Completed North West England: Artists and Subjects, Portraits: British 16th and 17th C 12 Which John Tufton sat for this seventeenth-century portrait?

Sir John Tufton
Topic: Subject or sitter

There were multiple notable people named John Tufton living in 1650 when this portrait was painted, including the 2nd and 4th Earls of Thanet as well as the 2nd Baronet. As such, the current sitter identification is ambiguous. Is it known which John Tufton sat for this portrait?

The collection does not yet know which John Tufton appears in this portrait. The only information it has on the sitter is the name.

David Purdy, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. The record will be amended with the information that this is a portrait of Sir John Tufton (1544-1624) of Hothfield in Kent. The date has been amended to c.1620–1650. These changes will be reflected on Art UK in due course.

Thank you to all for participating in this discussion. To those viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all comments that led to this conclusion.


Francis Mouton,

The painting says "age 81" and "painted in 1624", no? Why is it dated to 1650 instead? Anyway, in 1650 the 4th Earl was 12 years old, so we can safely dismiss him.

The logical sitter is Sir John Tufton, 1st Baronet, who died in 1624.

Francis Mouton,

The painting also says "capta post mortem", so the sitter died in 1624. And it says he was a baronet, which would be weird on the portrait of an earl. I think, unless we believe all inscriptions to be fake, that we can safely assume this to be a genuine 1624 death portrait of the first baronet.

Jacob Simon,

The collection describes the portrait as on canvas(?): surely they can determine the support. The portrait appears to have been enlarged, which means the inscription is not original.“Vermis sum non homo capta post mortum”, appears to mean roughly “I am a worm, taken after death”, though I am no Latin scholar. The ruff is earlier than 1624 suggesting that an earlier portrait may have been enlarged after death.

Christopher Foley,

The sitter is Sir John Tufton, 1st Bart, who was born 1544. The inscription which suggests the image is post mortem and the sitter. food for worms may well have been added a little later than 1624. aetatis suae is an ambiguous formula which sometimes means "x years old" and sometimes "in the Xth year of his age" so the inscription fits the 1st bart's age at death.The costume is of the mid. 1620's. Perhaps this is a portrait started at the very end of his life and finished after every his death. Equally, it could have been painted as a memento mori after his demise. The technique looks appropriate to a date up to about 1650, but I would prefer a dating in the 1620's.

Bruce Trewin,

The following link to find a grave has an excellent article on Sir John Tufton including a photo of his tomb effigy, which does bare a resemblance to our painting:

A genealogy:
John Tufton 1st Baronet
Birthdate: circa 1544 (80)
Birthplace: Hothfield, Kent, England
Death: April 2, 1624 (76-84)
Hothfield, Kent, England
Place of Burial: Rainham, Kent, England
Immediate Family:
Son of John Tufton, of Hothfield and Mary Baker
Husband of Christian Tufton and Olympia Tufton
Father of Anne Tufton; Margaret Tufton; Sir Humphrey Tufton, MP, 1st Baronet of The Mote; Elizabeth Tufton; Richard Tufton, MP and 8 others
Brother of Cecilie Tufton

Jennifer Raikes Nee Tufton,

I am a Tufton living in Kent not far from Hothfield, which was Sir John's home. He has a very beautiful table tomb in St Margaret's with his effigy and his second wife Christian Brown, they are surrounded by the kneeling figures of his seven daughters and six sons. To find out more about him, read 'Memorials of the Tufton Family 'by Robert Pocock, pub 1800, Gravesend starting page 30. There must be a copy in the Carlisle archives I should think, if not I can photocopy the extract if anyone wants it. I expect you know that Sir John's grandson married Lady Margaret Sackville daughter of Lady Anne Clifford.

Lakeland Arts Trust,

Many thanks for the above comments, I will update our collection records to show this is Sir John Tufton, 1st Baronet, who died in 1624, and alter the dates to reflect a 1620-1650 date of execution.

Amanda Draper,

Thank you to all contributors for this interesting and informative discussion.

It has been agreed that this is a portrait of Sir John Tufton (1544-1624) of Hothfield in Kent. The painting is clearly dated 1624 although the owning collection has previously dated it to 1650, leading to debate about how contemporary it is to the death of the sitter. Tufton's dress seems appropriate to the 1620s or earlier, and the inscription of 'Vermis sum non homo capita post mortum' may have been added after his death. But there was some thought that the painting may have been a later momento mori.

The owning collection, Lakeland Arts Trust, have accepted that this is a portrait of Sir John Tufton, 1st Baronet, and are updating their records accordingly. They are recording the date of the painting as c.1620 - 1650.

It is therefore recommended that Art UK also amend their records to give this sitter and dating.

Osmund Bullock,

Perhaps the reason for the queried "on canvas" description is that it was recognised that the original small portrait (c.22" x 19") may well have been on panel, before being transferred to canvas and enlarged to a size (29" x 24") close to a standard three-quarters - probably in order to match a row of other family portraits. See attached for a slightly clearer view of the original size within the enlargement.

This tweaked image emphasizes that the inscription has without doubt been at the least strengthened/repainted (and in part shifted) in more recent times - perhaps when it was made into a larger picture, which I suspect was in the late C19th or C20th. The original words must have been hard to make out, as the restorer, ignorant of Latin, has made errors: the 'ae' of 'AETATIS' would originally have been a ligature, as would that of 'SUA[E]' - here the 'e' has been omitted altogether; a lot of extraneous and illogical full stops seem to have been added, too, most noticeably in 'MILES. ET. BARONET.' (Knight and Baronet).

1 attachment
Osmund Bullock,

So the inscription may not be entirely reliable. Nevertheless, 'Vermis sum non homo' makes sense (though I don't think it should be read with the next line). It means “I am a worm, not a man”, and derives from David’s lament (taken up by Christ on the Cross) in Psalm 22, 'My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me? Verse 6 reads: ‘But I am a worm, and no[t a] man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people’.

The verse is (or was) to be found in the Eastern Orthodox Church Creed - ; and the C17th bishop and moralist Joseph Hall wrote one of his ‘Occasional Meditations’ around it - . When looking up Bishop Hall ( ) to see if there was any connection with Tufton, I was struck by how similar they looked...indeed for a while I wondered if this could actually be a portrait of Hall whose true identity was lost, and that was later doctored to suit a subsequent wild guess. But on reflection I think not.