? We cannot today know, but the existence of such a possibility opens up a similar possibility that the Syon House Portrait could indeed be a reasonably accurate depiction of Lady Jane Grey.
 
     
  HISTORICAL IMPORTANCE  
 
     The Syon House Portrait of Lady Jane Grey is historically important for being the first among the more than two dozen early portraits said to depict her that presents her in relatively simple garb. All other portraits of Jane produced before the austere Commonwealth period of the 1650s represent Jane in full noble or regal finery. Most notable among these is the Streatham Portrait acquired by the National Portrait Gallery in 2007. That apparently fictitious portrait is exactly contemporaneous with the Syon House Portrait, but Jane is shown wearing a gown of richly embroidered fabrics and copious amounts of costly jewels.[28] A popular engraving from 1620 likewise depicts her in fine attire, as do the earlier painted portraits upon which it was based.[29] The idea that Jane dressed simply and modestly did not become a popular one until the end of the seventeenth century, after the publication in 1681 of Gilbert Burnet’s History of the Reformation of the Church of England. That work included an engraving taken from a portrait then in the possession of Dorothy North Lennard, Lady Dacre depicting a young woman in clothing akin to widow’s weeds.[30] Though popular, the image was so austere that subsequent reproductions embellished the costume with pearls and furs to give the lady a more appropriately regal appearance. Only after the publication in 1701 of John Strype’s Historical Collections of the Life and Acts of the Right Reverend Father in God, John Aylmer, Jane Grey’s famous tutor, did the notion that Jane dressed simply become firmly embedded in the popular consciousness.[31] The depiction in the Syon House Portrait of Jane in relatively modest garb, in sharp contrast to virtually all other portraits labeled as her and produced before 1681, may potentially be taken as corroboration of Aylmer’s account that Jane eschewed rich fabrics and fine jewels.

     Certainly the Syon House Portrait has itself been an enduringly popular image in the context of Jane Grey as a proto-Puritan. George Vertue first brought the Syon House Portrait to public attention with his engraving of it produced in 1748 (below, top ). The engraving was reissued regularly and quite probably served as the reference image for a late-seventeenth-century painting now exhibited at Audley End House, former home of the Barons Brayebrooke (below, bottom).[32] Here again, the artist felt compelled both to enlarge and embellish the basic image in order to strengthen the visual identification with the popular narrative of Jane Grey. Her right hand is now visible, and in it she holds a closed book. The binding of the book bears Greek lettering indicating that it is Plato’s Phaedo, reflecting the story that Roger Ascham once happened upon Jane in her father’s hall reading the Phaedo in the original Greek.
 
     
     
 
 
     
 
The Lady Jane Grey, 1748
by George Vertue
line engraving
46.7 x 56.4 cm
National Portrait Gallery (NPG D32035)
 
     
     
 
 
     
 
Lady Jane Grey
unknown artist
oil on canvas
81 x 71 cm
Collection of Baron Brayebrooke
on loan to English Heritage at Audley End, loan number 81031212
 
     
     
 
DISCUSSION & CONCLUSION:
 
 
     The Syon House Portraits were for most of their history identified as portraits of Lady Jane Grey. The authenticity of the likenesses must for the moment remain suspect, however. The correlation of the facial image in the Syon House Portrait to that of Elizabeth I in the ‘Cloth of Esate’ portrait is so precise that the use of a common pattern is strongly indicated. The few differences in the physical features, especially eye color, shape of the tip of the nose, and contour of the chin, indicate at least some effort by the artist of the Syon House Portrait to render that sitter unique. Whether those alterations were based upon reference to some lost portrait – perhaps a miniature – in the possession of the Seymour family, consultation with Jane’s surviving brother-in-law Edward Seymour, 1st Earl of Hertford, or the artist’s own imagination cannot now be known. Likewise, the ordinal position of the Syon House Portrait within the larger group of portraits apparently derived from the same pattern, itself a potential clue to the authenticity of the image, cannot be known until the Berry-Hill and Soule Portraits are located and, together with the Chawton House Portrait, submitted to dendrochronological analysis.

     At present, we can conclude only that the larger Syon House Portrait was produced sometime after 1602, but probably before 1626, expressly as a portrait of Lady Jane Grey. The smaller was created approximately two decades later, copied directly from the original. Both were probably created as part of a set of dynastic portraits that included the large round panel portrait of Katherine Grey Seymour cradling her infant son, Edward Seymour, Lord Beauchamp of Hache. The set visually asserted the royal lineage of William Seymour, 2nd Duke of Somerset as the senior claimant after 1621 to the Crown of England in the purely English line descended from Henry VII, in contrast to the superior hereditary but foreign Scottish line descended from Henry VII embodied by King James VI & I of Scotland and England.
 
     
     
     
 

J. Stephan Edwards, Ph.D.
Palm Springs, California
30 July 2013
     
     
 
My sincerest thanks to Leslie Feore and Chris King at Syon House, to Clare Baxter at Alnwick Castle, to Dr Ian Tyers of Dendrochronological Consultancy Ltd,

and most especially to His Grace The Duke of Northumberland.
 
     
     
  Addendum (29 August 2013) :  
 
     Thanks to the always-keen eye of Lee Porritt, the portrait above identified as Elizabeth I circa 1555 has now been located at Hever Castle. Lee recalled seeing it there and passed along that information as part of Q&A discussions of the Syon House Portrait on Tamise Chaplin’s Lady Jane Grey Reference Guide on Facebook. I contacted Hever Castle, and Castle Co-ordinator Anna Spender very kindly forwarded to me some fascinating details on the portrait. It seems that it was long held at Chawton House, Alton (Hampshire), former home of Jane Austen’s brother Edward Austen Knight (Jane Austen sometimes used a cottage on the Chawton estate). Thus the portrait called Elizabeth I now at Hever Castle is the same as the portrait described on page 361 of Richard Davey’s Nine Days Queen: ‘a curious portrait, probably of Lady Jane Grey, in the possession of J. Knight, Esq., of Chawton House, Alton’. That the portrait has in the past been identified, albeit tentatively, as Jane Grey rather than as Elizabeth obviously further complicates the process of correctly identifying this entire series. I have requested additional information from Hever, including specific details on how the painting was identified when it was sold out of the Chawton collection in the 1950s. I have also contacted Weiss Galleries, which handled a subsequent sale of the painting in 1995, in hopes that they may have additional data. See The Chawton House Portrait for the latest on this portrait.
 
     
 
 
  NOTES:      
 
[1]
 
Chatsworth Inventory, Devonshire MSS, Chatsworth, Hardwick Drawers H/143/6, f. 3v., transcribed in full as Appendix Three to Gillian White, “that whyche ys nedefoulle and nesesary”: The Nature and Purpose of the Original Furnishings and Decoration of Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire, 2 vols. (Ph.D. diss., University of Warwick, 2005), 2: 389–415. Bess was intimately acquainted with Jane throughout the 1540s and until Jane’s death in 1554 (see note 7 below), and it seems highly unlikely that Bess would have owned a portrait of an intimate friend unless that portrait was a reliable depiction of her physical appearance.
 
 
     
 
[2]
 
See J. Stephan Edwards, ‘Lady Jane Grey Revealed’, report submitted in September 2010. No portrait now or formerly identified as Lady Jane Grey exists in the collection at Hardwick Hall today. Electronic communication, Carol Wilson, Hardwick Hall, 15 August 2007. The last mention of any portrait of Lady Jane at Hardwick Hall was made by John Byng, Viscount Torrington, at the time of his visit in 1789. He noted its presence in the Great Drawing Room but declared it ‘much neglected’. See The Torrington Diaries: Containing the Tours through England and Wales of the Hon John Byng (later 5th Viscount Torrington) Between the Years 1781 and 1794, edited, with introduction by C. Bruyn Andrews and John Beresford (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1934-38), II:32. Sir George Scharf’s detailed survey of the pictures at Hardwick Hall, taken 28 October 1865, lists no portrait identifiable as Lady Jane Grey. See Scharf Papers, NPG 7/1/3/3/1/2, Heinz Archive and Library, National Portrait Gallery. Neither does the Catalogue of the Pictures at Hardwick Hall, 1903 list any such portrait. On page 40 of that volume is a discussion of a large number of paintings described in Bess of Hardwick’s will of 1601 that were already missing prior to 1903, indicating a large loss had occurred at some point over the intervening three centuries. Lastly, no portrait identifiable as Lady Jane Grey survives in the collection at Bess’s other principal seat, Chatsworth House. Electronic commuication, Stuart Band, Archivist for the Devonshire Collection, Chatsworth House, 9 February 2006.
 
 
     
 
[3]
 
Longleat House, Seymour Papers, Vol. 6, f. 241, Will of Frances Seymour, 1674 (without day or month): ‘I do also give and bequeath to my s[ai]d grandaughter [sic] the lady Frances Thynne ... my picture of the Lady Arabella my dear Lord’s first wife now hanging in the dining roome, and the picture of the Queen Jane Grey, now hanging in my chamber with another the picture of my Lady Katherine ....’ See the previous report of 2010, pages 4–7, for a detailed discussion of the transmittal of the portrait from Frances Seymour, Duchess of Somerset to the current Duke of Northumberland.
 
 
     
 
[4]
 
William Seymour was the second son of Edward, Lord Beauchamp of Hache, who was in turn the eldest son of Edward Seymour, 1st Earl of Hertford (son of Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset and Lord Protector under Edward VI) and Katherine Grey Seymour. Edward, Lord Beauchamp married Honora Rogers early in the 1580s. Their eldest son Edward died without issue in 1618, leaving the Seymour estates to younger brother William, later 2nd Earl of Hertford and 2nd Duke of Somerset.
 
 
     
 
[5]
 
During Arbella’s attempts in the last days of Elizabeth I’s reign to negotiate a secret marriage between herself and Edward Seymour, Lord Beauchamp of Hache (the infant being held by Katherine Grey in the round panel portrait at Syon House), she is said to have requested that Seymour’s agent bring with him as a password-like device a portrait of Jane which she (Arbella) knew well. See Sarah Gristwood, Arbella: England’s Lost Queen (London: Bantam Press, 2003), 132–133.
 
 
     
 
[6]
 
Arbella died while married to William Seymour and was thus legally unable to leave a will that might have documented her possession of a portrait of Jane. By William’s own will, dated 1657 and proved in 1660, he left all his goods, chattels, and personal effects to his wife Frances. See National Archives, PROB 11/302, ff. 352r–356r
 
 
     
 
[7]
 
Bess of Hardwick had longstanding and intimate connections to the entire Grey family. Bess had served as lady-in-waiting to Jane’s mother, Frances Brandon Grey, throughout the 1540s. Bess had wed her second husband, William Cavendish, in the Grey’s family chapel at Bradgate in 1547. Frances Grey stood godmother, along with her own mother Mary Tudor Brandon, to Bess’s first daughter Frances in 1549. Jane stood godmother to Bess’s daughter Temperance in 1550. Henry Grey was godfather to the third child, a boy named Henry born in 1551. Henry Grey was a godfather a second time, for Bess’s fifth child, Charles (b. November 1553). Arthur Collins, Historical Collections of the Noble Families of Cavendishe, Holles, Vere, Harley, and Ogle (London: 1752), 11–12.
 
 
     
 
[8]
 
Paintings on panels made from wooden boards pre-dominated before about 1600, after which time canvas began to supplant wood panels. Wood continued to be used with less frequency until the middle of the 1600s, however.
 
 
     
 
[9]
 
Electronic communication, Dr Ian Tyers, 5 December 2012.
 
 
     
 
[10]
 
There are numerous areas of minute paint loss involving separation of the pigment from the prepared surface, especially over the proper right eye, the proper left jawline, and the background on the viewer’s left side. Additionally, the painted surface has been heavily mechanically abraded, perhaps through over-aggressive cleaning in the distant past. This is most prominent at the proper left side of the ruff around the sitter’s neck, being so severe as to obliterate the folds and edging of the ruff itself. Similarly, the entire length of the necklace has significant removal of any glazing that might have provided detail or the appearance of contour.
 
 
     
 
[11]
 
The smaller portrait was almost certainly created before 1650, however. The wood is again Eastern Baltic oak, the species found most commonly in panels used by English artists. Importation to England of Eastern Baltic oak ceased abruptly in 1650, for a variety of reasons. My thanks to Dr Tyers for this observation.
 
 
     
 
[12]
 
Roy C. Strong, Portraits of Queen Elizabeth I (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963), 53–54. Strong referred to his identifications of the Syon and Berry-Hill portraits as ‘borderline cases, but the full frontal image is entirely consistent with the early Elizabeth iconography.’ By 1969, Strong was even less certain, noting that the Syon, Berry-Hill, and Soule pictures had ‘still to be proven as depicting Elizabeth.’ Roy C. Strong, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, Vol. 1 (London: HMSO, 1969), 109.
 
 
     
 
[13]
 
National Portrait Gallery (London), Heinz Archive and Library, file on NPG D32035. James Berry Hill of Berry-Hill Galleries indicates that he no longer has ready access to company records pre-dating 1970 and is thus unable to shed light on the whereabouts of the painting. Electronic communication, 9 September 2010.
 
 
     
 
[14]
 
It must be noted that the single known black-and-white photograph of the Gardner Soule Portrait, located in the Sitter File for Elizabeth I at the Heinz Library of the National Portrait Gallery (London), indicates the presence in the upper right-hand corner of an inscription that reads ‘ÆTATIS/ SUÆ 20/ 1602’. The overall appearance of the inscription suggests that it was incised long after the paint and varnish were fully cured, rather than having been painted by the original artist. Additionally, the sitter’s costume is far more consistent with the middle of the sixteenth century, further evidence that the inscription is a much later addition.
 
 
     
 
[15]
 
Roy Strong, Portraits of Queen Elizabeth I (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963), 53.
 
 
     
 
[16]
 
In heraldry, for example, the combined (‘impaled’) arms of a married couple display the achievement of the male on the left of the shield, with that of the female on the right. Similarly, heterosexual couples at wedding ceremonies are customarily positioned with the male groom to the officiant’s left and the female bride to the officiant’s right. Even in displays of officials flags, the senior flag (usually national) is flown so that it is first to the left of center in the viewer’s field of vision.
 
 
     
 
[17]
 
This formula is not without notable exceptions. Henry VIII was variously depicted in the royal ‘squared front’ position or turned slightly to his own left. His successor Edward VI can be seen in all three positions, as well as in full profile. Mary I is commonly seen in the traditional female position facing her own right, perhaps an acknowledgement of her marriage to Philip, though she also sometimes assumes the ‘squared front’ position.
 
 
     
 
[18]
 
For a fascinating account of the discovery and authentication of this portrait, see De-Frocking a Flapper Girl at the website for Richard Philp Galleries (London). Dendrochronological dating for the panel, performed by Dr John Fletcher in the 1970s, indicated that the boards for the portrait of Elizabeth came from the same plank as the boards used by Hans Eworth for a portrait of Richard Wakeman dated to 1566.
 
 
     
 
[19]
 
The seven drawings by Holbein depicting non-royal female sitters in the ‘squared front’ position, all held in the Royal Collection, are:
Mary, Duchess of Richmond and Somerset, 26.6 x 19.9 cm, RCIN 912212;
Frances, Countess of Surrey, 31.0 x 21.0 cm, RCIN 912214;
Grace, Lady Parker, 29.8 x 20.8 cm, RCIN 912230;
Lady Ratcliffe, 30.1 x 20.3 cm, RCIN 912236;
Mary Zouch(?),29.6 x 21.2 cm, RCIN 912252;
An unidentified woman, 27.4 x 20.1 cm, RCIN 912257;
Unidentified woman, 27.1 x 16.9 cm, RCIN 912190.
All are ca.1532–1543 and in black and coloured chalks plus brush and ink on pale pink prepared paper.

Importantly, among those 47 preparatory drawings by Holbein in the Royal Collection that depict non-royal men, 15 (or 32%) feature those men in the ‘feminine’ position (i.e., turned partially towards their own right), and an additional 3 are in full left profile (i.e., entirely facing their own right). A further 3 are in the ‘squared front’ position sometimes associated with monarchs. It should be evident from this one collection featuring Tudor England’s seminal portraitist that any schema intended to guide the positioning of sitters was at best suggestive, and never definitive.
 
         
 
[20]
 
It has been argued that Katherine consciously transgressed cultural norms by opting for the ‘squared front’ position as an overt expression of her own claims as Elizabeth’s heir. See Martin Spies, ‘The Portrait of Lady Katherine Grey and Her Son: Iconographic Medievalism as a Legitimation Strategy’ in Early Modern Medievalisms: The Interplay Between Scholarly Reflection and Artistic Production, edited by Alicia Montoya, Sophie van Romburgh, and Wim van Arnooij (Leiden; Brill, 2010), 165–190.
 
 
     
 
[21]
 
It should be noted, however, that the tip of the nose in the ‘Cloth of Estate’ portrait is significantly more pointed than the slightly bulbous noses of the other ladies.
 
 
     
 
[22]
 
Tarnya Cooper, ‘The Enchantment of the Familiar Face: Portraits as Domestic Objects in Elizabethan and Jacobean England’ in Everyday Objects: Medieval and Early Modern Material Culture and Its Meanings, edited by Tara Hamling and Catherine Richardson (Ashgate, 2010), 157–178.
 
 
     
 
[23]
 
A handful of examples of actual patterns have survived. See ‘John Fisher’, circa 1527, oil on paper, 21 x 19 cm, NPG2821; ‘Sir Henry Sidney’, late 16 th C, oil on paper, 30.5 x 27.9 cm, NPG2823; ‘Unknown woman, possibly Queen Elizabeth I’, circa 1595, pencil and water on paper, 15.2 x 18.4 cm, NPG2825.
 
 
     
 
[24]
 
Henry and Charles Stuart were sons of Margaret Douglas by Matthew Stewart, 4th Earl of Lennox. Margaret was in turn a daughter of Henry VIII’s elder sister Margaret Tudor by her second husband, Archibald Douglas, 2nd Earl of Angus. Katherine Grey and her Seymour children were descended from Henry VIII’s younger sister Mary.
 
 
     
 
[25]
 
William’s father, Edward Seymour, Lord Beauchamp of Hache, survived Elizabeth by 9 years, dying in 1612. Lord Beauchamp was considered illegitimate by many, especially Elizabeth, his father having married Katherine Grey without royal consent. William’s older brother Edward died without issue in 1618.
 
 
     
 
[26]
 
Frances Devereux Seymour’s will indicates that an additional portrait depicting Arbella Stuart was included in the group. William Seymour attempted in 1610 to further the Seymour claim to the crown by marrying his English-born rival claimant, Arbella Stuart. But like his grandfather before him he did so without Crown permission and was thus immediately imprisoned in the Tower. Arbella died without issue in 1615.
 
 
     
 
[27]
 
Leanda de Lisle, The Sisters Who Would Be Queen: The Tragedy of Mary, Katherine, and Lady Jane Grey (Hammersmith: Harper Press, 2010), 66; Eric Ives, Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), 46–47 and 184.
 
 
     
 
[28]
 
The portrait, NPG6804, has been dendrochronologically dated to sometime after 1594.
 
 
     
 
[29]
 
Engraving by Magdalena and Willem van de Passe, published in 1620 in Henry Holland’s Heroωlogia Anglica. See NPG19952. Though reputed at publication to have been taken from an authentic likeness of Jane, the engraving was in fact based upon one or more portraits of Queen Katherine Parr (the Melton Constable/Hastings and Jersey Portraits formerly called Lady Jane Grey).
 
 
     
 
[30]
 
Though mislabeled after 1681 as a portrait of Jane Grey, the painting, known today as the Wrest Park Portrait, actually depicts Mary Nevill Fiennes, Lady Dacre as a widow in the late 1540s. See J. Stephan Edwards, ‘A Life Framed in Portraits: An Early Portrait of Mary Nevill Fiennes, Lady Dacre’, forthcoming in British Art Journal.
 
 
     
 
[31]
 
Strype included an account first recorded by John Aylmer in which ‘a great lady’ rejected a gift of fine fabrics presented by Princess Mary, declaring instead her intent to follow the example set by Princess Elizabeth, who herself ‘followeth God’s word’. It has usually been assumed that the ‘great lady’ was Jane Grey, whom Aylmer served as tutor, and that Elizabeth always dressed somberly prior to becoming queen. See John Strype, Historical Collections of the Life and Acts of the Right Reverend Father in God, John Aylmer (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1821), 195–196.
 
 
     
 
[32]
 
Since the identifying inscription over the background is in a seventeenth- or eighteenth-century hand, and the picture itself is on canvas rather than board, it is certain that the Audley End picture was created later than the Syon House Portrait. The provenance for the Audley End painting is incomplete, indicating only that it came to Audley End from Billingbear (Berkshire), ancestral home of the Neville family, probably when Richard Griffin Neville succeeded as 3rd Baron Brayebrooke in 1825.
 
 
     
 
     
 
 
    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 Portland Portrait  
                 
    The Rotherwas Portrait     The Somerley Portrait  
                 
    The Streatham Portrait     The van de Passe Engraved Portrait  
                 
    The Wrest Park Portrait     The Yale Miniature  
                 
    Other Portraits Called
‘Lady Jane Grey’
         
                 

 

 

Page Created 30 July 2013, Revised 11 January 2014.

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