Completed Portraits: British 16th and 17th C, Wales: Artists and Subjects 14 Did Mary Beale paint this portrait of John Vaughan?

John Vaughan
Topic: Artist

Is the artist for this portrait of John Vaughan, 3rd Earl of Carbery not in fact Mary Beale (1633–1699)?

The stylistic nature of the face and wig would seem indicative of Beale's style rather than Lely's and the composition and handling is particularly similar to that of the Hon. Henry Coventry in the collection of the Marquess of Bath at Longleat (see attached).

If this is the case then perhaps it could be that the sitter, the 3rd Earl Carbery, commissioned this portrait along with that of the portrait of his mother Frances, Countess of Carbery featured on 'Britain's Lost Masterpieces'.

I also believe the portrait of John's elder brother Francis and the other portrait of the same size called John, 3rd Earl Carbery (although unlikely the same sitter) to also be by Mary Beale, although later in style but similar to the portrait of a gentleman by Beale at Penrhyn Castle. Both works are in the collections of Carmarthenshire Museums and if confirmed to be by Beale, indicate a large patronage of Beale by the Vaughan family previously unknown.

Peter Harrison, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

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Jacinto Regalado,

This certainly does not look like autograph Lely; it is not good enough.

Jacinto Regalado,

Last May, I made a still-pending submission to AD to the effect that another portrait in this collection looked like a Mary Beale and noted her posthumous portrait of the sitter's mother (also in this collection). "My" portrait has what I consider very much a Mary Beale face.

Jacinto, that submission, asking the collection to consider listing as 'attributed to', 'possibly by' or 'style of' Mary Beale, was forwarded to them last May, along with a separate email. Unfortunately there was no response, but they now have a link to this discussion and will see that you had also suggested Beale. Our contact there appears to have been given access to Art UK's Collections Portal in July 2023 and appears to be still with the Council, so let's hope for a reply to my latest email.

Jacinto Regalado,

Thank you, Marion, but of course I knew you had tried to contact the collection last May. By pending I meant unresolved.

Jacinto Regalado,

The portrait of the Countess of Carbery was formerly attributed to Lely and is rather more Lelyesque than the three male portraits under discussion. Beale, of course, was strongly influenced by Lely's work .

Peter Harrison,

Dear Jacinto, as you mention, the style of this portrait cannot be Lely, but surely it must be at least stylistically linked to Beale (although without high-res images it is hard to be definitive). The other portrait you brought to discussion last May I believe also to be by Beale although perhaps slightly later in date.

As I said in my original comment, it would seem, if these works are indeed by Beale, the Earl of Carberry commissioned multiple portraits from Beale that are not mentioned in Charles Beale’s handbooks and therefore important additions to the artist’s oeuvre. From my research (although I might stand corrected) Beale didn’t have a large studio as we understand Lely and Kneller did so if these works can be considered related to Beale they would surely be autograph.

I look forward to seeing what others might think of this.

Jacinto Regalado,

Peter, is the portrait of the Countess of Carbery mentioned in Charles Beale's records? The Countess (d. 1650) would not have sat to Beale, who did not become a professional portraitist till the 1670s.

Jacinto Regalado,

The portrait of Francis, Lord Vaughan (d. 1667), if it is by Beale, is likely to be posthumous, like the portrait of his mother.

Jacinto Regalado,

The sitter's vital dates (1639-1713) should be given in the Art UK entry (the birth year given for is incorrect, assuming the sitter is the same person). The picture illustrating this discussion would not be earlier than 1670s and could well be later.

A portrait of the 3rd earl by Kneller, c. 1708, is at the NPG:

Note how much more generic the face is here, compared to the Kneller (where the very fine face is probably by Kneller's hand). One wonders if the earl actually sat for her (though the lack of extant record of such a sitting need not mean one never existed).

Jacinto Regalado,

I am not sure what is the latest thinking on this, but the portrait of Frances, Countess of Carbery may be a copy by Beale after a now lost original by Lely, which would explain how Lelyesque it is (Beale certainly copied other portraits by Lely, which was an important part of her training).

Jacinto Regalado,

There is a period resemblance, Marcie, though I expect your portrait, dated 1675, is earlier than ours based on the wigs. Ours is more likely to be 1680s (the sitter became 3rd Earl of Carbery in 1686).