Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Question from Bron - Feedback on portrait research

[Note from Lara - I received an email and the document linked below from Bron (a retired art historian) looking for input. This is well beyond my knowledge, but I'm sure some of you would be able to offer some commentary!]

I have been working for some time on two very interesting portraits. One portrait is of Elizabeth Knollys, and I believe the other portrait may also be of her. I have attached a very basic outline of my research, although my documentation runs into many, many pages.

I would so much appreciate input and criticism from others. I have a great deal of research I would like to share, but I didn't want to bore you initially.

Notes regarding the 1577 portrait of Elizabeth Knollys on display @ Montacute, her marriage to Thomas Leighton and possible identification of a portrait of ‘an unknown french noblewoman’ as Elizabeth Leighton, nee Knollys
PDF of the document (4.2 MB)


kb said...


I am unable to open the file.

Bron - I am most interested in your research and would be happy to read and share my thoughts with you - especially as I have done some work on Elizabeth Knollys Leighton.

Perhaps Lara could send you my email address so you could send me the file directly to see if I could open it.

Lara said...

kb - Did you try doing a "click and save" of the file? It's working fine for me.

Anyway, I can send you the .doc file, since I have a copy.

kb said...

I'm on a mac using Firefox. Click and save doesn't really work. Clicking starts the download process. It downloaded but then my system said the file was in an unreadable format. Thanks for forwarding it.

Lara said...

To download you'd have to right click if you have a two-button mouse or do an "alt"-click if you don't have a mouse. I'm on a Mac too and I'm not having any trouble opening the file... very strange.

If anyone else is having problems with the file, please let me know.

kb said...

Yeah - just wasn't working on my system...but got the email thanks.

Bron - I'm looking at the file now and think this is an interesting project. At first glance the two portraits seem remarkably similar although as you note there is a slight difference in the nose. They also both look like her sister Lettice. A few random notes for you:

I have Henry Knollys, brother of Sir Francis Knollys as dying in 1583.This would have been her uncle, not great-uncle. The source for this date is F.Malpas, 'Sir Francis Knollys and his family' a manuscript kept at the Reading Central Library, Local Studies collection. It was never published so I am afraid this is the only place you can find it.

I have her brother Henry dying in 1582 in the Low Countries. Brother Edward dying in 1575 (History of Parliament: House of Commons bio).

Is there a date for the Mould portrait?

Is it possible that she is dressed in the French style as a statement in support of a French marriage for the queen? Or around the date of Anjou?

Although the family had close ties with Scotland, this was more prevalent on the Carey side than on the Knollys side (until late in the reign) because of Henry Carey's post at Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Are you aware of her correspondence with Edward Zouche preserved at the British Library in Egerton 2812. The letters start in 1600 when Zouche was Leighton's deputy on Guernsey.

These are just my first thoughts. Please feel free to ask Lara for my email if you would like to discuss more in depth off the blog.

Palfrey said...

Thank you!

Lots of information for me to follow up. SOOO good to come across others with similar interests! Yes please: Lara, would you be so kind as to forward me kb's email (or vice versa)?

Very best wishes and many thanks!


PhD Historian said...

If I may offer my thoughts as I read the notes:

On the question of Leighton having been Governor of Jersey ... the implication here seems to be that the Leightons may have picked up French fashion because of Jersey's location in the Channel close to the French shore. However, it is quite probable that Leighton spent little or no time in Jersey despite his long tenure as Governor. Holders of offices of that type were largely figureheads, with the actual work being done by others (e.g., Edward Zouche). Leighton probably did visit Jersey on several occassions for very brief periods of a few days or weeks, but I doubt that he and his wife spent enough time there to develop a taste for whatever French fashions had penetrated to that relatively isolated area. KB would know more about his role as Governor, though ... Is my impression correct, KB? Are the Leightons known to have spent more than a few days in Jersey?

The French influence seen in the costume of the unknown lady is more probably simply the result of the generalized popularity of French fashion at the English court following the visit of Fran├žois, Duke of Anjou in 1580. The French farthingale, for example, became popular immediately after that event.

I have to wonder why Mould identified the unknown lady as French. The neckline of the bodice of the gown has a decidedly French influence, but beyond that I do not see any clues to indicate that the sitter is definitively French.

The open ruff became popular in England after circa 1590. Before that date, the majority of ruffs were either closed or the opening was very narrow. See, for example, Lettice's ruff in her portrait by Gower at Longleat, which is apparently dated 1585. Her ruff is fully closed.

The width of the opening of the ruff seen here suggests to me a date after 1590. Similarly, the sheer size of the ruff together with the fact that it stands so nearly vertical behind the head (with the aid of a supportasse or underpropper) suggests to me a date after 1585-90. Lettice's ruff, circa 1585, is large, but the portion behind the head is not so nearly vertical. Other examples of post-1590 standing ruffs are available, especially in the portraits of Queen Elizabeth.

I have always been and remain personally unconvinced that the wearing of black should always be interpreted as a sign of mourning. See my discussion of that issue in regard to the Harington portrait, www.somegreymatter.com/haringtonportrait.htm. Of the two portraits seen here, the one pictured on the right (the Mould portrait) may depict a woman in mourning, or it may not. If my impression that it dates to after 1590 is correct, she is unlikely to be still in mourning for relatives who died in or before 1586.

I agree that the differences in the structure of the noses does not rule out Elizabeth Knollys as the sitter. The difference is well accounted for by the circumstances you mention.

Lara has my permission to forward my direct email address to you.

kb said...

PhD Historian -

I had not analyzed the costuming elements but agree that knowing the date Mould has assigned would aid in analysis.

The Leightons did spend more than a few days on Guernsey. For example
in 1599 she writes from Guernsey to Robert Cecil thanking him for 'sweet gloves' and beseeching him 'to present to her Highness her most dutiful acknowledgments'.

In 1597 Leighton wrote Robert Cecil from Guernsey asking for more money and troops to fortify the island and also for his help in persuading the queen to let his wife join him.

She also lobbied the privy council and the court of admiralty on behalf of some sailors 'in whose ship I myself have ridden' who had been attacked by the 'beggars of new haven'.

I suspect Guernsey served as a bit of an escape from court for the couple. Elizabeth's correspondence with Zouche that I've looked at in the BL starts in 1600 which is when I think he started as deputy. (I could be wrong on this)

In this aspect, they were similar to George Carey and his wife Elizabeth Spencer Carey who spent time on the Isle of Wight whenever the queen would allow them to leave court.

Although, I agree that the Leightons did not live for any extended time during Elizabeth's reign on Guernsey. She was much too involved in the court.

PhD Historian said...

Thanks, KB, for clarifying the Jersey/Guernsey issue. Seems the Leightons spent more time there than I would have otherwise imagined.

Still, I stand by my assertion that any French influence in Elizabeth Knollys Leighton's costume arose from her srtong connection to the Elizabethan court and the French influences on fashions there rather than from whatever French fashions existed in the relatively remote Channel Islands far from any princely court or metropolis.

Jennifer said...

This is totally off the subject, and it's a subject brought up on here alot,but I'll state it anyways.
The Knolly's children sure do bear a striking resemblance to Elizabeth I, more so than the second cousinage would bear. Katherine Carey Knolly's is sooo the bastard child of King Henry VIII and Mary Boleyn Carey. I shant be convinced otherwise! =)

kb said...

Agreed - I suspect any French-ness would have been from the Elizabethan court, not Guernsey's proximity to France.

Palfrey said...

Thank you so much. I really appreciate these comments and will follow through on the information you have all so kindly provided. Re information re the Mould portrait, I have no data at this stage. Thank you all for your help.


Denise said...

This is really interesting.

About the likeness to Elizabeth I - all 16th century women seem to look like Elizabeth even Bess of Hardwick. I have never seen so much red hair. Actually I like the second portrait a lot just because it looks more like a real person and not so stylized.