Thursday, July 24, 2008

Question from Elizabeth M - Full-length portrait of Anne Boleyn

There is a passage in Eric Ives' biography of Anne Boleyn that a certain Lord Lumley owned a full length portrait of Anne Boleyn in the 1590s and that it still existed as late as 1773. Are there any descriptions of what this portrait may have looked like? Are there any descendants of Lord Lumley who could shed light on the mystery of this "lost" portrait?


Anonymous said...

I am sorry, I looked everywhere on Google and I couldn't find it . Sorry!:(

Foose said...

On one site,, I found this note:

"The Lumley collection grew into a gallery of almost all the notable figures of the Tudor dynasty, and included sculpture as well as paintings. To judge from this example [it's a portrait of John, Lord Bray], as well as other sitters mentioned in the inventory, such as the full-length of Anne Boleyn, some of the portraits were posthumous, and thus included in an attempt to create a consciously historical collection."

This suggests that the portrait was created after Anne's death, and may have either represented Anne wearing the French hood of her actual historical period (similar to the version in the "ER" ring featuring her portrait and Elizabeth's) or perhaps a more anachronistic version, with her wearing Elizabethan clothes.

In either case, I would suspect it was probably an idealized portrait, perhaps emphasizing her resemblance to Elizabeth I.

Foose said...

Actually, it looks like Lord Lumley got possession of Henry's Nonsuch Palace at some point and with it possibly some original Holbeins. So perhaps he had a genuine contemporary portrait of Anne from her period of glory, or was able to commission one using a Holbein original as the model.

Anonymous said...

The modern descendants of John Lumley, Baron Lumley, are the Lumley earls of Scarbrough. Whether or not they still own the portait of Anne Boleyn described in Ives' book requires further research.

Ives refers to the famous Lumley Inventory of 1590 which describes a large collection of objects, including furniture, books, and paintings, owned by Lumley at the time of his dispute with Queen Elizabeth over a financial debt. Lumley had inherited Nonsuch Palace in 1580 from his father-in-law, the earl of Arundel, along with some debts owed by Arundel. One of those debts was to the Crown, which Lumley was able to have canceled by returning Nonsuch to Elizabeth.

Many of the paintings in the inventory are portraits, including one of Anne Boleyn. The inventory covered ALL of Lumley's properties, however, and unfortunately did not specify the precise location of each painting. If the Boleyn portrait was at Nonsuch, it probably returned to Elizabeth along with the palace in the 1590s and eventually passed to one of Charles II's mistresses, who then demolished the palace in the 1680s and sold off the pieces. The painting would have been sold at that time as well.

But it is unlikely that the Lumley portrait of Anne Boleyn was originally housed at Nonsuch, since the palace was built by Henry VIII after Anne's execution. In all likelihood, the painting was in some other Lumley property.

In order to determine where it was in the late 18th century (ca. 1773), one might search through Horace Walpole's "Anecdotes of Paintings in England" (published 1762) or "The Torrington Diaries" of John Byng (ca 1795).

Nonetheless, Foose makes an intriguing point with regard to Hans Holbein. Since Holbein is known to have designed many of the processional arches and other architectural features for Anne's coronation as queen in 1533, it is very likely that he also painted a portrait of her. It is also likely that a Holbein original would have been copied by others. Surely the Lumley portrait was one of those copies, since it is probable that Henry would have retained in his own possession anything as valuable (even then) as a Holbein portrait, and would likely have deliberately destroyed it upon Anne's execution.

Elizabeth M. said...

Does anyone know about this painting? It is supposed to be Lady Jane Grey. Is that an actual determination? Or could it possibly be another unknown woman? I have always loved this painting--the woman is so beautiful and her dress and hood are stunning. I have always hoped that it was mislabeled and might actually be a portrait of my heroine Anne Boleyn.
Does anyone know about this painting?

Anonymous said...

The full length portrait of Anne Boleyn owned by Lumley could possisbly be one of the various 'B necklace' paintings (later cut down to a smaller size showing Anne from the waist up)).

Anonymous said...

Finally, my own area of genuine expertise! LOL

Yes, I know of the portrait (though I confess I cannot identify the sitter or artist right off the top of my head). It bears considerable resemblance to the portrait if Katherine Parr now in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London. In particular, the crown-shaped jewel worn at the neckline is nearly identical. The overall costume is also strikingly similar. Even the sitter's face is very similar to Parr's as it is depicted in the NPG portrait.

That NPG portrait (NPG4451) was long identified as Jane Grey, but Susan James has fairly definitively re-identified it as Katherine Parr, and the gallery now labels it as Parr. There is therefore the possibility that this portrait is also of Parr but is mislabeled, more so because Parr is known to have had many portraits of herself painted. She was apparently quite keen on sitting for artists!

The portrait Elizabeth asks about bears an even stronger resemblance to a portrait formerly owned by the Earl of Jersey. The Jersey portrait was destroyed in the last century, unfortunately, though photographs of it survive. The color and brocade pattern of the dress are different, but the two pictures are otherwise almost identical, right down to the positioning of the hands and fingers. All of the jewels are absolutely identical in the two, especially the crown brooch. That Jersey portrait was labeled as Jane Grey. Thus the issue becomes confused. Is the portrait Elizabeth asks about of Jane Grey? Or is it of Parr? Are all three actually of Parr? Or is this portrait of someone other unknown woman?

I am of the opinion that the sitter is not Jane Grey. The costume appears to date to pre-1550, judging by the neckline of the dress and absence of a chemise. Jane was no older than 13 or 14 in 1550, yet this portrait appears to be a woman of greater age. And significantly, the sitter wears a ring on both third fingers, suggesting that she was married. Jane did not marry until May of 1553, yet the costume appears too early for this to be a post-marriage portrait of Jane. And despite Ms James' claims regarding the crown-shaped jewel as it is seen in NPG4451, such crown-chaped jewels were actually quite common among aristocratic women, as Yvonne Hackenbroch has shown through her research on Tudor-ea jewelry. Thus the jewel is not a solid basis for identifying the sitter as either Jane Grey or Katherine Parr.

Give me some time to scan back through some of my research materials and notes and I can probably tell you more about this specific portrait, including who it is thought to depict, if known. But the upshot is that it is not, in my opinion, a portrait of Lady Jane Grey Dudley, but is instead mislabeled by whomever posted it to the website where you saw it.

Elizabeth M. said...

The painting I put a link to here that has often been identified as Jane Seymour. I am wondering if it could be a portrait of Lady Margaret Douglas. The age of the woman and the style of the clothes would be right for the early to mid-1540s and Margaret Douglas would have had access to some royal mewels. She was married to Matthew Stuart in 1544. I have only seen portraits of her as an older, middle-aged woman. But since she was high in the favor of her uncle, Henry VIII, it seems logical she would have had a likeness done for her uncle.

A Taylor said...

A relatively recent survey of the life and artwork owned by John, Lord Lumley, entitled 'A Complete Pattern of Nobility' by Dr Leo Gooch, which I've read, refers to this portrait of Anne Boleyn and gives more details. If I remember rightly, the portrait was damaged at some point by a fire while being stored in a building called 'The Temple', and was subsequently cut down. The reference to its existence in the 1770s relates to a reference to it in an inventory of art owned by a Hanoverian politician and collector called West, possibly for the purposes of an auction.