Completed Continental European before 1800, Dress and Textiles, Portraits: British 16th and 17th C 39 Could the artist be Cornelis Ketel?

Topic: Artist

Early twentieth century overpainting had attempted to transform the portrait of an unknown Flemish lady into a portrait of Mary Tudor, Queen of England. Overpainting included the alteration of the headdress from a white Flemish coif to the familiar Tudor hood, the addition of jewels to the robe, and the replacement of the lozenge shaped shield by the royal coat of arms, the pink by a crucifix, and the date 1601 by 1555.

Cleaning revealed the Flemish coif, the lack of jewels, a pink held in the fingers of the sitter's right hand, the date 1601 and the shield contemporary with the 1601 portrait.

In the course of conservation, an X-ray examination of the picture revealed that the 1601 portrait was superimposed on a similar unfinished portrait of a Flemish lady dated 1600. The head is slightly to the right of the later portrait with the date on both sides of the head. The face seems to have been completed but the bonnet and hands are scarcely modelled and there is no trace of a coat of arms.

One of our museum volunteers suspects the artist may be Cornelis Ketel (1548–1616).

The Amelia, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

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Due to technical problems the discussion has been added without its attachments for the time being. There are several to add, including images taken during conservation in the 1980s and recent photographs of the picture and its frame. I also have the conservation report.

Osmund Bullock,

I'm afraid the link to the portrait on NICE Paintings no longer works, either from the discussion page or from its Art UK listing. The new VADS/NICE website has a search box, but despite trying various likely terms, it's proving elusive.

EDIT: Ah, finally got it by searching for' Tunbridge Wells', not that it's much help:

Tunbridge Wells Art Gallery & Museum re-opened after major refurbishment as The Amelia in 2022.

I did try to add some of the attachments and promptly crashed the site an hour ago. I'm glad it's back up. I won't try again today.

Jacinto Regalado,

Ketel is plausible, though I expect there are other candidates. He worked in England during the 1570s but returned to Holland by 1581, so a 1601 portrait would not be part of his English period, and the sitter does not look British anyway. Ideally, an expert on Dutch portraiture of the era would offer an opinion. This picture should not be listed under Portraits: British 16th and 17thC, by the way

Here are a "manner of" and "circle of" Ketel" for comparison:

Marcie Doran,

I won’t try to post a composite, but the headdress in a portrait by Michiel Jansz. van Mierevelt dated 1619 is very similar to the one in the Art UK work.

Sara van Bosschaert (version of 3/4-length portrait in the Prinsenhof, Delft)

Archives volunteer Joanna Pearson has provided information on the donor, Nellie Ionides. Her husband, Basil, a prominent architect, died in 1950. As well as Buxted House, East Sussex, which was sold after her death, they had Riverside House, next to Orleans House, in Twickenham. She seems to have collected art from an early age and her remaining collection is owned by the borough of Twickenham and now can be found in Orleans House Gallery. It looks as if the archive of her estate is held by The Keep, Brighton.

Matthew Simpson, Collection Officer, has provided a digital file of the conservation report and other old correspondence (summarised here as there are so many items).

In 1981, a handwritten note from Tate [Anna Southall(?), the signature hard to read] commented, ‘A woman in very similar bonnet, dress etc to your ex-Queen Mary. Herman van Vollenhoven, ‘The artist painting a couple’s portrait’. Signed and dated 1612, Amsterdam Rijksmuseum, no. A889. I saw photo in book: Portrait Painting in England: studies in technical literature before 1700’ by Mansfield Kirby Tulley (Paul Mellon Centre, 1981, ill. 7)’.

This appears to be the work that she was referring to, now online at RKD:

The conservation was carried out in 1987/88. The oak panel was found to be not very warped and joints in sound condition. During the year it was in the studio in controlled conditions it remained stable and a micro-environment was designed to fit behind the ornate later frame. It was received as ‘Portrait of Queen Mary’ Anglo-Dutch School with Royal Coat of Arms, dated 1555. Conservation revealed it as a portrait of an unknown lady, dated 1601, painted on top of a 1600 portrait that sat about an inch to the right (as revealed in x-ray). Infrared photographs before and during varnish removal showed nothing. It was also examined at the National Gallery on IR Vidicon, which showed nothing.

Ground: thin, off-white, gesso type.
Condition: very few actual losses, as caught in time. But very extensive tenting down wood grain, esp. down LH side of central panel.
Surface: thick yellow dammar varnish; damaged by tenting and yellow. Removal of old varnish and overpainting.
Restoration: ground layers fixed with PVA emulsion … filling where necessary with chalk/gelatine gesso, sealed with shellac.

Conservation report conclusions: after extensive examination, IR, raking light, x-rays and consultation with Christopher Brown (National Gallery) and costume expert Aileen Ribiero (Courtauld Institute) the curator agreed that the portrait of Queen Mary be removed as it was a recent alteration. The 1601 portrait was in fair condition, and the 1600 portrait was visible where the paint was damaged. It seemed little different and probably not finished. Destroying a 1601 portrait was not ethical in the circumstances.

Gillis Tak Labrijn (Tak Master Paintings, Amsterdam) comments:

'Costume, headdress and typical flat collar leave no doubt that the young sitter comes from the province of North-Holland, more specifically the cities of Enkhuizen or Hoorn. The high stylization is in accordance with the local portraiture of the time, as it is quite far from Ketel’s rather moderate brushwork. In fact, it compares well to portraits by the Enkhuizen painter Jan Claesz. (1565-1618) and I would not hesitate to accept it as a work by his hand.

Jan Claesz’s double portrait of Lysbeth Claesdr Sonck née Waling with her daughter Elisabeth Albertsz in the Westfries Museum, Hoorn ( compares fairly well, notably in the modelling of the mother’s face. This portrait of mother and daughter is dated 1602, and was thus painted in the year following the execution of the Amelia portrait. The rendering of the hands is typical for the painter, as can be seen in various of his portraits like that of Reynu Semeyns of 1595 in the ‘Stichting Verzameling Semeijns de Vries van Doesburgh’, Enkhuizen (

You may want to consult Rudi Ekkart, author of a monographic article on the artist, for his opinion [R.E.O. Ekkart, 'De Enkhuizer schilder Jan Claesz.', Oud Holland, Vol. CIV (1990), pp. 180-218].'

Osmund Bullock,

I'm perplexed by the image we have on Art UK. I initially thought the painting must be as we see, and very severely cut down at the sides; but then how could the conservators, etc, know that it's dated 1601 when only the first digit is visible on the RHS, or that the shield on the left is contemporary and lozenge-shaped? And while the measurements given are in the proportion 1.28:1, those taken off the screen are a dramatically different 1.72:1. Furthermore in three of the four corners (especially top right) are glimpses of something (the frame?) that suggest it's the image that has been severely cropped, not the painting.

I can only conclude that we're being asked to comment on a painting while being shown only a central detail. That seems unhelpful, to put it mildly - especially if a full image would reveal a coat-of-arms that might enable identification of the sitter.

Osmund, technical problems prevented me from adding the attachments that clarify the discussion text. I have been trying unsuccessfully to load text and attachments since the middle of last week. Each time, it crashed the site. Our software company is working on it as Art UK's top priority and hope a solution can be found before the end of the week.

Recent photographs of the painting show the full picture, including before and after conservation images (as mentioned above) and the 1601 date clearly visible.

I am out of the office all day tomorrow, so the attachments will be added next week unless it's fixed by the end of the day.

Osmund Bullock,

Sorry, Marion, my post sounded sharper than I'd intended - not the first time I've wished there were a self-edit function on the forum. I understand completely about the tech problems you (and we) have been facing, and had I read your first post more carefully, would have realised that the missing attachments included a full image or images of the painting.

My main point was expressing bafflement that the existing Art UK image (which must show it post-conservation) is so poor. We've noted instances of quite serious image distortion in the past - something I still don't understand, except where it's unavoidably been photographed obliquely up on the wall; and in many cases one might wish for slightly less enthusiasm in trimming the edges. But this is the first time I've been aware of an image that's been so severely cropped that it fundamentally changes the artwork's appearance.

New message from The Amelia Collections Officer Matthew Simpson, who is following the discussion closely: they have a consultant with a polarising lens on his very advanced camera. This should reduce though any reflections on the glass and give us a good image without the need to remove the frame. They will also do a 3D scan so commentators can see the full details of the frame. There are a few objects they need to do first but hopefully it will be with us in a few weeks.

Osmund Bullock,

Thank you very much, Marion and Amelia: that's all very helpful, and a fascinating sequence. Quite a shock to see how badly the colour in the 1980s prints has faded. I can better understand now the truncated Art UK image - presumably it had to be photographed while still in the frame and perhaps even behind glass.

The frame is a strange, inappropriate and overblown thing - not quite sure how details of it will inform understanding of the original painting, except inasmuch as the poor thing had its corners sawn off to fit it (or a previous one). I much look forward to seeing what the advanced camera/filter can achieve in due course.

Jacob Simon,

This painting has a complex history with alterations apparently dating to the 17th, 19th and 20th centuries, which are not always easy to fathom.

We should pay attention to the information from Gillis Tak Labrijn (Marion's post, 28/02/2024 11:52) which provides valauble information in the hunt for the artist.

Osmund Bullock,

The first of Gillis Tak Labrijn's links no longer works, and was in any case not the greatest image. A much better one is available, but I can find no way of linking to it directly (or even to the search box that finds it). You have to follow these steps:
(1) Go to (2) Scroll halfway down the page to 'Beeldbank' [Image Bank]. (3) Click on the button below 'Open de beeldbank'. (4) In the search box there enter the number 01416 (or 01415 if you want to see the pair of her husband and son), click on 'ZOEKEN' [Search]. Finally (5) Click on the thumbnail image. As well as the enlarge/full-screen etc buttons on the right, a high-res image can be downloaded by clicking on the download symbol on the far left.

Gillis' second link still works, but the image is small. A somewhat larger one can be found at

Jacinto Regalado,

Jan Claesz is entirely plausible, along with the rest of the comment from Gillis Tak Labrijn. The only thing left to do, if possible, is to identify the family associated with the shield at upper left.

Jacinto Regalado,

Note that the little girl in the 1602 portrait at the Westfries Museum is also holding a pink, and that the handling of her mother's face is very similar to that of our sitter's face.

The dates given for Jan Claesz are c. 1570-1618 in the RKD database; see

Jacinto Regalado,

Currently, there is only one picture listed under Jan Claesz on Art UK, , but it is clearly not good enough to be autograph and it is dated 1636, nearly 20 years after Claesz died. Indeed, its NICE Paintings entry has it as "manner of" Jan Claesz. It is similar to a 1609 picture by Claesz,

Thus, the Art UK entry for the Bowes picture should be amended, including the artist's dates, erroneously given as "d. 1636."

In other words, there appears to be no work by Jan Claesz in a UK public collection, nor in the Royal Collection, with the probable exception of the Amelia's picture under discussion.

Jacinto Regalado,

The painting really must be released from its overpowering frame, which practically suffocates it. A suitable period frame would surely enhance the picture, which is what any frame should do.

Jacinto Regalado,

For what it's worth, below is a working link to the picture Louis mentioned above (Louis, nothing with parentheses works on AD):

The eyes, by the way, are quite different from those of our sitter.

Marcie Doran,

The comparison is quite good, Louis, but I think the shields would need to be the same in both works.

Is that a lion rampant on the left-hand side of the shield in the Art UK portrait?

Gillis tak Labrijn has contacted Rudi Ekkart, whose reaction was as follows:

'Thanks for this tip, very exciting. I think you are absolutely right, but I would like to wait for the scan of the full painting before making a final decision. I would also be willing to see the coat of arms at the top left of the painting to check whether the coat of arms could possibly lead to an identification of the woman.' ["Dank voor deze tip, erg spannend. Ik denk dat u volledig gelijknhebt, maar ik wil graag even wachten op de scan van het volledige schilderij voordat ik een definitieve uitspraak doe. Ben trouwens ook bereid om het wapenschild linksboven op het schilderij te kunnen zien om te controleren of het wapen wellicht tot een identificatie van de vrouw kan leiden.”]

I will send both of them the high-resolution image.

Osmund Bullock,

A remarkable achievement by the photographer Richard Peretti. Many, many thanks to the Amelia for organising that - it looks like the cost may turn out to have been a wise investment.

We apologise that there is no image while Art UK is updating. There will be some further work to get it to appear at the head of this discussion (but it has been done before, I think).

Osmund Bullock,

Re the coat of arms: the (heraldic) lozenge-shaped shield is normal for a woman, the right-hand side indicating her family, the left her husband's. In Dutch heraldry this does not imply she is a widow (which it would in Britain). There is not enough left of her husband's arms to make out - one could perhaps imagine the remains of a left-facing rampant beast holding something in its paws, but that would indeed be imagination not observation. See attached for tweaked image. The poor state of that area of the painting also casts some doubt on her arms. They seem clear enough, but one cannot be sure they are as originally painted - and I can't think of another example where part of the inscription ('ANNO') is painted on top of them. All a bit worrying.

Be that as it may, we can only search for what we can see. If the colours are correct, the blazon in English heraldic language is 'Or, three bars sable'; in French (the language of many Continental heraldry sources), 'D'or, à trois fasces de sable'; and in Dutch, 'Drie zwarte Balken, op een goud Veld' (though in Dutch there seems to be more variation in terminology & format). Yellow in heraldry represents gold - there is no colour yellow as such.

A very similar-looking coat (which has six stripes rather than the seven we have here) would be (if gold's at the top, black at the bottom) 'Barry of six, or and sable' / 'Fascé d'or et sable, de six pièces' / 'Gedwarsbalkt van goud en zwart, van zes stukken'. If black's at the top, or & sable (goud & zwart) are reversed. The reversed-stripes coat is in fact the arms of an old and very notable noble Dutch family, van Pellandt (or van Paelant). See attached illustration.

I have done a bit of searching, but having little or no Dutch and being largely ignorant of Dutch heraldic sources, I'm pretty hamstrung. It's such a specialized field it's probably best left to Ruddi Ekkart and/or any experts he may know.

Jacob Simon,

I suspect that the portrait has been cut down from a rectangle to an oval, possibly at an early date. 'ANNO' would not originally have sat over the coat of arms. I am not necessarily doubting the inscription, only that it was repeated in a different position when and if the portrait was cut down.

Jacinto Regalado,

Even if the sitter (or more likely her family) cannot be identified, a title like "Unknown Woman" is suboptimal. If no name is given, it should be implicit that the sitter is unknown. A better title would be something like "Woman with a Pink and Prayer Book."

The Amelia's curators have removed the work from the frame. A preview is attached, from which you can see, as suspected, that the painting has been cut down to fit the new frame. They are trying to capture as good an image as possible for Art UK and the discussion, and for their own documentation.

Email from Amelia volunteer Jo Pearson:

‘I was looking at the shield on Richard Peretti’s photo. On enlarging the image, I think Marcie Doran might be correct. I might be imagining things but there could be a faint lion rampant on the white left-hand side. According to our notes from the 1980s conservation, there was no coat of arms on the 1600 painting beneath, so presumably the faintness of the image of the lion, or whatever it is, is because it was partially erased by cleaning.

The way the shield is painted on ours is strikingly similar to the one on the Ludovica Wijncoop painting of 1604 that Marcie shared, although the design on the shield is different. I have also found on a further painting by Jan Claesz, listed in the 1990 monograph catalogue, which is in the Museé de Beaux-Arts in Rouen. The latter painting is called ‘Portrait of a 67 year old woman, 1603’. Her shield has something similar to a lion passant on a white background but across the whole shield.

1) the enlarged image of our shield, new photo.
2) the 1603 painting from Rouen found at
3) the two shields next to each other, with ours on the left and the 1603 painting to the right
4) the three shields together, ours top right. 1603 bottom right and 1604 to the left. (Apologies for the pic collage logo but I used their free app to make composite photos).

Prof Ekkart’s 1990 catalogue, which has a summary about the artist in English at the bottom.

I, like Osmund Bullock, found the link with the black and gold horizontal stripes to the Van Pallandt family and also a link between a red lion rampant with the Van Den Bergh family. There was a marriage between Floris II Van Pallandt and Catharina Van Den Berg in 1601, when she was 22. However, if Osmund Bullock is right about her family’s crest being the side where there are black and gold stripes, this wouldn’t work, as the two sides of the coat of arms would be the other way round. Added to which these are major figures in Dutch history (she was William of Orange’s niece) and I can’t link them to the city of Enkhuisen. Further later portraits of Catharina do not resemble our sitter.’

3 attachments

From Matthew Simpson, Collections Officer, The Amelia:

‘I've attached some screenshots from the result of our 3D scan. As you can see the reverse of the canvass is made up of three wooden sections.

Unfortunately, the work has been damaged by the frame, so we've had a conservator come in last week to quote us on some restoration work. The surface of the piece is covered in a heavy varnish which has made photographing it difficult, however, this has provided a protective layer from the damage. I haven't received the images we managed yet but I'll chase them up.

The unframed work doesn't show much more (that I can see) than the high-resolution images we sent earlier as the work is cropped to fit the frame. For now that remains the best one we have.’