Update November 17 – I added in a couple of new links to the post and here’s a link to a new article about the The van de Passe Engraved Portrait
Some of you might recall a post from last year highlighting some of the research work that goes in to researching Tudor-era portrait identification by Dr. J. Stephan Edwards of Some Grey Matter. Now here’s a follow-up with some of the work he’s done in his search for an authentic image of Lady Jane Grey. Here’s a summary his work so far and a tease about some work that he recently completed:
As part of my ongoing research on Lady Jane Grey, I have for the past five years been attempting to identify and locate every portrait of Jane Grey mentioned in the historical record that might potentially have been created in the sixteenth century. The project started in September 2005 with the Fitzwilliam portrait, which I thought at that time might be a portrait of Jane. I have since reversed that opinion and am convinced that it is not.
Thus far, I have located over a dozen portraits that were each at one point called “Lady Jane Grey.” Many of them, like the Althorp and Madresfield portraits, were easily shown to have been painted outside England by artists who were dead before Jane was even ten years old. Others, like the Melton Constable portrait, can be identified as some other known person. Another larger group, including the Bodleian and Somerley portraits and the National Portrait Gallery’s painting accession number 764, have no surviving documentation or image content that allows them to be properly identified. Still others, such as the Houghton, Northwick, and Portland portraits, have yet to be located and studied.
The process has generated one or two small controversies, the most prominent of which involved the Yale Miniature. It was put forward by renowned celebrity-historian David Starkey in 2007 as a possible portrait of Jane Grey, but I and others subsequently disputed his findings. That dispute was described in an article in The New Yorker magazine in mid October 2007.
To date, only one portrait has been generally accepted by art historians as a potentially authentic likeness. The Streatham Portrait was acquired by the National Portrait Gallery (as NPG 6804) in 2006 and displayed briefly in the Tudor Gallery. It has since been determined that the painting was created more than forty years after Jane Grey’s death. Curators have suggested it might be a copy of a lost original, though I am suspicious that it is simply the product of some artist’s imagination. The NPG has now removed it from display and has no plans to re-exhibit it, perhaps because of the questionable identification.
In August 2010, I did finally locate what I believe may be a previously ‘lost’ authentic likeness of Jane Grey mentioned in a document from the 1560s. I visited the house in which the portrait hangs and studied it in detail. I am convinced that it is “the real deal” and have submitted an article on the painting to The Burlington Magazine, the premier academic journal on art history, in hopes they will publish my findings early in 2011.
I continue to search for others. I am presently attempting to locate the Portland portrait, which has great potential to be another authentic likeness. In addition to the Portland portrait, I have identified about a half dozen more mentioned by various authors of the nineteenth century when writing about Jane Grey. Most of those were in houses that have since been demolished or converted to non-residential use. As a result, they have proven very difficult to track down. Even when I do find the location of a painting, the research process is also often dependent on the attitude of current owners. Some have been amazingly generous and helpful, including the Duke of Somerset, the Earl of Normanton, and the Baron Hastings. Others (I will not name them) have proven very reticent to share information, while others have simply ignored my repeated inquiries. So it is a lengthy and tedious process, very challenging, but also very satisfying.
J. Stephan Edwards, Ph.D.
Palm Springs, California