Spotted at auction…

This is quite exciting! Two portraits said to be by John Hayls recently went up for auction together in the US. I have found records and images of only a handful of Hayls paintings, many of them merely attributed to him rather than confirmed works, so these are a lovely addition to the list, especially as they have managed to stay together where other couples have gone their separate ways over the centuries.

hayls couple

They are inscribed with the following:

 “Michael Warton Esq Son in law of John first Lord Poulett Hales Pint”, and “Susanna daughter of John first Lord Poulett and Wife of Michael Warton Esq of Beverly in Yorkshire Hales Pint”.


We are told that Susanna (b. pre-1649), was daughter of John 1st Baron Poulett (1585-1549) and Elizabeth (daughter of Christopher Ken of Ken-Court). She married Michael Warton Esquire (1623-1688) circa 1646, Michael being the son of Sir Michael Warton (1593-1645) (who died in the Great Siege of Scarborough Castle) and Catherine Maltby, co-heiress of Christopher Maltby of Maltby-in-Cleveland. The listing also says that the most recent provenance was in the estate of a man in Atlanta, Georgia. I’d be fascinated to know how and when this pair travelled so far, and would hope, as I always do with such sales, that one day a future owner might bring them back home to Britain. I can dream!

Here are the descriptions from the sale listing:

A pair of formal portrait paintings each depicting one of a couple from the noble class of 17th and 18th century Great Britain comprising Susanna standing turned slightly to left wearing a deep blue and pale blue silk gown off the shoulder with a string of large pearls to her throat, drop earrings to each ear, and a jeweled headpiece in her dark curled hair, the figure reaching one hand to grasp a fruit on tray carried by a finely dressed black girl at left adorned in rich red silk dress with golden jewels to her neck and ears; and Michael standing turned slight to right in mirrored stance to his wife and wearing light armor and tied lace collar with his left hand perched on a stone and right arm bent forward with hand clutching a cylindrical wooden handle, the figure set before a dark rocky outcropping covered in moss with colorful landscape in view to right.


I wonder how many other husbands and wives from this era remain side by side today? Two portraits of William Dobson and his wife Judith were still hanging together as late as the mid-2oth century until a house sale split them up, with Judith ending up on her own at the Tate Britain (rarely on display, sadly). Happily for the Wartons, though, they were sold as a single lot, and so will hopefully remain together for a good while yet!


Ahlers & Ogletree auction


Picture of the Day

Red scarf Van Dyck
Portrait of a Man in Armour with Red Scarf, c.1625-1627, by Anthony Van Dyck,
©Gemäldegalerie, Dresden


Another example of Van Dyck at his best, in my opinion. I prefer him when he steps away from the familiar high-society lords and  ladies and gives us something a little different. In this case the sitter is looking away from the viewer at something in the distance behind us,  and the background gives no clues at all as to who he may be. A gentleman soldier, maybe?  Perhaps someone with a knowledge of 17th century European armour might be able to offer some insight. Comments welcome!


Kings and Queens

Royal portraiture was a tricky thing. In a world where an official painting (or an engraving of it) was, for many people, the only opportunity they had to lay eyes on their monarch, the portrayal of royalty had to show strength, power and confidence, not just to the people they ruled, but to relatives, friends and, most importantly, adversaries and enemies. Think of Henry VIII’s supremely arrogant, hands-on-hips ‘don’t mess with me’ poses. Even today that image gives us a sense of the character and reputation of the man, and adds colour and shape to what we know of him on paper.

The Stuarts, too, commissioned numerous portraits, although some were more reluctant than others. James I was said to be uncomfortable with the process, and this comes across in awkward and stiff poses. While he was merely unenthused by the whole idea, there is little suggestion that he was uncertain of his role as king, only that he wouldn’t have been the kind of ruler who liked pasting selfies all over Instagram. Compare this with the images we have of Charles I, trying his best to appear strong and capable, when he frequently appears uncertain and troubled, particularly during the conflict in the 1640s when chaos reigned rather than him. In such times we would expect his portraits to show a man absolutely confident and in control, a king who needed his people to get behind him, yet Dobson’s portraits give us a man who is far from confident or assured of victory, despite the haughty expression and rich clothes of state.

So here’s a look at how the Stuart kings and consorts showed us their game-faces, some with more success than others!

James I van Somer I
King James I of England, before 1621, by Paul van Somer
©Museo del Prado, Madrid

Anne of Denmark2
Queen Anne of Denmark, 1614, attrib. Marcus Gheerearts the Younger
©The Royal Collection

Charles I Hamptn Ct Dobson
King Charles I, c.1640-1646, by William Dobson
©The Royal Collection

Van Dyck Henrietta Maria em MN575 l
Queen Henrietta Maria, c. late 1630s, by Anthony Van Dyck
©Philip Mould Ltd

Charles II NPG
King Charles II, c. 1660-1665, by John Michael Wright
©National Portrait Gallery, London

Queen Catherine of Braganza, wife of King Charles II, 1665, by Sir Peter Lely
©Philip Mould Ltd

James II Kneller
King James II, 1683, by Sir Godfrey Kneller
©Government Art Collection

Anne Hyde, Duchess of York  (first wife of the future King James II), c.1662, by Sir Peter Lely

Mary of Modena, second wife and Queen Consort of King James II, 1680, by Simon Petersz Verelst

Women of the 17th Century

It’s interesting to watch the change in fashions and attitudes to women, through the paintings that represented them during the 1600s. It’s easy to forget that from the formal, stiff poses, and the ruffs and hoop skirts that carried over from the Tudor years into post-Elizabethan England, through the plain, austere attire of the Commonwealth and its more zealous puritannical adherents,  to the flirty, half-naked, often scandalous women in Lely’s portraits after the Restoration, was only 60 or 70 years. Was it the nature of the times that brought about this alteration in fashion in such a dramatic manner, or would it have happened anyway? The 1600s in England were a turbulent rollercoaster between freedom and oppression (both literally and in a religious sense), the almost total breakdown of society into civil war, then a swing from royalty to republic and back to royalty again. It’s not surprising attitudes to dress and, on a wider scale, the position of women in English life, was likewise unsettled.

Perhaps it is not so uncommon, though. Think of the events of the 20th century, that took Britain from the pre-war years with formal, conservative clothes (hats, gloves, respectability, etc), to austerity and ‘make do and mend’ in the 1940s,  to a post-WWII new world when freedom of expression came into its own, the 1960s being the obvious example.

With that in mind, here’s a look at how our view of women changed during the 1600s.

Elizabeth of Bohemia
Princess Elizabeth Stuart, c.1606, by Robert Peake the Elder, ©Metropolitan Museum of Art
Anne of Denmark2
Anne of Denmark, 1614, by Marcus Gheerhaerts the Younger, ©The Royal Collection
Portrait of Mary Hill, Lady Killigrew 1638 by Sir Anthony Van Dyck 1599-1641
Mary Hill, Lady Killigrew, 1638, Sir Anthony Van Dyck
©Tate Britain
Catherine Pye
Lady Catherine Lucas, Lady Pye, “Dame Catherine Pye”, 1639, Henry Giles
©National Trust, Bradenham Manor
Countess of Loudon
Portrait of a lady, said to be the Countess of Loudon, attrib. John Hayls, date not given
©Collection of The Great Steward of Scotland’s Dumfries House Trust
Poss Lady Salkeld
An unknown woman, possibly Lady Salkeld, date unknown, William Dobson
©C.Cotterell-Dormer. Esq (private collection)
Elizabeth Cromwell
Elizabeth Cromwell (Oliver’s mother), c.1640-1655, Robert Walker
©Museum of London
Nell Gwynn
Nell Gwynn, c.1675, by Sir Peter Lely

Picture of the Day

This unknown man, painted c.1640, is currently resident at the Heckscher Museum of Art in New York.

Unknown 1640
Portrait of a Man, c. 1640, Unknown Artist (English, Seventeenth Century)

Oil on wood panel, 15-1/2 x 11-3/4 in., August Heckscher Collection. 1959.122

The museum website ( gives the following information:

“Although neither the artist nor the subject of this portrait has been identified, the armor worn by the sitter is typical of English manufacture during the first half of the seventeenth century. The hinged shoulder clasps distinguish the fine quality of the armor and suggest that it may have been produced at the royal workshops in Greenwich that were established by Henry VIII in 1514. While the noble bearing of the officer and the sensitive delineation of the textures is characteristic of portraiture of the period, the small scale of the portrait is uncommon in mid-17th century England, raising the possibility that it is a replica of an unidentified larger-scale portrait.

I really like this painting. The salmon/pink sleeve under the shorter upper sleeve (is that a buff coat under the armour?) is an unusual combination, and I haven’t seen anything similar except in regard to the colour, which reminds me of the pink silk shirt on Dobson’s unidentified naval officer at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. No obvious artist names jump out at me though,  and sadly there are no hints around the sitter to offer any guess at his identity, but from the fashion,  could we tentatively add a few years to the estimated date and suggest he is a Royalist officer…?

I’d never heard of the The Heckscher Museum, but it looks like one that would be worth a visit if you’re in the neighbourhood, especially as they offer visitors and supporters a great way of helping conserve the collection. By adopting a work of art you can help pay for repairs or other necessities, such as in this case, damage to the frame. What a brilliant idea! If I had $2,550 spare I’d definitely be adopting this one!

Happy Birthday, Mr Dobson!

Well, sort of.  On this day in 1611, William Dobson was baptised at St Andrew’s church in Holborn, the first son of an eventual 12 surviving siblings. His actual date of birth is unknown, so 4th March (and not 28th February – I’m looking at you, Dictionary of National Biography) –  is the day I like to mark as his birthday.

As it’s his anniversary, I went to the National Portrait Gallery in London today to see some of his works. Sadly only one was on display (Richard Neville), thanks to the NPG’s new brainchild of mixing art from different periods so you can ‘compare and contrast’. It’s a bloody awful idea, as it meant the space normally occupied by genuine Stuart-era portraits (in the room entitled “The Stuart Room”, oddly enough) was taken up by two large, modern 21st century paintings, and a number of 17th century works had been removed. Being a pure traditionalist I don’t hold with mixing genres in a normally chronological space, as it spoils the ‘feel’ of a period and is frankly pretty jarring. I won’t even start on the inclusion of an underwear clad, modern actress on the wall in the next room, designated for 19th century portraiture…What I love about NPG, normally, is that it tends to stick to chronological hanging, allowing you to immerse yourself in a style or period rather than viewing by genre or theme. Mixed hangings may work in other galleries, just please knock it off here!

But back to William 🙂

Here’s a lesser-known self-portrait from the late 1630s, and my favourite of all of his works. It’s in a private collection, sadly, but was included in the 1983 exhibition catalogue.

WD self portrait bandw

As it’s his birthday, I thought this would be the perfect time to announce the title of my new biography. “William Dobson: The King’s Painter” will be published soon by Tyger’s Head Books, and covers his childhood, family, career and, of course, his life during the English Civil War. A lot of commonly held beliefs about the man are debunked, and previously undiscovered surprises are revealed. (The Archbishop of Canterbury? Really?!!))

I’ll give more details and a publication date as soon as they are available!

Lely discovery at Philip Mould & Co

An exciting find announced today by the art experts at Philip Mould’s in London.  This striking portrait was previously without an attribution for sitter or painter, but has now been identified as a work of Sir Peter Lely.

                 Henry Rich, Lord Kensington (1642-1659), c.1657

Read the full story on their website here…Philip Mould & Co

If you’re a lover of portraiture, I highly recommend subscribing to their email updates for similiar stories and information on exhibitions and sales.

%d bloggers like this: