Charlotte Stanley, Countess of Derby

In February 1644, Parliamentarian forces besieged Lathom House in Lancashire, one of the last remaining Royalist strongholds in the county.  The defence of the castle by its defiant mistress, Lady Stanley, become one of the famous events of the English Civil Wars, when for three months, the Countess, in the absence of her husband,  who was away defending the Isle of Man, repeatedly refused to surrender her home, and instead fortified the castle against the enemy.  The siege was broken when Royalist help arrived in May,  led by the King’s nephew, Prince Rupert.

She fled to the Isle of Man, but after her husband’s capture at the Battle of Worcester in 1651, and his subsequent beheading, she surrendered the island to her enemies, and in the words of an 18th century writer, became  “the last person in the three kingdoms, and in all their dependent dominions, who submitted to the victorious rebels”.

The below portrait of Lady Stanley is said to date from the 17th century,  and is attributed to a follower of Van Dyck. (source: ebay)

CountessofDerby

A woman of noble birth – the daughter of a French nobleman, and granddaughter of William I, Prince of Orange – the Countess would endure great trials following the war, with the execution of her husband, James Stanley, 7th Earl of Derby, leaving her widowed with 5 children, and a seemingly endless legal fight with Parliament over the seizure and dispersal of her estate. She claimed be ‘the only woman that ever was sequestered for acting on that side to which her husband adhered,” and complained she was being treated more severely than others for her “crazy life”.

james_seventh_earl_of_derby_his_lady_and_child
James Stanley, Lord Strange, Later Seventh Earl of Derby, with his Wife, Charlotte, and their daughter, c. 1636, Anthony Van Dyck. ©The Frick Collection

Despite these struggles, Charlotte survived until 1664,  with Sir Peter Lely capturing a last image of her a few years before her death.

Charlotte,_Countess_of_Derby_by_Sir_Peter_Lely 1657
Portrait after Sir Peter Lely, based on a work of 1657. ©National Portrait Gallery, London

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Richard Gibson (1615-1690)

Whenever people talk of miniaturists, the first names that jump to my mind are usually Samuel Cooper or Nicholas Hilliard, but I’ve been learning about another who flourished in the  17th century, born under the reign of James I, and enjoying a career that survived Charles I, Oliver Cromwell, and Charles II, before ending in the time of William and Mary at the turn of the next century.

220px-Richard_Gibson_by_Sir_Peter_Lely
Richard Gibson by Peter Lely, painted 1658, ©National Portrait Gallery, London

Known as “Dwarf Gibson”,  standing at just 3’10” tall,  Richard was a lifelong courtier, and also a talented artist who studied under Francis Cleyn,  director of design at the Mortlake Tapestry Works.¹   As something of a celebrity in the court of Charles I, he married one of Queen Henrietta Maria’s serving ladies, Anne Shepherd (also a dwarf),  who was given away by King Charles himself. Gibson was also the subject of poems by Andrew Marvell and Edmund Waller. Richard and Anne would have nine children, three of whom also became painters. The best known, daughter Susan, also painted miniatures.

In later years, Richard remained an important figure at Court, being appointed drawing-master to Princess Mary and Princess Anne, and travelling to the Netherlands with Mary on the occasion of her marriage to William of Orange.

Anne Shepherd 1638 vd
“Portrait of Mary Villiers, Duchess of Richmond and Lennox, with her dwarf Mrs. Gibson”, by Anthony Van Dyck, 1638. ©Los Angeles County Museum of Arts

While Richard and his wife appear in several large canvases by other hands, his own works were primarily miniature portraits, his technique “characterized by the thick pigment and parallel striations that give his work an impastoed quality”.² His sitters included the highest members of English Court and society.

Barbara Villiers
Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland (1640-1709)

 

Anne Hyde
Anne Hyde, Duchess of York (1637-1671)

 

Unknown gentleman by Gibson
An unknown gentleman

 

unknown woman by Gibson VandA

Unknown woman, perhaps Elizabeth Capel, Countess of Carnarvon
©V&A

Unknown boy by Gibson
Unknown boy, ©V&A

 

¹) Cleyn is also said to have had a hand in training William Dobson, who was curiously claimed as the painter of a Cromwell portrait sold at a late 17th century auction, under the name “Dobson the Dwarf”. Clearly there was a bit of a mix up in attributions here, but as Royalist Dobson is unlikely to have ever painted Cromwell, and Gibson painted primarily miniatures, it’s doubtful the said painting had anything to do with either.

²) Richard Gibson, Grove Dictionary of Art

William Parker, 4th Baron Monteagle

With November 5th just around the corner, and early fireworks already being h3eard across the UK, I wanted to go back to the beginning of the 17th century and take a look at one of the central figures in the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

To summarise for those not familiar with this infamous event in British history, Lord Monteagle was an English peer and member of the House of Lords at the beginning of King James I’s reign. At a time when Catholicism was outlawed and Catholics persecuted for their faith, a plot was raised by a group of men to blow up the House and everyone in it, including the King. However, shortly before the gunpowder was due to be lit in the undercroft beneath, Lord Monteagle received an anonymous letter warning him of the threat, the plot was quickly unravelled and the conspirators hunted down and killed.

Monteagle

The question of who sent the letter has been debated ever since, with some suggesting he sent it himself in order to win favour with James, while others believe it came from his own brother in law, Francis Tresham, who was himself one of the conspirators.

Whoever sent the letter, for his actions in protecting the crown, Parker received rewards of money and land from the King. He continued to hold influence, despite his own lifelong Catholic connections, and became Baron Monteagle in 1618.  He died in 1622.

This portrait of Parker was painted in around 1615 by John de Critz.

Picture of the Day

RichardBoyle
Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Burlington and 2nd Earl of Cork, ©National Portrait Gallery, London

Born in 1612 in County Cork, Ireland, Richard Boyle was an Anglo-Irish nobleman who served as Lord High Treasurer of Ireland. A committed Royalist during the English Civil Wars, he fought for the King until Charles’s defeat. He was fined by the Commonwealth for his allegiance, before continuing his support of the monarchy into the reign of Charles II.

The NPG says this picture is possibly after Van Dyck, and based on a work of c. 1640. It caught my eye because, as with the portrait of Sir William Temple (see blog entry Sept 13th 2017), it displays a simple elegance while using only limited colours or shades. Painted in mostly muted browns, it has a straightforward composition with no extraneous props or embellishments to distract from the sitter’s direct gaze.

Another portrait of Boyle, also after Van Dyck but this time by the artist Jonathan Richardson the elder, is at Knole, in Kent (National Trust, on loan from the trustees of the Sackville estate). It is dated after 1685.

Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Burlington (1612 ¿ 1697/98) (after Van Dyck) by Jonathan Richardson the elder (London 1665 ¿ London 1745)

Dobsons reunited at Tate Britain

Great news from Tate Britain this week! For the next three years, the gallery will be hosting William Dobson’s earliest known self-portrait alongside his own portrait of second wife, Judith.

WandJatTate

From at least the late 1700s, both portraits were hanging together at Howsham Hall, a stately home in Yorkshire. When the house and its contents were sold in 1948, the couple went their separate ways. They briefly came back together for the 1983 National Portrait Gallery exhibition of Dobson’s work, with Judith purchased by the Tate in 1992. William’s picture remained in private hands until it came up for auction last year, and although it was once again sold to a private collector, the current owner (in contrast to the previous one, who never lent it anywhere), has already shared it with viewers at the National Portrait Gallery, before moving it to the Tate for the new loan.

I’ll definitely be visiting the Tate soon, and look forward to seeing the Dobsons back together at last!  My only concern is that, last time I visited the gallery, specifically to see the artist’s wife, she was poorly displayed, high up on a wall with a shaft of light obscuring her face. Hopefully the curation will be better this time….

Judith was born Judith Sander, some time around 1609, in London. She became Dobson’s second wife in 1637, and their only surviving child, Katherine, was born in 1639.  Judith outlived her husband by a number of years, remarrying in 1648 and surviving until at least the Restoration of Charles II, when she was said to have discussed the King’s coronation outfit with antiquarian and friend, John Aubrey. It is not know when she died.

Tate are also planning a special display on Dobson next year. Hopefully they’ll have more details on that soon.

Portraits at the Tate

 

Picture of the Day: Sir William Temple

Sir William Temple

This beautiful painting is at the National Portrait Gallery in London, labelled after Sir Peter Lely, and based on a work of circa 1660. A lot of ‘after’ works are very obviously  not in the same league as the original, but I think this really evokes Sir Peter, and the painter was in my (admittedly inexpert) opinion, an accomplished and talented painter in their own right.  Are there any Lely fans in the readership who know more about it, or have any idea where the original might be? No date is given, so it could be this version is not even 17th century, although I’d hazard a guess it is.

Sir William Temple (1628-1629), was born in London, the son of Irish lawyer, courtier and politician, Sir John Temple, and was himself employed as a diplomat, travelling around Europe on behalf of the crown, one of his achievements being the successful negotiation of marriage between the Prince of Orange and Princess Mary. Although he was much respected and consulted by Charles II on matters of state, Temple disapproved of the crown’s anti-Dutch course, and retired from court.

He died in 1699 and was much mourned, with Swift lamenting that “all that was good and amiable in mankind departed with him”.

A hidden portrait at Fawley Court

Some time in the mid-1860s, it is claimed, a civil engineer and a colleague began structural alterations to the roof and rooms of the ancient manor at Fawley Court, in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire.  Hidden in the oak timbering of the roof,  they found various items they believed had been concealed  by the family who lived there, stashed out of sight during the fighting and occupation of Fawley during the Civil War.  Behind some old oak panelling in the study, they found this painting.

William Whitelock

It is initialled “A.G. 1670 Sir William Whitelock Fawley Court”.

On the accompanying piece of paper, written in 1901, the unnamed engineer tells us that Fawley and another nearby manor,  Phyllis Court, were owned by the Whitelock family, its most famous member being the 17th century Parliamentarian and Lord Keeper of the Great Seal,  Bulstrode Whitelock.  Our finder says he compared the portrait with that of Sir William Whitelock, Bulstrode’s brother, and decided they were indeed the same man.  Sir William was in fact Bulstrode’s second son, not his brother, but given that the report was made in 1901, I think we can allow the writer – not a historian by trade – a little leeway!

Both the painting and its written history are on auction for £500 on ebay.

View sale

 

 

La Belle Stuart

If you’ve ever held a modern UK 50p piece, you’ll be familiar with the image of Britannia, seated with her spear and shield, appearing as the personification of Britain itself.

50p

What many do not know is the story behind it, and the real woman whose image would still be gracing our money over 350 years later.

When Charles II wanted to cast a medal in commemoration of his victory over the Dutch in 1664, the model he chose was a woman who had famously refused to become his mistress, and bucked the usual Restoration trend by saying no to the King’s advances.

Her name was Frances Stuart, and her father was a physician at Henrietta Maria’s court in exile. After the Restoration she returned to England, serving first as maid of honour to Henrietta Maria, and then lady-in-waiting to Charles’s new wife, Catherine of Braganza. Nicknamed “La Belle Stuart”, various 17th century commentators declared her the most beautiful woman they ever saw, including (unsurprisingly) Samuel Pepys, and besides the rebuffed monarch her suitors included the Duke of Buckingham and Francis Digby, son of the Earl of Bristol.

There are several portraits of Frances surviving today, including probably the most famous one (featured here previously), painted by Peter Lely and now in the Royal Collection.

Frances Stewart Richhmond

 

Frances Stewart 2
By Willem Wissing, 1687 ©historicalportraits.com

Frances Stewart vdv
By Jan van der Vaart ©National Portrait Gallery, London

I found the below painting on an auction site, named as Frances Stuart and attributed to Sir Peter Lely, although I think that’s unlikely, given the one above. Peter Lely was famous for his portrayal of glamorous, beautiful women. If Frances Stuart was as ravishing as it is claimed, I think Sir Peter could have done better than this uncharacteristically demure attempt!

Ebay Frances Stewart

Although Frances was a famed beauty, she wasn’t known for being all that bright. One man said of her that “it would be difficult to image less brain combined with more beauty”. Ouch. She married the Duke of Richmond and Lennox in 1667 and contracted disfiguring smallpox in 1669, but she continued to be a feature of court life and remained in the affections of the King.

So the next time you have a 50p in your pocket, turn it over and take a look at La Belle Stuart. She may have been, in words I once heard used for a mistress of Louis XV, ‘as beautiful as an angel, but as stupid as a basket’, but since she managed to avoid falling into bed with the notoriously skirt-chasing Charles II, she must have had some good sense!

Looking Good at the SNPG

SNPexhibition

A reader has kindly brought my attention to a new exhibition at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh, which, among other themes, looks at ‘the elaborate hairstyles and fashions of the courtiers and cavaliers of the 16th and 17th centuries’.

With the newly saved-for-the-nation Van Dyck self-portrait as a centrepiece, the exhibition comprises 28 works of art from different eras, exploring male appearance and fashion to the present day.

Alongside the great Sir Anthony himself, and the doomed Lord George Stuart, 9th Seigneur of Aubigny (below, from National Portrait Gallery, London), contemporary Daniel Mytens also makes an appearance with his 1629 portrait of the 1st Duke of Hamilton. John Michael Wright’s Sir William Bruce is on display as well.

NPG 5964; Lord George Stuart by Sir Anthony Van Dyck

 

Mytens Hamilton
James Hamilton, 1st Duke of Hamilton, 1606-1649, Daniel Mytens, ©SNPG

Bruce by Wright
Sir William Bruce, c.1630-1710, Architect. By John Michael Wright. ©SNPG

I’ve heard mixed reviews about this exhibition, but if I were in the area I’d probably make the effort, if just for another look at Sir Anthony’s impressive self-portrait on its only stopover in Scotland at the end of a three year tour. If any readers have the opportunity to visit, let us know what you think!

The SNPG website has further details here and there is a review of the show here.

The exhibition runs until 1st October 2017.

New book: “Portraits of the English Civil Wars”

I’ve just been alerted to a new picture book via Bendor Grosvenor’s Art History News blog.  Quite aside from the very fitting image of a Dobson on the front, this definitely looks like one for the 17th century art lover’s book shelf!

Book English Civil Wars

Written by Old Master dealer Angus Haldane and published by Unicorn Press, the site’s blurb tells us:

“This book provides insight and perspective about the lives, vanities, and relationships of those who fought in the English Civil Wars through the filter of portraiture, much of it painted as conflict raged.”

Price £18.75 through the publisher here: Unicorn Press

I can’t wait to read this!

 

 

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