ThePortrait of an Unknown Lady at the Yale Center for British Art (YCBA) has, in recent years, proved one of the most divisive of all Tudor miniatures, and to date there is little consensus over the identity of the sitter, the attribution of the artist, or the date of the object. This paper will address all three of these questions, through a combination of traditional art-historical enquiry and a technical examination undertaken as part of a survey of the early miniatures at the YCBA. This includes microscopy examination of the paint surface, X-ray, infra-red, and XRF pigment analysis. The paper will also give consideration to the identity of the sitter and will argue against previous suggestions of Elizabeth I and Lady Jane Grey, but will propose instead that this important miniature is a depiction of Princess Mary, later Mary I, a key figure of the Tudor dynasty.
This intriguing portrait of an unknown woman forms part of the collection of early miniatures at the Yale Center for British Art (YCBA) (Fig. 1). The miniature in question has, at various points, been attributed to three of the artists who are known to have produced portrait miniatures at the court of Henry VIII: Lucas Horenbout (1490/95–1544), Hans Holbein the Younger (1497–1543), and Levina Teerlinc (1510s–1576) and, at the time this most recent campaign of research was begun, it was the last whom it was believed made this portrait. Yet, while the work of Holbein is readily distinguishable and well documented, the oeuvres of Horenbout and Teerlinc are problematic. No evidence exists showing that either of the two artists signed their work, nor are there records of payment that can be securely linked to extant works. What is clear, however, is that both these miniaturists enjoyed royal patronage.
The Horenbout family of artists achieved success and fame in both Ghent and London, although the date that the family arrived in England is unclear—as are their reasons for leaving a thriving business in Flanders and relocating. Lucas Horenbout first appears in court documents in 1525 and is recorded as “pictor maker”. He was appointed as the king’s painter in 1534 and, in the grant of this office, Henry VIII praises him “from personal knowledge with the science and experience in the pictorial arts”.1 His father Gerard was a celebrated painter in Flanders and worked for Margaret of Austria before coming to England. In October 1528, Gerard was employed by Henry VIII at the Tudor court where he received a regular monthly wage as “painter” until 1531.2 Gerard’s daughter Susanna is also present and, in some accounts, it is claimed that Henry VIII actively sought her into his employ and that she may have been the first of the Horenbout family to come to England.3 The first mention of Susanna occurs in 1521 in the diary of Albrecht Durer after meeting the Horenbout family in Antwerp. He states that her age at this time was around 18 and purchased an illumination of Christ from her, praising her abilities as an artist. In 1532 and 1533, Susanna and her husband, John Parker, receive a New Year’s gift from the king but there is no evidence of a reciprocal gift from her. At the English court, she is recorded as a “gentlewoman” and, in 1539, Susanna is asked to travel to the Low Countries to escort Anne of Cleves to Britain, a great honour and a task she was briefed for in person by the king. This mission almost certainly fell to Susanna as she spoke the same language as the future queen, both women coming from the Low Countries, but it also shows that she was a trusted member of court. Susanna was later in attendance to Queen Katherine Parr and, in 1544, received a gift of black satin from Princess Mary.DOI
Levina Teerlinc was the daughter of Simon Bening, the most celebrated illuminator working in Flanders at the height of Flemish manuscript patronage and production at the turn of the sixteenth century.4 Teerlinc arrived in Britain in around 1545 with her husband George and their life at court can be traced through the accounts of the New Year’s gift lists. Teerlinc is referred to in the lists as both a “paintrix” and gentlewoman. Under Elizabeth I, she is sworn into the Privy Chamber, a position of high status and honour. Her husband is referred to as a gentleman pensioner, although what his actual role at court was is unclear. There is no firm documentary evidence associating Teerlinc with any extant work, but records of her New Year’s gifts to both Mary and Elizabeth give an insight into the work she was producing.5 In 1546, she is granted a generous annuity of £40 per annum from Henry VIII, which is paid to her through four successive monarchs, along with other individual payments, until her death in 1576. In 1551, a payment of £10 is made to George Teerlinc “being sent with his wyfe to the Lady Elizabeth’s Grace to draw owt her picture”, an interesting reference to a commission for a portrait from life.6 It also highlights the fact that payments were sometimes made to the husband of a woman at court rather than directly to her, making the references to commissions or work undertaken harder to trace.DOI
Portrait of an Unknown Lady was purchased by Paul Mellon as a pair with the Portrait of a Man, sold by Sotheby’s London, on 1 June 1970 from the collection of Miss Dorothy Hutton (Fig. 2). The miniatures were believed to show a husband and wife and, at this time, both were attributed to Lucas Horenbout. The curatorial documents at the YCBA make for fascinating reading and exemplify the issues of attribution with the leading art historians in this field during the 1970s and 1980s reconsidering the authorship of both works, each with a differing viewpoint. The attribution of the Portrait of a Man is now unquestioningly given to Holbein. Recent research has established that the sitter is likely to be Sir George Carew based on the resemblance to a drawing by Holbein and firmly situates the work within his oeuvre. Strong attributed the miniature of an Unknown Lady to Teerlinc, justifying this claim on the grounds of the unnaturally thin arms of the sitter, which he thought similar to other works considered to be by Teerlinc. Yet by his own admission, the gold lettering set in a horizontal format against the blue background was consistent with the group of works attributed to Lucas Horenbout, although he considered the handling of the miniature weak compared to other works by this artist.7
This paper starts with the object as its point of departure to explore these questions. By examining the materials and techniques used in creating this portrait, it can be compared to other early miniatures and placed into context ahead of a discussion of its possible attribution and the identification of the sitter. The examination of early miniatures inevitably requires revisiting the well-trodden ground of the development of the portrait miniature from the established illumination workshops across Europe to its place as a prized art form at the Tudor court. However, in this context it is crucial to understand the limnings produced by the artists working within both these areas.
The Development of the Portrait Miniature in EnglandDOI
The evolution of portrait miniatures as independent works of art is complex and has its origins in illuminated manuscripts. Portraits in a circular format were a common theme within books of hours, used in border decorations illustrating saints. As demand for luxuriously illustrated volumes increased, lifelike portraits of donors or patrons began to appear within the pages. These images can be found in manuscript illuminations across Europe, notably in the centres of production in Italy, France, and Flanders.8 Illustrated devotional books were items of great expense in European courts and the Burgundian and Hapsburg dynasties were avid patrons of the art form. By the mid-1400s, Flanders had become the epicentre of production.9 Single leaf illuminations were also available, to be pasted into volumes at a later date or hung as devotional texts and images on interior walls. Durer’s purchase of an image of Christ from Susanna Horenbout is an example of this format.DOI
Illuminators were also employed to illustrate important documents and this tradition was used in court papers produced in England as outlined in Auerbach’s research on the plea rolls. The earliest portraits appear in the plea rolls of the King’s Bench. The initial P of Placita (pleas) forms a circular format to frame a royal portrait. The earliest known example is the roll of Easter 1460 and depicts Henry VI.10 Commissioned by judges or officials at court, the quality of the limning and artistic merit varies across these works, but it is an important stage in the development of the portrait miniature in England.DOI
The earliest known example of an independent miniature produced in England is the Portrait of Princess Mary attributed to Lucas Horenbout in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London.11 The portrait shows the princess wearing a large jewel on her dress with the inscription “The Empour”, referring to the betrothal in 1522 to her cousin, Charles V, Holy Roman emperor. The match was broken off by Charles in 1525. It can be assumed that the miniature dates to the end of this period, probably 1525, when Mary would have been around nine years of age. A miniature of Charles V,12 also attributed to Lucas Horenbout, is an interesting early portrait miniature of royalty outside the immediate family of Henry VIII, copied from an existing portrait in the Royal Collection.13DOI
An important series of six miniatures depict Henry VIII and are attributed to Lucas Horenbout, dating between 1525 and 1530. They repeat the same format but show the king with differing facial hair and attire; it is assumed a pattern was used to create the versions.14 A link between these portraits and those found on court documents can be found on the letters patent of Henry VIII for Thomas Forster in Latin 1524, 28 April.15 The dating is not certain but it was created between 1524 and Forster’s death in 1528. The portrait is derived from the same pattern type as the miniatures; it is slightly worn and the handling is not as highly finished as the portraits, but it shows the link between these two forms of portraiture. The earliest version of the Horenbout portrait of Henry VIII is usually thought to be that in the Fitzwilliam Collection.16 The painting can also be seen as the transition of the portrait miniature from document or book to independent object. The circular format is set within a rectangular border decorated with angels and an HK monogram, for Henry and Katherine of Aragon. Backhouse has made an interesting argument that the dimensions for this work are similar in dimensions to girdle books—small devotional books worn hanging from a belt. In Princess Mary’s inventory of jewels in 1542, two small books are recorded including “a Boke of golde wt the Kings face and hir graces mothers”.17 Other examples of small books with images pasted in the front and back exist and suggest an additional usage for single leaf illuminations, especially considering other rectangular miniatures such as the Katherine of Aragon with a Marmoset in the Buccleuch Collection.
Technical Examination of Portrait of an Unknown LadyDOI
DOI The miniature is painted in watercolour on vellum, which has been mounted onto a piece of laid paper at an early stage in its history, although this is not part of the original construction.18 Looking at the back of the work, the reversed image of the sitter is clearly visible through the paper. At the top, water staining is evident which is also visible on the front of the painting (Fig. 3). The condition of the miniature shows wear and abrasion to the surface, which has occurred over a prolonged period of time. This is visible when viewing the work with the naked eye, the paint losses reveal the vellum support underneath and are mainly located in the background with small losses in the black of the dress. There is also minor abrasion to the paint in the sitter’s face. Areas of the painting have been retouched but this is mainly located in the blue background and has been carried out in localised areas rather than a wholesale overpaint. We can therefore be fairly certain that most of the brushwork is original.DOI
Infra-red photography revealed some surprising elements in the creation of the miniature.19 Drawing lines were detected which have been made using a carbon-based material and show evidence of a change in the dimensions of the sitter’s face at an early stage (Fig. 4). The lines are visible above the sitter’s chin and below the headdress, following the contours of the existing composition. They show that the face was enlarged in the subsequent application of the paint layers. The position of the underlying drawing does not make sense as a form of shadowing in the finished portrait. This is very unusual practice and underdrawing is not commonly found in portrait miniatures of this date.
DOI Nicholas Hilliard’s treatise on limning is generally taken as the leading text on the methods and materials used for creating a portrait miniature in sixteenth-century England. Hilliard is very particular in insisting that a miniature should be begun by laying in the carnation—a ground layer of paint applied to the area of the face, which should match the sitter’s overall complexion but in a lighter shade. The features should then be marked out with brushstrokes in the same paint used for the carnation mixed with red lake. He emphasises that, at this stage, the marks should be light, and if a mistake is made, they can be corrected with a darker colour. This is borne out by close examination of miniatures where features are often laid out in lighter strokes of red, however, the build-up of subsequent paint layers often obscures these earlier marks (Fig. 5).DOI
In 1573, the anonymous treatise The Arte of Limming was published by Richard Totill of London. The work proved surprisingly popular and six editions were printed between 1573 and 1605.20 Unlike later treatises on limning, the work does not focus on portrait miniatures but is concerned with the decorative forms of limning based on the tradition of manuscript illumination and used for a variety of books and documents. The instructions for drawing are as follows:
The order of drawing or tracing. First thou shalte with a pencell of blacke lead, or with a cole made sharpe at the poynte trace all thy letters, and sett thy vinetts of flowers, and then thy imagery if you wilt make any. And then shalt thou with a small pen drawe al you hast postred21DOI
DOI Marking out the design for an illuminated manuscript involved drawing the outlines before colour was laid in, typically using inks applied with a brush or quill. A lovely example of this working method can be seen in Self Portrait of Simon Bening (Fig. 6).22 On the easel in front of the artist is a sketch on parchment of the Virgin and Child; a small shell contains blue pigment, the colour of the Virgin’s robes, suggesting Bening is just about to start applying colour to his initial drawing. The quote from the 1573 treatise suggests drawing with charcoal or by using a brush (then called a “pencil”) to apply black lead.23 Starting a miniature with an outline in black differs from the later technique described by Hilliard and that which is observed on the majority of portrait miniatures. This could suggest a link between the technical methods of the maker of Portrait of an Unknown Lady with earlier practices of manuscript illumination.DOI
The pigments used in the YCBA miniature were examined using XRF spectroscopy—a method which detects elements within the paint layer and helps to determine the pigments used in its manufacture.24 The pigments found in this portrait are typical of those routinely used in the manufacture of miniatures in the 1500s. The flesh contains two whites, lead white, and a chalk-based white, mixed with small quantities of vermilion and earth pigments (Fig. 7). The lips are also painted in vermilion mixed with lead white in differing ratios. The background has been painted using azurite. This was a difficult pigment to handle in a water-based medium. To achieve a uniform background, an initial wash was applied to the background using a brush, followed by a second layer with a higher content of azurite pigment. The second layer was applied before the initial wash had dried, leading to the term “floating in” to describe the technique. The green was found to be a mixed green containing lead tin yellow and a copper-based green. It was not possible to find a suitable area to test the material used for the underdrawing.
Examination of a miniature through a microscope is one of the most helpful tools in understanding an artist’s particular style and their method of applying the paint. Previous discussions around the attribution of this miniature have commented negatively on the “thin and transparent” painting technique used in the features, which has been seen as an indication of poor-quality handling.25 Close examination of the miniature reveals a distinct technique: the shadows around the features are applied in long strokes of transparent grey and pink paint. This loose, free handling is unusual for miniatures of this date, where the strokes are typically tighter and applied in a more controlled manner, using close hatching and stippling. However, there is a confidence and ability in the artist’s rendering of the features, which are successful overall.DOI
The artist has laid in a carnation layer of pale pink containing very fine pigment particles. An x-ray of the painting confirms the uses of the two white pigments, utilised to achieve different effects (Fig. 8). Lead white was used for the whites of the eyes and as highlights around the features, which show as dense white areas in x-ray. A chalk-based white has been used in the carnation; x-rays penetrate through calcium carbonate, producing darker areas in the x-ray image. Around the eyes are distinctive, short, calligraphic strokes, rendered on a miniature scale (Figs 9 and 10). They help to frame and shape the eyes but they are also carefully and precisely applied. Far from being “thin and transparent”, the artist has successfully captured the three dimensionality of the features, through the controlled and skilful use of the brush. The sense of shape and volume is also captured in the sitter’s lips where the modelling is created not only by using mixtures of paint containing vermilion and lead white but also by the application of the paint and use of individual brushstrokes applied to follow the form of the lips (Fig. 11).
One of the most beautiful elements of the miniature is the depiction of the jewel with cowslips and acorns, set on the front of the sitter’s dress (Fig. 12). The black paint used for the central figure on the jewel was applied in a medium rich, thick-bodied paint that has cracked as it has aged, making it difficult to read the jewel now. The depiction of the acorns is portrayed in realistic detail, with highlights and shadows to capture the form, the detail of which is expertly handled even when viewed at high magnification. The small dots which form the blackwork on the sitter’s neckline and the jewels in the headdress are meticulously applied in a controlled and methodical way (Figs 13 and 14).
Attribution of the MiniatureDOI
Returning to the matter of attribution, we start with Levina Teerlinc to whom the miniature has been attributed at various times in its history. As discussed above, Teerlinc is a prime example of the complexity of uniting documentary evidence with surviving paintings in the world of early miniatures. Various miniatures survive, dating between Horenbout and Holbein’s deaths in 1543 and 1544 and the beginning of Hilliard’s career in the 1570s. No firm attributions can be made for these works and they show various hands at work, but Teerlinc’s name is often associated with them.26 Despite the lack of a body of work that can be attributed to her, in the literature on miniatures, Teerlinc’s abilities are often referred to in a negative way. Miniatures are attributed to her on the grounds that the handling is weak and that the arms are too thin. To quote from Strong’s entry for Teerlinc in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, “Their most characteristic feature is a head attached to a too small, spindly body. Their technique is awkward, thin and often cursory”.27 Yet from the scant documentary evidence we have, she was well respected as an artist and paid handsomely for her skills. It seems too easy to use her as a catch-all for poor quality, unattributed work when she was obviously a valued artist at the royal court. Even with sparse evidence available on Teerlinc’s technique with which to compare the Yale painting, it seems to sit more comfortably in the world of Horenbout miniatures, partly due to the inscription in the background.
The work of Roy Strong and Jim Murrell in the 1980s was instrumental in grouping together a series of miniatures that could be attributed to Lucas Horenbout. Their approach involved close examination of the miniatures through a microscope and comparison of the techniques employed across the group.28 Eleven of the miniatures showing members of the royal family have inscriptions painted in gold over the blue background. The inscriptions are usually horizontal in format and placed on either side of the sitter’s head. The portrait of Henry Fitzroy in the Royal Collection is an unusual departure from this format with part of the text following the curve of the round support—a design Hilliard would later develop in his work.DOI
The inscriptions are distinct and suggest that these miniatures can be grouped together, although the lettering does vary in handling. Six of the miniatures share a distinctive A, which has a heavy serif topping the letter. Katherine of Aragon 29 shows two types of A, all with the heavy serif and one with two downward sloping diagonal lines forming the cross of the A, which is also seen on the Yale miniature (Fig. 15). Some inscriptions on works attributed to Lucas Horenbout differ from this standard; the lettering has a thinner appearance, sometimes the N is written with a backwards diagonal. In some works, a different emphasis is placed on the downward stroke of X compared to others. It is a point for discussion if this shows the development of an artist’s style, or if it can be seen as evidence of different hands at work.
The Horenbout FamilyDOI
Gerard Horenbout lived and worked in Ghent and was accepted as a master of the painter’s guild in 1487.30 Although his output can only be traced through limited documentary records, evidence shows that he ran a prolific workshop producing a variety of artistic objects including illuminated manuscripts. In 1502, he accepted an apprentice illuminator and he also employed a journeyman for four years specifically for illumination, evidence he was actively engaged in the output of this medium. In 1515, Gerard Horenbout was appointed court painter and valet de chambre to Margaret of Austria, regent of the Netherlands and appears regularly in her documented accounts from 1516–1522.31 During this period of employment, he was allowed to remain based in his Ghent workshop, unless expressly called to the court which was based in Mechelen, in the province of Antwerp. It is interesting to note that by this date the title of valet was indicative of the status of an artist, distinct from that of the numerous craftsmen employed at court. Gerard Horenbout was not expected to perform a particular role at Margaret’s court, notable by the fact he was not expected to be present, but the title represents the social prestige granted to him.DOI
Karel van Mander gives a detailed description of two pictures by Gerard Horenbout in his 1604 book of artist’s biographies.32 The works are undoubtedly larger paintings in oil and Campbell and Foister’s research into the documentary evidence on Gerard Horenbout show he is consistently described as a painter rather than an illuminator. However, in his diary, Durer specifically refers to him as “maister Gerhart, illuminist”. In Lodovico Guicciardini’s 1567 account of the history and arts of the Low Countries, written twenty years after Gerard Horenbout’s death, the artist is described as excellent in the art of illumination.33 It seems that Gerard Horenbout, like many artists at this time, was actively engaged in a variety of work.34 For example, as court painter, Holbein carried out numerous projects including painting large cloths to serve as decorative hangings for the meeting of Henry VIII and François I at Greenwich in 1527.35 In France, François and Jean Clouet developed the portrait miniature format and were also painting portraits in oil. Recent research into Hilliard’s period in France has finally made a conclusive link to two works in oil, which confirms the long-held theory that he painted in this medium as well as limning.36DOI
That Gerard Horenbout was an artist skilled in the tradition of illuminated manuscripts is confirmed by the only firmly documented works attributed to him: sixteen full-page illuminations created for the Hours of Bona Sforza, commissioned while he was in the employ of Margaret of Austria. The volume is now in the collection of the British Library.37 The illuminations attributed to Gerard Horenbout are considered among the most beautiful in Flemish illustration. Based on the long-standing tradition of Northern depictions of religious scenes, they also show the influence of Italian Renaissance pictorial space and perspective. Given Gerard Horenbout’s skill and innovation within the field of illumination, it seems certain that he would have trained his children, Lucas and Susanna, in the art of manuscript painting, passing on the family trade which was traditional in artist’s workshops at this time. It has been strongly suggested that they may have assisted in the commission of the Hours of Bona Sforza paintings, an example of the Horenbout family members working together on a project.38DOI
There are no known records of Gerard Horenbout’s activities after 1522 and the next time he appears in documents is October 1528, working for Henry VIII.39 Frustratingly, the accounts do not help to define the period Gerard Horenbout is employed at the English court as some records are lost and it is plausible that he had arrived in England at an earlier date. Nor do the records help determine what role Gerard Horenbout had as “painter” to Henry VIII and whether he was actively producing works of art himself or managing some form of workshop.DOI
Gerard Horenbout’s son Lucas is the only Horenbout to whom miniatures are attributed in national collections within the UK. Once again, as Foister has pointed out, the court documents record Lucas Horenbout’s profession as a painter rather than an illuminator or “lymner of books”. Guicciardini states that Lucas is “grandissimo pittore & singulare nell’arte dell’alluminare”; the wording used here would imply Lucas was both a painter and an illuminator.40 Van Mander records that a “Meister Lucas” taught Holbein the art of illumination and it is now confidently accepted that this refers to Lucas Horenbout.41 While Holbein was already an accomplished artist in both drawing and painting in oils, it is assumed that Lucas Horenbout would have taught him techniques particular to limning such as preparation of the parchment support, how to use gum or egg as a binding media, how different pigments handle in this medium, etc. As Holbein had already developed his own distinctive style, it should not be surprising that his subsequent output does not resemble miniatures produced by the Horenbout workshop, although the techniques he employs are rooted in the Ghent-Bruges tradition of limning. A manuscript copy of Canones Horoptri by Nikolaus Kratzer, produced in 1528 and presented to the king as a New Year’s gift, was written by the scribe Peter Meghen and the manuscript decorated with ornate capitals painted by Holbein.42 It is tempting to assume that Lucas Horenbout’s training of Holbein was as part of the production of this manuscript.DOI
Even more problematic to pin down in terms of artistic output is Lucas Horenbout’s sister Susanna. Durer’s reference to her in 1521 and acquisition of an example of her work are undeniably high praise for her artistic talents. Like her father and brother, her name occurs in various accounts of artists of merit. Guicciardini declares she excelled in all painting—miniatures and illuminations.43 In Vasari’s Lives of the Artists, Susanna Horenbout is mentioned as one of the Flemish female artists who made a name at the court of Henry VIII.44 What is important in these references is not only Susanna Horenbout’s status as an artist but the fact that she is specially referenced as producing miniatures and illuminations and there can be no doubt that this was the area that she excelled in. Susanna Horenbout appears frequently enough in court documents that we know something of her life there and the high status she achieved. Frustratingly, none of the accounts relate to her being commissioned for, or making, works of art and she does not receive a regular income for services as a painter as do her father and brother.DOI
It has been suggested before that the Horenbouts may have formed a similar workshop to that which Gerard Horenbout was running in Ghent. It is possible that the different hands evident in the series of miniatures of Henry VIII may be Susanna working alongside Lucas Horenbout. The payments and gifts that Susanna is recorded as receiving at court relate to her services as a gentlewoman, and while no surviving document to date shows her active as a limner, it cannot be ruled out that she is producing these intimate portraits, possibly of the ladies at court, within the circles she was mixing in. The fact that she is recorded after her death as having had a successful and celebrated career as an artist at Henry’s court must mean she was active as an artist during her time in England.
Comparison of Portrait of an Unknown Lady with Other Works Attributed to HorenboutDOI
In order to compare the materials and techniques of the Yale miniature, other works attributed to Lucas Horenbout were examined: the two versions of Henry VIII and the portrait of Henry Fitzroy in the Royal Collection; the portrait of Henry VIII in the Fitzwilliam Museum and two miniatures of Katherine of Aragon and one of Princess Mary in the National Portrait Gallery. All of the miniatures were examined with a stereomicroscope while remaining housed in their locket settings (Figs 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, and 23).
A common element in all of the miniatures is the modelling of the features in pink and grey strokes applied over a pink carnation layer. This method of handling was found to be consistent in all the works attributed to Horenbout which Murrell examined.45 The shadowing around the features of the two portraits of Henry VIII from the Royal Collection is emphasised using strokes of translucent grey and pink paint. Although handled in thinner strokes and a tighter manner, they achieve a similar effect to the grey and pink lines observed on the Yale miniature. Many of the works make use of thick lead white paint strokes to highlight the features and contours of the face. This technique is particular to early miniatures, the format is developed in later works by other artist’s where the highlights are typically created by the absence of paint, allowing the carnation to show through. One departure from the standard grey and pink tones is the version of Henry VIII without a beard, which makes use of a wider variety of colour in the modelling of the flesh, using warm, orange tones, notably in the eyebrows (Fig. 23).DOI
A feature which stands out across the group is the handling of the lips, which creates a pronounced emphasis on this feature. In the works examined, the modelling is achieved by laying in the shape of the mouth with a pink mid-tone and then building up the feature using linear brushstrokes that follow the form of the lips, creating volume with a highlight on the lower lip. The emphasis on the parting line of the lips differs as does the application of the brushwork which varies from short, tight strokes in the Fitzwilliam painting (Fig. 13) to the free, linear strokes seen on the bearded version of Henry in the Royal Collection (Fig. 18).46 The handling of the lips on the Yale miniature falls somewhere between these two methods (Figs 24, 25, and 26).
The handling of the highlight in the eye is another feature uniting this group of portraits and appears to be unique to these miniatures (Figs 27 and 28). Rather than a dot, or series of dots, the light is rendered as a horizontal line created by applying a single brushstroke of thick-bodied lead white paint on top of the iris and stopping at the outline of the pupil. Also worth noting is the use of blue pigment particles mixed into the white of the eye in the bearded version of Henry VIII in the Royal Collection. This is a device typically seen in oil paintings of this period, but is not commonly found in miniatures.
DOI The details of fabric, dress, and jewels are all handled meticulously. There is a repetitive sense to the patterns and methodical attention to detail. In the three versions of the Henry portrait examined, the white shirt is depicted using the same method. The line of the shirt, visible above the neckline of the doublet, is blocked in using a uniformly applied, flat area of white paint. On the Henry VIII version with no beard, there is also a strip of vellum left unpainted between the material of shirt and the blackwork that seems to be an intentional effect showing the translucent material against the skin. This method also seems to have been employed on the Yale miniature; in x-ray, this area appears as a consistently dark area, indicating no paint was applied, although there is some abrasion in this area. The texture of the linen shirt is then created by applying lines of thick, white paint in uniform, vertical lines. In the Fitzwilliam version of Henry VIII, these lines have a pool of paint at the bottom of each stroke where the loaded brush has stopped and been pulled away from the painting (Fig. 29). These indicate that the lines were applied from bottom to top while both Royal Collection versions appear to be painted top to bottom. In the bearded version of Henry VIII, the lines have been applied twice. The fine blackwork pattern was then applied as the final detail.DOI
When viewing the photomicrographs and determining themes that connect these works, there is a sense that although they are striving for the same aesthetic, the handling differs across the group. This may suggest that we have different artists at work and again the possibility that we are seeing the hands of Gerard, Lucas, and Susanna Horenbout employed in making versions of this portrait, following a workshop pattern.
Identity of the Unknown LadyDOI
The sitter in the Yale miniature is dressed in black velvet that is tightly fitted around the chest and upper arms. The square neckline is very wide, exposing the sitter’s shoulders and is held in position by the stiff, jewelled border. She wears a French hood comprising a stiffened white cap with raised gold embroidery and a rigid horseshoe shaped hood with jewelled borders, possibly set with diamonds. A piece of black velvet hangs down from the back of the headdress.47 This rich attire would have been the reserve of royalty or the highest nobility at court. The fashion for square necklines on dresses was popular in England from the 1520s. By the mid-1530s, the neckline had widened to reveal the sitter’s shoulders, a trend which continued into the early 1540s. At this time, the sleeves of dresses were very tightly fitted but flared out due to large turned back cuffs, made from luxurious fabrics such as fur; these are just visible at the edge of the Yale miniature. The tight kirtle flattened the sitter’s bust. Combined with the tight upper sleeves, the aim was to emphasise the sitter’s waist. The attribution of miniatures to Teerlinc based on sitters with spindly arms appears to be a symptom of this fashion. While the artist of the Yale portrait has accentuated the slim arms of the sitter to an extreme, this fashionable silhouette can be seen on many portraits of the period, for example, the drawing of Mary Zouche by Holbein.48 The dress is very similar in both portraits as is the close cropping so that only part of the huge cuffs is visible, with the space between the arms and chest emphasised and the arms held slightly away from the body.DOI
The early portrait miniature was the prerogative of the inner royal circle, when the Horenbouts were active at court. Combined with the evidence of the dress in the Yale miniature, we can be certain that the lady depicted is of royal status. In recent years, the sitter in the Yale miniature has been identified as Lady Jane Grey.49 However, by the 1550s, when the portrait in question was painted, the wide square neckline was no longer fashionable and had been replaced with closer fitting bodices covering the chest with small collars around the neck. Strong argued that the miniature shows Elizabeth I as a princess, however, the sitter has distinctively pale blue-grey eyes rather than the dark, almost black eyes of Elizabeth, which were commented on during her reign. There is one royal woman at court who would seem to fit the bill: Princess Mary, later Mary I. The red hair and pale blue-grey eyes compare well with other portraits of Mary. The complexion of the sitter is pale with a flush of colouring below the cheekbone. The most compelling trait is the slightly upturned nose, which is seen in many portraits of Mary, including Holbein’s drawing of her (Fig 30, 31, and 32).
Given that the sitter’s age is stated on the miniature as being eighteen, this would date the work to 1533–1534, if it depicts Princess Mary. This was a difficult period for Mary. Her parents had recently divorced and her father had married Anne Boleyn. Mary’s mother, Katherine of Aragon, was banished from court and as part of the campaign to make her renounce her royal claim, mother and daughter were banned from seeing each other. Owing to a cruel act of control by Henry, which forbade Mary from attending her mother’s sick bed, Katherine died in 1536, having not seen her only child for several years.DOI
The First Act of Succession was passed in 1534, declaring Mary illegitimate. Although Henry VIII was free to name his successor, the document stated that issue of Anne Boleyn would be given precedence. Interestingly, the portrait miniature of Henry Fitzroy, Henry’s acknowledged but illegitimate son, was also painted around this date. Despite this turmoil, Henry VIII remained fond of his daughter and she was well provided for by the king with a generous clothing allowance at this time. For the reasons stated above, Mary was not present at court and was resident at various country houses during this problematic period. There is no record of Henry visiting her while Anne Boleyn held the title of queen. Would there have been a desire for a portrait of Mary to show the princess now as a young woman, either for her banished mother or for her father, neither of whom had seen her for several years? If such a portrait had been commissioned at this time, it seems plausible that a female artist would have been a more suitable candidate to travel to the princess’s household. As Teerlinc would later be sent to Princess Elizabeth to draw her portrait, is it feasible that Susanna Horenbout was given the task to capture Mary’s likeness?
In conclusion, detailed examination and technical analysis undertaken on the Yale miniature Portrait of an Unknown Lady has helped to reveal relationships with the miniatures of Henry VIII attributed to Lucas Horenbout. A better understanding of the style of the dress seen in the miniature confirms an earlier dating for the work. While the inscription, palette, and some notable features show trends typical of the work associated with the Horenbout family, the handling of the brushwork suggests a unique hand at work, potentially Susanna Horenbout. The history of the portrait miniature is one which can become linear, with the names associated with the art form handing down the technique from one individual to another. By examining workshop production and the close collaboration of artists working across a variety of media within the court, we can understand the broader context in which this portrait was created. The current research has strengthened the case for the Yale miniature to sit happily within the Horenbout family oeuvre and, in turn, this has helped to identify the sitter with Princess Mary. To strengthen this research, further technical examination of works currently attributed to Lucas Horenbout would help reveal if different hands can be identified within the group and a case for the Horenbout workshop expanded.
I would like to thank Edward Town, for his collaboration on this project and for his unwavering support and help with the research. The technical examinations of other miniatures was possible due to the generosity of collections making works accessible: Henrietta Ward at the Fitzwilliam Museum, and Vanessa Remington and colleagues at the Royal Collection including Karen Lawson in the Picture Library. At YCBA, my thanks to Jessica David, Theresa Fairbanks-Harris, and Charlotte Padden. I am also grateful to colleagues at the NPG including Charlotte Bolland, Richard Hallas, and Catharine McLeod.
About the author
Polly Saltmarsh is an easel paintings conservator based in Cambridge. She divides her time between running her studio and working at the National Portrait Gallery, London. With an MA(Hons) in Art History from the University of Glasgow, Polly completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Easel Painting Conservation at the Courtauld Institute, graduating in 2007. In 2008, Polly joined the Making Art in Tudor Britain team at the National Portrait Gallery, researching the materials and techniques of the Tudor and Jacobean paintings in the collection. In 2015, she was invited as a visiting scholar to the Yale Center for British Art to undertake technical research on the collection of early miniatures. She has previously co-published papers focusing on workshop production, in particular patterns and replication.
Susan Foister, “Horenbout (Hornebolt), Lucas (d. 1544)”, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/13798.1
Lorne Campbell and Susan Foister, “Gerard, Lucas and Susanna Horenbout”, The Burlington Magazine 128, no. 1003 (1986), 720.2
Lodovico Guicciardini states this in his Descrittone di tutti i Paesi (Description of the Low Countries), see Foister, “Horenbout (Hornebolt), Susanna (d in or before 1554)”, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004.3
It is now firmly believed that Simon Bening and Gerard Horenbout worked together on the Grimani Breveiary (Biblioteca Marciana, Venice), for example, see Joris C. Heyder, “Kopie und Kennerschaft über eine künstlerische Praxis und ihre Bedeutung für die Erforschung der flämischen Buchmalerei”, Kunstgeschichte: Open Peer Reviewed Journal (2013), https://pub.uni-bielefeld.de/record/2907481.4
Roy Strong, The English Renaissance Miniature (London: Thames and Hudson, 1983), 55.5
Erna Auerbach, Tudor Artists: A Study of Painters in the Royal Service and of Portraiture on Illuminated Documents from the Accession of Henry VIII to the Death of Elizabeth I (London: The Athlone Press, 1954), 75–76.6
Roy Strong, Artists of the Tudor Court: The Portrait Miniature Rediscovered, 1520–1620 (London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1983), 52–53; and Strong, The English Renaissance Miniature, 58.7
Janet Backhouse, “Illuminated Manuscripts and the Early Development of the Portrait Miniature”, in Daniel Williams (ed.), Early Tudor England: Proceedings of the 1987 Harlaxton Symposium (Woodbridge: Boydell, 1989), 2–3.8
Thomas Kren and Scot McKendrick (eds), Illuminating the Renaissance: The Triumph of Flemish Manuscript Painting in Europe (Los Angeles, CA: J. Paul Getty Trust, 2003), 3.9
Auerbach, Tudor Artists, 1.10
Patterns were an important tool in an artist’s workshop, used to create multiple versions of a portrait or pose. The patterns were either a reference sketch or tracing from a finished work, which were kept in the studio for future use, see Sophie Plender and Polly Saltmarsh, “Copies and Versions: Discussing Holbein’s Legacy in England: Technical Examination of Copies of Holbein Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery”, in Erma Hermens (ed.), European Paintings 15th–18th Century: Copying Emulating and Replicating (London: Archetype, 2014); and Sophie Plender and Polly Saltmarsh, “Calling Authenticity into Question: Investigating the Production of Versions and Copies in Tudor Portraiture”, in Rebecca Gordon, Erma Hermens, and Frances Lennard (eds), Authenticity and Replication: The “Real Thing” in Art and Conservation (London: Archetype, 2014). Exactly how a pattern would be utilised by an artist creating miniatures is currently unclear.14
MSL/1999.6, on long-term loan to the V&A.15
Backhouse, “Illuminated Manuscripts and the Early Development of the Portrait Miniature”, 16.17
Watercolour was not a term used in the sixteenth century but is used today in relation to pigments bound in a water-based medium such as gum arabic or egg white. Bodycolour and gouache are also used to describe this medium, although this implies an opaque paint layer rather than a mixture of translucent and opaque applications.18
A retrofitted Nikon 810 camera with Coastal Optical 60mm, macro 1:4, apochromatic lens which captures in the near IR range.19
Katherine Coombs, “A Kind of Gentle Painting: Limning in 16th-Century England”, in Kim Sloan (ed.), European Visions: American Voices (London: British Museum, 2009), 80.20
Anon., A Very Proper Treatise, wherein is briefly sett forthe the arte of Limming (London: Richard Totill, 1573), 1.21
P159-1910 Victoria and Albert Museum.22
It is unclear exactly what material the author of The Arte of Limming is referring to when he mentions black lead, especially applied with a brush as instructed. It was a term for graphite but this was not commonly used as a drawing material until after 1580, although traces of graphite can be found in chalks, see Rachel Billinge, “The Materials of Underdrawing”, in David Bomford (ed.), Art in the Making: Underdrawing in Renaissance Paintings (London: National Gallery, 2002), 34; and Jim Murrell, “Graphic Descriptions: Side-Lights from Manuscript Sources on English Drawing Materials”, V&A Conservation Journal 3 (April 1992), 14.23
A Bruker Artax 800 x-ray fluorescence spectrometer was used to perform non-destructive elemental analysis. The spectrometer was equipped with a rhodium anode x-ray tube fitted with polycapillary optics that result in a beam diameter of approximately 75–100 μm at the sample surface. Spectra were acquired for 120 seconds live time using 45 kV accelerating potential, 400 μA current, and without any excitation beam filters. Helium was used to displace air from the x-ray beam path between the source and the sample and between the detector and the sample during analysis. The analysis was carried out by Jens Stenger, conservation scientist at Yale University’s Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage.24
Strong, Artist’s of the Tudor Court, 52.25
For recent discussion on the oeuvre of Teerlinc, see Katherine Coombs and Alan Derbyshire, “Nicholas Hilliard’s Workshop Practice Reconsidered”, in Tarnya Cooper, Aviva Burnstock, Maurice Howard, and Edward Town (eds), Painting in Britain 1500–1630: Production, Influences and Patronage (London: The British Academy, 2015), 242–243.26
Roy Strong, “Teerlinc, Levina (d. 1576)”, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).27
Strong discusses the Horenbout miniatures in both Artists at the Tudor Court and lists the known works in The English Renaissance Miniature, 189. Murrell discusses the materials and techniques observed on this group of miniatures in The Way Howe to Lymne: Tudor Miniatures Observed (London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1983).28
For a full discussion on the known documentary evidence of Gerard Horenbout’s work in Ghent, see the following publications: Susan Foister, “Horenbout (Hornebolt), Gerard (d. 1540/1)”, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004); and Campbell and Foister, “Gerard, Lucas and Susanna Horenbout”, 720.30
Foister, “Horenbout (Hornebolt), Gerard (d. 1540/1)”.31
Carel van Mander, Dutch and Flemish Painters, translation from Schilderboeck (1604) and Introduction by Constant van der Wall (New York: McFarlane, Warde, and McFarlane, 1936).32
Lodovico Guicciardini, Descrittione di Lodovico Guicciardini patritio fiorentino di tutti i Paesi Bassi altrimenti detti Germania inferiore (Antwerp: Guglielmo Silvio, 1567).33
Claims have been made for a painted output by Lucas and Gerard Horenbout, including Strong’s suggestion that Lucas is the Cast Shadow Master; see Strong, The English Renaissance Miniature, 42–44. Gerard Horenbout is increasingly believed to be the artist Master of James IV, who is credited with producing works in both oil and illuminations. Most tantalising of all is the assertion by Georges Hulin de Loo that the Poortakker Triptych in Ghent, is by Gerard Horenbout; the work is apparently signed “Gerarde”. See Kren and McKendrick, Illuminating the Renaissance, 375–431; for a discussion of the output of Simon Bening and Gerard David and workshop production, see also Maryan W. Ainsworth, “‘Diverse Patterns Pertaining to the Crafts of Painters or Illuminators’: Gerard David and the Bening Workshop”, Master Drawings 41, no. 3, Early Netherlandish Drawings (April 2003): 240–265.34
Susan Foister and Tim Batchelor, Holbein in England, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, 26 September 2006–7 January 2007 (London: Tate Publishing, 2006), 164.35
Sarah Bayliss, Juliet Carey, and Edward Town, “Nicholas Hilliard’s Portraits of Elizabeth I and Sir Amias Paulet”, The Burlington Magazine 160, no. 1386 (2018): 716–726.36
MS Add. 34294. See Mark L. Evans, The Sforza Hours (London: The British Library, 1992), 28.37
Kren and McKendrick, Illuminating the Renaissance, 431.38
Campbell and Foister, “Gerard, Lucas and Susanna Horenbout”, 720.39
Guicciardini, Descrittione di Lodovico Guicciardini patritio fiorentino di tutti i Paesi Bassi altrimenti detti Germania inferiore.40
Van Mander, Dutch and Flemish Painters.41
MS. Bodl. 504. See Foister and Batchelor, Holbein in England, 164.42
Guicciardini, Descrittione di Lodovico Guicciardini patritio fiorentino di tutti i Paesi Bassi altrimenti detti Germania inferiore.43
Giorgio Vasari, Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors and Architects, translated by Gaston du. C. de Vere (London: Philip Lee Warner, 1912–1915).44
Murrell, The Way How to Lymne, 9.45
It is interesting to note that pronounced, full red lips are also a distinct feature of the pages attributed to Gerard Horenbout in the Sforza Hours.46
My thanks to Aileen Ribeiro for her thoughts on the sitter’s dress and dating.47
David Starkey and Bendor Grosvenor, Lost Faces: Identity and Discovery in Tudor Royal Portraiture (London: Philip Mould, 2007), 79–84.49
Ainsworth, Maryan W. (2003) “‘Diverse Patterns Pertaining to the Crafts of Painters or Illuminators’: Gerard David and the Bening Workshop”. Master Drawings 41, no. 3, Early Netherlandish Drawings (April): 240–265.
Anon. (1573) A Very Proper Treatise, wherein is briefly sett for the the arte of Limming. London: Richard Totill.
Auerbach, Erna (1954) Tudor Artists: A Study of Painters in the Royal Service an of Portraiture on Illuminated Documents from the Accession of Henry VIII to the Death of Elizabeth I. London: The Athlone Press.
Backhouse, Janet (1989) “Illuminated Manuscripts and the Early Development of the Portrait Miniature”. In Daniel Williams (ed.), Early Tudor England: Proceedings of the 1987 Harlaxton Symposium. Woodbridge: Boydell, 1–18.
Bayliss, Sarah Carey, Juliet, and Town, Edward (2018) “Hilliard’s Portraits of Elizabeth I and Sir Amis Paulet”. The Burlington Magazine 160, no. 1386: 716–726.
Billinge, Rachel (2002) “The Materials of Underdrawing”. In David Bomford (ed.), Art in the Making: Underdrawing in Renaissance Paintings. London: National Gallery.
Campbell, Lorne and Foister, Susan (1986) “Gerard, Lucas and Susanna Horenbout”. The Burlington Magazine 128, no. 1003: 716–727.
Coombs, Katherine (2009) “A Kind of Gentle Painting: Limning in 16th-Century England”. In Kim Sloan (ed.), European Visions: American Voices. London: British Museum.
Coombs, Katherine and Derbyshire, Alan (2015) “Nicholas Hilliard’s Workshop Practice Reconsidered”. In Tarnya Cooper, Aviva Burnstock, Maurice Howard, and Edward Town (eds), Painting in Britain 1500–1630: Production, Influences and Patronage. London: The British Academy.
Evans, Mark L. (1992) The Sforza Hours. London: The British Library.
Foister, Susan (2004) “Horenbout (Hornebolt), Lucas (d. 1544)”. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/13798.
Foister, Susan and Batchelor, Tim (2006) Holbein in England. London: Tate Publishing.
Guicciardini, Lodovico (1567) Descrittione di Lodovico Guicciardini patritio fiorentino di tutti i Paesi Bassi altrimenti detti Germania inferiore. Antwerp: Guglielmo Silvio.
Heyder, Joris C. (2013) “Kopie und Kennerschaft über eine künstlerische Praxis und ihre Bedeutung für die Erforschung der flämischen Buchmalerei”. Kunstgeschichte. Open Peer Reviewed Journal. https://pub.uni-bielefeld.de/record/2907481.
Kren, Thomas and McKendrick, Scot (eds) (2003) Illuminating the Renaissance: The Triumph of Flemish Manuscript Painting in Europe. Los Angeles, CA: J. Paul Getty Trust.
MacLeod, Catharine et al. (eds) (2019) Elizabethan Treasures: Miniatures by Hilliard and Oliver. London: National Portrait Gallery.
Mander, Carel van (1936) Dutch and Flemish Painters, translation from Schilderboeck (1604) and Introduction by Constant van der Wall. New York: McFarlane, Warde, and McFarlane.
Murrell, Jim (1983) The Way How to Lymne: Tudor Miniatures Observed. London: Victoria and Albert Museum.
Murrell, Jim (1992) “Graphic Descriptions: Side-Lights from Manuscript Sources on English Drawing Materials”. V&A Conservation Journal 3 (April). http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/journals/conservation-journal/issue-03/graphic-descriptions-side-lights-from-manuscript-sources-on-english-drawing-materials/.
Plender, Sophie and Saltmarsh, Polly (2014) “Copies and Versions: Discussing Holbein’s Legacy in England: Technical Examination of Copies of Holbein Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery”. In Erma Hermens (ed.), European Paintings 15th–18th Century: Copying Emulating and Replicating. London: Archetype.
Plender, Sophie and Saltmarsh, Polly (2014) “Calling Authenticity into Question: Investigating the Production of Versions and Copies in Tudor Portraiture”. In Rebecca Gordon, Erma Hermens, and Frances Lennard (eds), Authenticity and Replication: The “Real Thing” in Art and Conservation. London: Archetype.
Starkey, David and Grosvenor, Bendor (2007) Lost Faces: Identity and Discovery in Tudor Royal Portraiture. London: Philip Mould.
Strong, Roy (1983) Artists of the Tudor Court: The Portrait Miniature Rediscovered, 1520–1620. London: Victoria and Albert Museum.
Strong, Roy (1983) The English Renaissance Miniature. London: Thames and Hudson.
Strong, Roy (2004), “Teerlinc, Levina (d. 1576)”, rev. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Strong, Roy and Murrell, V.J. (1983) Artists of the Tudor Court: The Portrait Miniature Rediscovered 1520–1620: exhibition catalogue. London: Victoria and Albert Museum.
Vasari, Giorgio (1912–1915) Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors and Architects, translated by Gaston du. C. de Vere. London: Philip Lee Warner.
Williams, Daniel (ed.) (1989) Early Tudor England: Proceedings of the 1987 Harlaxton Symposium. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press.
- Polly Saltmarsh
- 30 September 2020
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- Polly Saltmarsh, "Portrait of an Unknown Lady: Technical Analysis of an Early Tudor Miniature", British Art Studies, Issue 17, https://doi.org/10.17658/issn.2058-5462/issue-17/psaltmarsh