Sunday, 27 November 2011

Tudor portrait identification issues: Lady Eleanor Brandon, her daughter Margaret, or Margaret Wentworth?

Portrait by Hans Eworth; thought to be Lady Eleanor Brandon or her daughter, Lady Margaret Clifford
Lady Eleanor was a descendant of a member of the Tudor dynasty. In March 1533, a marriage contract was written up for Lady Eleanor and Henry Clifford, the eldest son and heir of Henry Clifford, 1st Earl of Cumberland by Lady Margaret Percy.[2] However, since her mother died nine months later, she waited to go and live with her young husband and in-laws. In anticipation of Eleanor's arrival, the Earl of Cumberland built two towers and the great gallery within Skipton Castle.[3] Eleanor married Clifford at Brandon house, Bridewell, in 1537; her uncle King Henry VIII was present.[3][4][5][6]
Lady Eleanor and her husband had one surviving child, Lady Margaret, who was born in 1540. Lady Margaret would carry on her mother's claim to the throne under the final will of King Henry VIII after the Grey sisters which included Lady Jane Grey. Margaret married Henry Stanley, 4th Earl of Derby in 1554.
The Portrait

There is a discrepancy as to who the sitter is in the Hans Eworth portrait which is featured. The coat of arms in the top left corner, which may have been added later, are the impaled arms (those of a husband and wife) of Henry Clifford, 2nd Earl of Cumberland, and his wife Lady Eleanor, daughter of Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk and Mary Tudor, Dowager Queen of France. As a result the painting has been frequently exhibited in the past as a portrait of Lady Eleanor, regardless of the fact that she died in 1547, well before the date of this portrait [the roman numerals MDLX at the top right = 1560]. It is, however, a rule of heraldry that impaled arms are not used by the children of a marriage, as they would have their own. Hence the later addition and erroneous use of the arms here suggests that the identity of the portrait was already unclear only two or three generations after it was painted, a situation by no means unusual amid the frequent early deaths, multiple marriages, and shifting alliances and fortunes of the most powerful families of the Tudor era. Later the portrait was thought to represent the only child of Eleanor and Henry to survive infancy, Margaret. Unfortunately the inscription on the right which might have provided a check (Margaret would have been aged 25-28 at the time of this portrait) has been truncated; although the Roman numerals of the year can apply only to 1565-8, the age of the sitter cannot be ascertained with any useful accuracy. The National Portrait Gallery has an online sketch of this portrait identified as Lady Eleanor, but the portrait remains in dispute.[5][6]

Another unfortunate aspect of the portrait is the clothing; the clothing does not match the time period of Lady Eleanor Brandon. The dress is third quarter of the 16th century and is of Spanish influence.

According to Richard Davey. The sisters of Lady Jane Grey and their wicked grandfather, E.P. Dutton and co., 1912:
The Lady Eleanor Brandon was a better looking woman than her sister Frances. When her tomb in Skipton Church was disturbed in the seventeenth century her skeleton which was in perfect condition proved her to have been very tall and large boned whereas the Lady Frances was of medium stature. Lady Eleanor, if we may judge by her portrait, which hangs at Skipton Castle, was pretty rather than beautiful. The writer confesses that the portrait at Skipton did not impress him as that of one who could have put forward the slightest pretensions to good looks; the cheeks are high, the forehead abnormally broad, the eyes however are fine, and the hair fair but the complexion according to this venerable picture must have been quite ghastly. The portrait is very badly painted; a poor thing worth little as a work of art but none the less interesting.
The site for the Tate Gallery concludes that the painting is still unidentified, yet there is an identical sketch on the site for the National Portrait Gallery identified as Lady Eleanor. Who's who?

Another proposal for the sitter is given as Hon. Margaret Wentworth, daughter of Thomas Wentworth, 1st Baron and his wife Margaret Fortescue. Sir Thomas was a nephew of Queen Jane Seymour's mother, Margaret Wentworth. Thomas's daughter, Margaret, married three times; Sir John, Baron Williams of Thame; Sir William Drury; and Sir James Croft. The new identification is given by Dr. Roy Strong based on the comparison to her sister, Jane Wentworth, Lady Cheney [below].

Jane Wentworth, Baroness Cheney of Toddington

That is one of the problems of portrait identification within the Tudor era.

Queen Katherine Parr, NPG
Melton Constable portrait formerly labeled Lady Jane Grey; now re-labeled as Queen Katherine Parr
For years Queen Katherine Parr's many portraits were thought to be Lady Jane Grey; it is just recently that the portrait in the NPG in London (first portrait) was finally changed permanently to Queen Katherine Parr based on the research of the Queen's inventory of jewels which was recorded in the documents of King Henry VIII. They are also recorded in the back of the recently published book, "Katherine Parr: Works and Correspondences." Those very same jewels that belonged to the Queens of England were last worn by Queen Katherine Parr. After the death of King Henry, and after Edward Seymour proclaimed himself Lord Protector, the jewels, along with her personal jewels, were put into the Tower for safekeeping. Since Edward VI had no queen the jewels would not have been in use unless Edward's wife Anne Stanhope got a hold of them; which she was not entitled to. Lady Jane Grey was in the household of Queen Dowager Katherine Parr until her death in 1548, but as stated the queen's jewels were not accessible to Lady Jane and the portrait which is dated in the early 1540s also proves that the person painted had to have possession of those jewels; and who had possession during that time -- only Queen Katherine Parr.

So for now, the portrait remains one of four options: "unknown", "Lady Eleanor Brandon, Countess of Cumberland","Lady Margaret Clifford, Countess of Derby", or "Margaret Wentworth".

3. Lawrence Manley, "From Strange's Men to Pembroke's Men: 2 "Henry VI" and "The First Part of the Contention".", Shakespeare Quarterly, vol. 54, No. 3 (Autumn, 2003), pp. 253-287.
4. Sir Sidney Lee. Dictionary of national biography, Volume 54, Smith, Elder, & co., 1898. pg 70. Google eBook 
5. Eleanor Clifford (née Brandon), Countess of Cumberland, probably by Alfred Thomas Derby, after Unknown artist, Purchased, 1893, Reference Collection NPG D23066. National Portrait Gallery 
6. The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, Tate Gallery, London 1988, pp.66-8. Tate Collections
 Written and researched by Meg McGath

1 comment:

  1. Definitely agree that this can't be Lady Eleanor Brandon. The clothing itself would prevent it being her.

    I would argue that the clothing is specifically "spanish" in style. It isn't. Its very typical of 1560s dress in England for a lady of this rank. The gown is a fitted English gown which is seen in England and in Flanders. It has the "puffed" shoulder rolls that were particularly fashionable at this time on. The double ruff is also seen in the 1560s, eventually giving way to a single ruff as the diameter started to increase in the 1570s.

    Whoever she is, she is English and wearing distinctly English upper class fashions.