Dress and Textiles, Portraits: British 16th and 17th C, Scotland: Artists and Subjects 23 Is this a portrait of James Beaton, Archbishop of Glasgow (1517/1524–1603)?

Portrait of a Man
Topic: Subject or sitter

There is no conclusive proof that this is a portrait of James Beaton, but it is well within the bounds of possibility.

Please see the attached document for why I think he is a possible subject.

Andrea Thomas, Entry reviewed by Art UK


Mark Wilson,

This is of course the portrait that was identified as a Mor by Bendor Grosvenor in Series 2 Episode 4 of Britain's "Lost Masterpieces":


Unfortunately some bug in the software has put up the pre-restoration version, so you'll need to go to the ArtUK entry to see the cleaned up one.

The attribution to Mor was entirely on artistic grounds as there was no documentation, but there's nothing to suggest its connection with Arbroath predates the Allan-Frasers and nothing else has survived in the collection from the 16th or even 17th century.

Jacinto Regalado,

Is this British dress of the period? The man looks rather more Continental. And why must this be an ecclesiastic? He would seem to be in his 50s, which, for Beaton, would put this c. 1570s. Is the dress right for that date?

Louis Musgrove,

On the cuffs- is that arabic or hebrew lettering- or a digital processing glitch?

Mark Wilson,

Louis, Andrea makes the comparison with the Glasgow picture - a link to the ArtUK colour version of which is here:


- in her full document (section 7), but apart possibly from the straight nose, I can't really see much comparison. The ear in the Glasgow portrait isn't just differently shaped but smaller - not something that normally happens as you get older. Similarly the face is more lined in the Mor, not the later picture. Of course the Glasgow picture isn't remotely the same quality, so comparisons are going to be difficult.

I think the belief that this is some sort of cleric is based of the clothes under the cloak. The dress is more modest and less formal than many ecclesiastics, but that's part of Andrea's argument as Beaton was known for his personal modesty. But the similarity to the dress in the later portrait isn't that great and it's worth pointing out that according the Simon Gillespie the cloak was originally a 'rich blue':


possibly as seen on this del Conte from around 1540:


The hat is also similar though it fades into background in the Mor. However I can't really see the 'B ' on a ring Andrea notes (though she may have a better image).

Blown up the stitching on the cuffs just looks like a pattern I'm afraid.

Osmund Bullock,

I think 50s is too old an age for our sitter, Jacinto, there's not a grey hair on his head or beard; but I nevertheless doubt the man is Beaton. Certainly it seems vanishingly unlikely that such a portrait could have survived in situ at Hospitalfield from before the Scottish reformation or even the early C17th (when Beaton's reputation had been restored). Although traces and odd fragments of the old buildings seem still to be scattered around the site, Patrick Allan-Fraser's mid-C19th 'remodelling' was effectively a complete rebuild.

It is far more likely that he acquired the painting for its quality, and probably did so on the Continent - either as the young Patrick Allan in the 1830s (when he was in Rome and then Paris), or more likely after his 1843 marriage to the heiress Elizabeth Fraser, whose forebears had acquired the Hospitalfield estate in the 1660s. It had become very run-down by the time Allan and his wife (he did not take her surname until 1851) came into possession. Allan-Fraser spent much of the last 20 year of his life living in Rome, and would have had ample opportunity and means to buy fine art.

Osmund Bullock,

The post-conservation image of the portrait seems now to have disappeared from even the main Art UK website - perhaps Marion is in the middle of working on it?

Louis Musgrove,

Might our sitter be an Ambassador- say Spanish - as Mor only seems to have painted really top notch people???

Mark Wilson,

Thanks Terence for that. Just a warning that people may need to clear their caches before the restored image actually appears.

Louis, Mor certainly is famous for being a painter of the Spanish Court and associates (including what must be the definitive portrait of Mary I of England), but he also painted ordinary merchants such as Thomas Gresham and craftsmen such as Steven van Herwijck and of course a large number of ladies and gentlemen the identity of whom is now lost, like this one. He also would have painted wherever he went, not just in Spain or his native Spanish Netherlands and he was actually only at the Spanish Court for a comparatively short period, though he continued to paint members of it.

I think the dress here does hint at some sort of clerical role and of course that might include ambassadorial duties (as Beaton's did), but there's nothing really to hint at anything more.

Mark Wilson,

Incidentally, does anyone have an idea of what is being held in the sitters left hand? It look like it's made of leather and possibly has some sort of handle, but otherwise I'm puzzled.

Lou Taylor, Dress and Textiles,

From Lou Taylor. Using the clothes in the portrait as a source: He is a wearing a long sleeveless coat, possibly of fur with a high collar; no ruff but a plain white collar; white satin doublet with slightly padded sleeves narrowing to wrist which is decorated with white embroidery and black braid around the wrist; long black beard, black hat with high crown and turned back brim, though not clear. Centre front shows length of gathered white linen – function not clear to me.

These garments are very similar to those seen in the ‘Portrait of Daniele Barbaro’ by Veronese, 1565-7, oil on canvas - Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Holland, who wears almost exactly the same long white satin sleeves with black braid around the wrist; no ruff; evidently wearing a long, finally gathered, fine linen robe of some sort - (which explains the white gathered linen down the centre front of our portrait). He has a similar long beard and black Hat; no ruff. The one big difference is that the sitter in our portrait wears a long , costly, sleeveless surcoat of dark brown fur, whilst Daniele Barbaro wears a grey silk shoulder cape that buttons down the Centre front.

The Art Story web site writes on a site titled ‘ Paolo Veronese Artworks’ that Babaro ‘was head of an aristocratic family and one of Veronese’s major patro’ and that ‘Barbaro sits at an angle historically only reserved for Cardinals and Popes: "such regal pomp and circumstance, such majestic actions, such weight and decorous manner!" said art historian Marco Boschini of Veronese's portrait. The sitter's posture can be understood then as a projection of professional intent as Barbaro was the Patriarch elect of Aquileia (in a cruel twist of fate, he died in 1570 before taking up his position). The upright book is his work La Practica della Perspettiva (1568) whose meaning is inferred by the painting's different picture planes. The volume in his left hand is his writing on Vitruvius' De Architectura (c.30 BCE), featuring illustrations by Palladio, highlighting the strong links between the three men. The interplay between light and textiles is brightened by the dark background. Titian had painted a portrait of Barbaro and his influence of idealized portraits incorporating psychological insight is seen here. Solomon notes that Veronese's portrait marked a "progress towards a more complex kind of portraiture in which the magnificent costumes and painterly effects were balanced with a deeper psychological representation".

WIKI: The Patriarchate of Aquileia was an episcopal see in northeastern Italy, centred on the ancient city of Aquileia situated at the head of the Adriatic, on what is now the Italian seacoast. For many centuries it played an important part in history, particularly in that of the Holy See and northern Italy, and a number of church councils were held there.

Googling reveals several other Patriachs of Aquila, from earlier and later periods, dressed in a comparable manner- if not exactly identical.

Jacinto Regalado,

I think what he is holding in his left hand are folded or bunched up leather gloves with the ends opposite the fingers showing.

Louis Musgrove,

Yes Jacinto- I thought leather gloves as well. But what is in his right hand. Something stiff and folded and white with an edge - perhaps vellum- perhaps letters patent???
What attracted my attention is that our sitter has rings on both his little fingers (Pinky finger in America),more a sign of senior aristocracy I would have thought ???? If he was a senior cleric I would expect him to have a ring on his third finger.

Tamsyn Taylor,

I want to comment on the differences that have been noted between the portrait in question and the portrait in Glasgow. There are comments about the ears and the eyebrows being different.
In cases like this it needs to be accepted that we are looking at painted "likenesses", not photographic portraits.
Each likeness will capture something of the person that makes them recognisable. Very VERY few will capture minor details with precise observation, and correct proportion.
When making a forensic comparison using photographs, the the shape of the ear is a particularly good indicator.
However, in painted portraits, often very little attention is given to observation of the ear, and the artist is more likely to use a sort of generic form, that they will for, say, the nose.
Concerning the eyebrow, in the picture of the sitter as an old man, it is hardly possible to determine how the eyebrows may have been, when he was young. He is shown with shrunken hollow sockets which make a curve that is more pronounced than the old, faded, grey, and reduced eyebrows.
The other point that I want to make is hat one of these portraits is a much less accomplished work than the other.

Louis Musgrove,

Reading the blurb on the engraving picture( if correct ?) it appears Beaton spent the last 43 years of his life in France as an Ambassador of Scottish Royalty. And after his death most of the stuff he took with him seems to have remaiined in France.Would Mor have painted this picture in Scotland??/ or if this is Beaton-- in France???

Andrea Thomas,

Many thanks to everyone for your constructive and thoughtful comments. Perhaps it is wishful thinking on my part that we might be able to name the sitter! The 'B' on the setting of the ring (the one on his right hand) is clearly visible on my computer in close-up view on the image of the post-restoration painting.

Osmund Bullock,

Like Mark, I'm afraid I can't really see the 'B' on our image - the most detailed available to us without a special request, that is. When trying to enlarge, it breaks down into digital patterns (at least for me) before it resolves into anything determinable, even after some brightness & contrast tweaking; and that break-down seems to be in the image, not in my screen's resolution. See attached. I'm not saying it isn't a 'B' - it could well be - merely that I can't tell for sure.

Marion, if a higher resolution is available on file, could we see a detail of it covering the hand that holds the paper, please?

Mark Wilson,

Jacinto and Louis. Looking at that area of the painting closely, at first I did't think that those were folded-over gloves. There are too many layers and they are too straight and square. But looking at some other pictures by Mor and his followers, for example this of Joanna of Austria in the Royal Collection:


which has a separate detail picture of the left hand, showing the fingers of the gloves only just visible behind the hand. A related picture in the Prado is similar (https://bit.ly/2FQMnBV). Presumably in the Hospitalfield picture case the fingers are completely lost in that very dark background.

Gloves appear in a lot of Mor's portraits, including most of his royal ones. I wondered if they had some significance relating to power, but they also appear in non-Royal settings such as the Rijksmuseum Gresham (https://bit.ly/3aTfHmS) and various anonymous sitters.

The paper in the right hand however is much rarer. The obvious example is one currently at the Museum of London:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Hewett_{LPARENTHESES} Lord_Mayor)#Portrait

and that doesn't really look like a Mor to me (except maybe for the gorgeous sleeves). So the significance is obscure, but it must have been important for the sitter to want it.

I'm afraid I don't see Andrea's 'B' on closer examination though. What it looks like to me is part of the clasp that is holding the stone of the ring (presumably mirrored on the other side) that happens to have a figure of 8 shape. It's possible that shape was chosen to match an initial letter, but it's probably just practical.

Mark Wilson,

With regards to the clothing however we may have a bit more progress. I think the undergarment we can see (there may be further layers underneath) is something called a rochet:


Nowadays this is much shorter and the bottom third or even half is made up of elaborate lace, but in the 16th Century and earlier it would have gone at least below the knee and been plainer. There plenty of example from the period showing it with heavy pleating, especially at the front, as in the examples Lou and Marion mention above as well as plenty of English examples (eg https://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/william-warham), though the latter tend to have fuller sleeves, which become even bigger later on. While the rochet was more widely worn in earlier times, by the 16th century it was nearly always restricted to bishops and clerical ranks above that.

The two Patriarchal examples are worn with a short cape known as the mozetta (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mozzetta), but what we see in the Hospitalfield portrait is a near-obsolete garment called the mantelletta:


"a sleeveless, knee-length, vest-like garment, open in front, with slits instead of sleeves on the sides, [and] fastened at the neck [...] it was worn instead of the mozzetta over the rochet by any bishop outside his place of jurisdiction". This is a pretty exact match and probably identifies the sitter as a bishop or archbishop who is not in his diocese / province (though some papal functionaries in Rome also wore and still wear them). The document in the hand might indicate some sort of diplomatic mission or authority from royal or papal sources.

Originally the mantelletta would not have been brown but probably some shade of violet or purple. When Simon Gillespie restored it (https://www.simongillespie.com/mor) he said:

"The cloak would originally have been a rich blue colour, depicting an expensive velvet fabric, this had been overpainted in the course of the painting’s history partly because the original blue had naturally discoloured to brown but also because the discoloured surface had been abraded during past cleanings leaving large patchy remains of the faded material"

but I wonder if the original colour had come from some mixture of red and blue pigments (true murex-derived purple being no longer available after the fall of Constantinople), but only traces of the blue remained. I can't find any evidence of the ecclesiastical use of blue mantellettas from this (or other) periods, but it's possible that blue was seen as being equivalent to violet. The cleric (who might almost be the same sitter)in the picture at the MFA Boston I linked to above:


does wear a blue mantelletta practically identical to this one, including the red piping (or lining showing) at the shoulder, so the practice may have been widespread or it may be that past restoration decisions have altered things. I wonder if the rochet was originally its current blue and note that its collar is white.

So Andrea's original feeling that this was a bishop with diplomatic responsibilities may well be correct, even if it may not be the person she hoped it was.

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