Completed Dress and Textiles, Maritime Subjects, Portraits: British 16th and 17th C 41 Who is this Royalist naval commander painted by William Dobson (1611–1646)?

Portrait of a Royalist
Topic: Subject or sitter

This half-length portrait of an unknown Royalist naval commander was painted by William Dobson in Oxford, while he was there as court painter to Charles I, having succeeded Van Dyck after the latter’s death in 1641. Dobson was with the king at Oxford in 1642 and painted many Royalists between then and his death in 1646, aged 35.

The sitter holds the hilt of his sword in his right hand. In his left hand is a piece of paper, thought to be a chart or his naval commission. There is no writing on the paper. A swathe of blue fabric, which may be a cloak, is draped over his left arm, perhaps symbolic of the sea. Behind him, upper left, a sculptural relief depicts an allegorical female figure holding a globe, with a set square and nautical dividers at her feet. Over his left shoulder there is apparently a view to the sea (now obscure, possibly once clearer), with the ghost of a ship in full sail.

The picture was exhibited at Tate in 1951 and in the Dobson loan exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, 1983–1984.

Thank you very much to Pieter van der Merwe for the attached abstract of notes from the collection’s paper file, mostly made by Michael Robinson from conversations and correspondence between 1946 and 1969. Crops of the allegorical figure, ship and sword hilt are attached.

Marion Richards, Art Detective Manager, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. While a number of names have been suggested, the identity of the sitter remains unknown. The discussion has led to an enhanced description on the National Maritime Museum website (reproduced on Art UK), which now also includes information on the painting’s history and notes a Henry Pierce Bone enamel miniature copy of this portrait in the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the discussion. To anyone viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all the comments that led to this conclusion.


Douglas Quick,

I suggest that considerable evidence exists to support one of the former identifications for the sitter – Sir Charles Lucas.

There exists a copy by Henry Bone at the Walters Art Museum which was identified as Sir Charles Lucas by William Dobson by at the least the late 19th century. It can be seen at the following link:

There is also a clear linkage to the portrait used by George Vertue for the engraving by him of Sir Charles Lucas at the following link:

where Vertue says that the portrait is of Sir Charles Lucas and that it is after a painting by Dobson in the collection of Lord Byron.
Vertue saw the painting there in 1735 – see the Vertue Notebooks Volume IV at Page 68.

The painting was still in Lord Byron’s collection in 1793. See the reference at page 266 of the Biographica Britannica:"Sir+Charles+Lucas"&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjkoaPfyvDgAhVJ7IMKHf7cBjIQ6AEILDAB#v=onepage&q="Sir Charles Lucas"&f=false

It seems likely that it was sold out of Lord Byron’s collection in the late 18th century during the financial problems of the then Lord Byron.

A painting closely matching that at the NMM then surfaced at Christie’s in 1842 as Lot 129 at the sale on May 20-21, 1842 where it was sold as a portrait by William Dobson presumed to be of Sir Charles Lucas and was described as:

“Portrait of a gentleman in a red dress, his hand resting upon the hilt of his sword; presumed to be Sir Charles Lucas; very elegant.”.

It is then probably the same painting which showed up British Portraits Item 160 at the 1857 Manchester Exhibition as then owned by “Pigou, Esq.” – probably Frederick Pigou of Hill-Street London who died the same year. Interestingly another portrait identified as Sir Charles Lucas by Dobson – long in the collection of the Lords Cobham at Hagley Hall was also there as Item 135.

While some questions undoubtedly remain the identification of the sitter as Sir Charles Lucas appears of long standing and well supported.

Doug Quick

Douglas Quick,

I have now had an opportunity to dig a little deeper and review Malcolm Rogers' Catalogue of the NPG 1984 exhibition "William Dobson 1611-46" and it does deepen the mystery. The Vertue engraving seems to match more closely the painting now identified as Colonel Richard Neville - Item 20 in the 1984 Catalogue.Could this have been the painting formerly in the Byron Collection?

The painting accepted by Dr. Rogers as Sir Charles Lucas is Item 43. This appears based on the apparently contemporary inscription "Sr. Charles Lucas / 1645" and its descent through the Earls of Hardwicke.

If one accepts that this is Sir Charles Lucas then one is left with the NMM painting as at least having been "presumed" to be Sir Charles Lucas from at least the 1842 Christie's Sale and as a result further investigation of its earlier history should proceed on the likelihood of its having been so identified in records prior to that date.

Doug Quick

Thanks: that at least suggests the 'Henry Bone' miniature copy reproduced in 'Country Life', 29 April 1955, may be the one by his son H. P. Bone now in Baltimore. Vertue's Charles Lucas print is not a very convincing likeness, whatever the other reasons for that pre-1840s suggestion may have been.

The Burlington Fine Arts Club exhibition of 1938 in which the Dobson oil was no, 10 as 'Sir Thomas Lucas' was (as I now discover from something else shown in it) 'The Works of British-born Artists of the Seventeenth Century', but I have not found an online copy to see if any reason is given.

James Fairhead,

Thanks, Doug Quick, for drawing attention to the copy of the portrait that we are discussing here, by Bone. Bone exhibited his copy in 1838 at the Royal Academy (page 42, no 1097) and it was copied from a different portrait (our one, presumably) by Dobson, that was, when copied, in the possession of F R Say Esq., but was formerly in the Corsham House Collection of Paul Cobb Methuen. It is documented as “Charles Lucas”, Dobson in the Library of Corsham house in “An historical account of Corsham House” (1806: 60), and as “over the fireplace” by Egan in “Walks through Bath” (262), perhaps accounting for its darkened state. Methuen was a major art collector, purchasing good art but it still may be worth tracing his ancestors on both sides.

There are many faces of Charles Lucas. Others have been puzzling over them (e.g.

As if that was not enough, another work by Dobson said in 1938 to be of Charles Lucas, was bequeathed to the National Gallery in 1938 by Ella Katherine Hornsby-Drake.

The Vertue is certainly taken from a portrait by Dobson of ‘Charles Lucas’ that was in the possession of Lord Byron. (A Biographical History of England, from Egbert the Great to the Revolution: vol 1, 1824: 82). Our one does not have a great claim to be ‘THE’ Charles Lucas, because others had a more likely provenance to Lucas through family; have inscriptions on the work and fundamentally because Lucas was not a sea captain.

Lucas was the go-to name for unidentified Dobsons, and we should probably not fall into this trap. Who were the sea captains with Charles in Oxford? My bet would be on John Mennes, who thankfully Van Dyck also painted, and they and heir swords look similar to me (but I am no judge).

Douglas Quick,

Thanks - as noted the "Lucas" ID is at least useful for earlier provenance tracking as it seems to have had that for much of its recorded history.

Thank you for the linkage to the Bone exhibition at the RA which is very helpful for giving the prior and then current owners of the painting in question. I do note that the RA Exhibition was in 1843 - not 1838. This is interesting given the 1842 Christies sale which certainly looks like it was of the current painting.

Might F. R. Say have been related to the Lords Say and Sele of Broughton Castle and thus explain Ellis Waterhouses's comment?

It does seem like the Corsham Court - Methuen collection angle might be highly productive.


Thank you very much to everyone for these swift and substantial contributions, which give rise to even more questions. James, I agree that in considering this sitter we should keep a keen eye on the background: the ship and the relief with globe, set square and nautical dividers.

I think (unless its a misleading name coincidence) that F.R. Say might be the society portrait painter Frederick Richard Say (1804-68).

I am a little confused by James's first paragraph above: is it implying there may have been some other oil 'version' with Say and formerly at Corsham?

The provenance of the NMM picture before it was picked up somewhere in southern England by Spiller, presumably in the 1920s or early 1930s, is unknown. It would have had to be an early/mid-19th-century disposal from Corsham for Say to have had it (there were later ones in the 1920s) but that's perhaps more likely than positing existence of some other 'version' otherwise unrecorded.

James Fairhead,

Sorry Pieter, it was a typo. Meant to say: Bone exhibited his copy in 1838 at the Royal Academy (page 42, no 1097) and it was copied from a portrait (our one, presumably) by Dobson.."

The figure holding a globe is surely the muse, Urania, usually depicted in this way, with a globe and also with dividers (and there should be some stars, somewhere).

Others will be better placed to say whether Urania is a common device for marine officers in portraiture. It did occur to me, however, that Urania at the time was also associated with Lady Mary Wroth, who wrote a wonderful book called Urania that (among other things) was about her affair with her cousin, William Herbert (3rd Earl of Pembroke), and their two illegitimate children, one of whom was named William Herbert, who apparently became a Colonel during the Civil War under Maurice of the Palatinate and thus has a chance of being a Dobson sitter. .

Thanks for the clarification, though Douglas was right in correcting the RA date of the Bone copy to 1843, where it is curiously called 'Lieut. Charles Lucas' (but transcription errors in the RA catalogues are common). It is at least something to have discovered 'our man' may be ex-Corsham.

Douglas Quick,

Thanks Pieter. There was in fact a Dobson from the Corsham Court collection which was sold in 1840 and which I think is very likely to be the NMM picture.

There were three William Dobson portraits at Corsham in 1806 as per “An Historical Account of Corsham House”.

These were:

1. Portrait of Sir Charles Lucas by William Dobson, unnumbered but after # 212 so technically #213 at page 60;

2. Portrait of Thomas Killigrew by Dobson, 3 feet 2 inches x 2 feet 6 inches, #89 at p. 44;

3. Head by Dobson 2 feet x 2 feet 6 inches, #170 at page 55.

On May 16, 1840, Christies held an auction (Lugt 15819) titled “Removed from the Country” and which the auctioneer’s copy states “Lord Methuen, Corsham House”. There is one Dobson in it as Lot 26 as follows:

“Portrait of Killigrew, in a pale red silk vest, his right hand resting on the hilt of his sword; very elegant”

The buyer was Daubeny.

Most interestingly, in a sale on May 20/21, 1842, (Lugt 16608) Christies sold as Lot 129 the following painting by William Dobson:

“Portrait of a gentleman in a red dress, his hand resting upon the hilt of his sword; presumed to be Sir Charles Lucas; very elegant.”.

The seller was Daubeny. The purchaser was Morant.

I believe that these transactions show the Methuen “Killigrew” by Dobson, being sold in 1840 and then resold by Daubeny in 1842 but with the sitter changed from Killigrew to Sir Charles Lucas. The descriptions of the painting are almost the same. This explains the addition by Christies of the “presumed to be Sir Charles Lucas” (my high lighting) as a hint as its novelty. It was then purchased by Frederick Richard Say in 1842 and copied by Bone Jr. in 1843 and labelled with its new sitter identity of Sir Charles Lucas at the Royal Academy exhibition in 1843 noting that it was after a painting formerly in the Methuen collection.

Further confirmation is provided by the fact that the dimensions of the Killigrew painting in Methuen’s collection in 1806 had dimensions which nearly exactly match the NMM painting under discussion (38” x 30” versus 38” x 30.5”).

The Corsham Court “Sir Charles Lucas” never left the Corsham Collection. It was exhibited as Sir Charles Lucas by Dobson in 1937 in Bristol. I believe that it remains there today by now re-identified as Sir Richard Neville. It is referenced in Rogers 1993 at page 51 where this is said to be a copy of the original by Dobson of Sir Richard Neville in the Catalogue as Item 20 and now at the NPG. Rogers notes that these portraits were referred to as Sir Charles Lucas throughout the 19th and much of the 20th century. Accordingly it seems likely that this is the portrait of “Sir Charles Lucas” at page 60 of the 1806 History of Corsham. In any event it could not be the painting of Sir Charles Lucas sold out of the Methuen collection.

Assuming that this analysis is correct, and the NMM painting is the former Methuen “Killigrew” by Dobson, then a further link can be established as it is known that Methuen purchased the “Killigrew” Dobson from the collection of the Duke of Chandos in 1747 (Lot 110, Cock, Sale May 7, 1747 – Lugt 665) where it is described as by Dobson and of “Mr. Killigrew, half length” and is shown as being purchased by Sr. P. Methuen.

It would be interesting to determine where Chandos bought it and which of the several Killigrews the sitter may have been. While the 1806 catalogue refers to it as of Thomas Killigrew several other entries, including that in the Chandos sale, are at pains to not specify.

Could there be a Killigrew with a nautical connection? I note that apparently William Killigrew had Charles I appoint him ambassador to Constantinople which he attempted to have implemented in 1646. Could the NMM portrait be connected with this unusual but apparently important ambition for him? Though possible, when working from Wiliam’s appearance in the Van Dyck portrait (Tate T07896), this identification seems unlikely.

Of course the Killigrew identification may also be wrong but it may allow further investigation into the acquisition by Chandos of the painting and from there other options for the sitter.

Thanks for the further clarification. Presumably the identification of Charles Lucas started with Vertue's print, even though that looks as if it was itself erroneous given that the portrait on which it was based appears to be that now identified as Richard Neville (prime version in NPG and a version/copy at Corsham, previously also identified as Lucas). Certainly the Dobson portrait of 1645 with Lucas's name on it reproduced in B&W at this link (already given above) is nothing like any of them:

Neither Thomas nor William KIlligrew look convincing from their portraits (by Van Dyck et al), and neither were sea commanders or even significant soldiers, so that looks like a blind alley

James Fairhead,

Douglas, that was amazing sleuthing! Tour de Force.

How about Sir Peter Killigrew (c.1593-1668), Knight (4th son of John V Killigrew (c.1557-1605), of Arwenack, Cornwall. He was Vice-Admiral of Cornwall and the third Governor of Pendennis Castle.
Known as Peter the Post, because of his great diligence in conveying messages to King Charles I during the Civil War.

Cornish Worthies, Volume 2 73-4 describes how in 1645 he conveys from Oxford the Kings proposals to Parliament, and he is close to the King.

Osmund Bullock,

I agree - excellent work here.

James, you probably meant this, but it's a bit confusing as written: it was Sir Peter Killigrew's father, John Killigrew the 5th, who was a Vice-Admiral of Cornwall and third Governor of Pendennis Castle, not Peter himself. He did briefly become Governor of Pendennis - and it was a post much concerned with local naval defence - but not until much later (1660). He seems to have had no other naval connection, nor is he likely to have wanted nautical elements in his portrait in reference to his late father - John Killigrew's tenure of his two Cornish offices had been so disastrous, and he so corrupt, that he was dismissed from both (despite the Governorship being quasi-hereditary). See &

In any case I think our sitter looks too young for a man of nearly 50, and perhaps more.

A brief exchange with Corsham elicits that the portrait is 'also listed in an inventory of the pictures at Corsham House (as it was then called) made by a local solicitor, Mr Goldeney, in 1840 (p. 23)', prior to the Christie's sale of 16 May 1840 in which it was sold as Killigrew (lot 26): Corsham also has a note either in this or a copy of the Christie's catalogue that it was sold for £37. 16s to 'Danberry' (i.e presumably Daubeny misheard). It has also been pointed out that the measurements in Britton's 1806 listing of the Corsham pictures are often inaccurate (though I don't think so in this case given the closeness to the NMM's). Britton's footnote on the painting (no.89, p.44) confirms belief at the time that it showed Thomas Killigrew the dramatist (d.1682), which clearly enough goes back to it's being bought as 'Mr Killigrew' from the Duke of Chandos in 1747. The Christie's 1842 suggestion of it instead 'presumably' being Sir Charles Lucas is likely to have been based on its superficial likeness to the Vertue double-portrait print purporting to show him (though it in fact appears to be Richard Neville) and George Lisle. This was perhaps a case of being misled by Britton's mention of Lisle in his entry on the Corsham version of 'Lucas' (i.e. Neville).

This still leaves us groping for sitter identity. The likeness might support someone in the Killigrew family, but the attributes alone preclude the theatrical Thomas of that ilk, d. 1682. At least the provenance back to the Chandos collection looks convincing, for which many thanks to all concerned, albeit there remains a 19th to 20th century gap after it left F.R. Say.

James Fairhead,

The Killigrew family genealogy for this era and the history of the family is wonderfully detailed the Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall, Volume 9, Part 1, that is available online.
Hopefully this link will work but see pp. 178-182 for genealogies Lister Killigrew.&f=false
As you will see, it shows the family split into three lines, according to the 3 sons of John Killigrew (d. 1567), and gives a comprehensive set of possibilities for the sitter from this family, at least.
Probably the question of who this portrait depicts is going to need to be resolved by tracing the provenance. I would note that Susan Jenkins in her book “Portrait of a Patron” that describes Duke of Chandos’ collection, describes the Dobson as of ‘Mrs Killigrew’, though I doubt this, given Douglas’s post above.
As Douglas notes, the portrait come from the Duke of Chandos from a sale in 1747. Note that the Chandos and the Killigrew families are connected: George Bridges, 6th Baron Chandos was the brother-in-law of the dissolute Henry Killigrew (son of the Thomas the dramatist mentioned in Pieter’s note who has traditionally been thought to be the sitter). This Henry was Groom of the Bedchamber to James Duke of York, and both he and the 6th Baron married daughters of John Savage, Second Earl Rivers. That this is indeed a portrait of Thomas Killigrew might have to be taken more seriously (and I think that having Urania in the background might not be out of keeping). Thomas’s brother, Henry, was certainly in Oxford in 1643. He was a military (naval?) chaplain, and preached before the King in 1643 (and published his sermon that is on EEBO).
We may be able to get further. First, most of the Killigrew family died out (as the history of the family in the link shows), but one became Admiral Henry Killigrew who died in 1712. He had a collection of pictures (including many by his sister, the artist and poet Anne Killigrew) and his collection was sold in a sale in 1727. I wonder if the sale records might also contain the Dobson? The sale famously had six of Henry’s sisters’ pictures.
Second, the Duchess of Chandos wife of the first Duke, also knew a ‘Mrs. Killigrew’, as she is mentioned in a letter to her from Letitia Cornwallis (spinster, sister of Cassandra, wife of Sir William More Molyneux). Importantly, this letter is from 1727 and states that “Good Mrs Killigrew is at her last gasp.” Sure enough, Anne Killigrew died in 1727 who was the youngest daughter and co-heiress of the ‘main branch’ of the family; of Sir Peter Killigrew, 2nd Baronet (1634–1705), heritor of the Peter Killigrew who was in Oxford with the King at the time Dobson was painting, and a candidate for this painting. She probably had the family pictures. She became the wife of Martin Lister (1666–1745), but under the terms of her father's will he adopted the additional surname of Killigrew, so she was still called Killigrew when she died. Their marriage was childless, ending this Killigrew line somewhat, although he died later, in 1745 (and wrote the family history that is in the link). So there is a chance that this portrait was either sold or bequeathed to the Chandos family by him. His Will would be one avenue.
Third, one of the son’s of Sir Henry Killigrew (erstwhile Ambassador to France, died 1602) was another Sir Henry Killigrew, and he commanded the Castle at the 5 month siege of Pendennia in 1646, and after surrendering, somehow got to St. Malo where he died very shortly after, of his wounds, in 1646. Being nautical, he is surely a candidate for this portrait (or perhaps his son, also called Henry, about which I know nothing).
Fourth, Sir Peter Killigrew (‘Peter the Post’, who passed messages from Charles I and the exiled Queen and Prince) married Mary Lucas, so his sister in law was an attendant of Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of King Charles I, with whom she went into exile in France. In 1644 she departed from his home from Pendennis Castle. Surely he would have been part of this expedition. Is the ship in our portrait a messenger ship? A ship of flight?
More questions, but hopefully some leads.

Douglas Quick,

Thanks James and Pieter this is all good.

The Chandos 1725 inventory does not show a Killigrew by Dobson so either the "Sr. Giles Bruges" (Sir Giles Brydges) by Dobson in the 1725 inventory was later redescribed or the Killgrew was bought by Chandos after 1725 - the Admiral Killigrew Sale in 1727 is certainly a very plausible suggestion. It might also explain why the painting was only described as "Killigrew" - it was bought as a very nice Dobson and was only thought to be some member of the Killigrew family from whose collection of family portraits it came. This of course still leaves open other identifications.

Lastly - does the NMM painting have any auction marks on the back? If as seems likely it went through one or more of the major auction houses after it left Frederick Say's collection there should be some indications which might allow completion of the missing modern provenance links.

NMM curatorial notes and database conservation entries suggest no distinguishing marks on the back, so it would have to come off the wall to be sure. Curious the 'Admiral Killigrew Sale' was as late as 1727: Admiral Henry Killigrew (b.circa 1652, son of Henry, clergyman and playwright, and nephew of Thomas the better-known playwright) died in November 1712, and his younger brother James, a naval captain was killed in 1695. I suppose it might have followed the Admiral's widow's death (Lucy, nee Jervoise: 3 sons, 3 daughters).

...and the only Sir Giles Brydges Dobson could have painted was the 1st Baronet (1573-1637), who was one of the Chandos cousinage but age precludes confusion with the present picture.

James Fairhead,

I was puzzled by that sale date. The Admiral's wife Lucy died in 1729 (from newspaper reports). I can find no record of the (picture) sale, bar the mention in George Verdure’s ‘Anecdotes’ of the pictures in it by Anne Killigrew. I’d not know how to look, but might the Royal Academy Archive be an option for the sale? It would surely be an interesting sale record to publish, given the interest now in Anne Killigrew’s pictures.
Quite a bit about Henry is found here:
The wills of Henry Killigrew (1712), Lucy Killigrew (1729) and Martin Killigrew (1745, last in line) might have something, and each is available on line for £3.50 each.
It may be that documents concerning the estate of Lucy Killigrew would too, but this would be a harder research task.

This case is similar to that of a copy of a Dobson portrait in our Christie Crawfurd bequest, which was also originally identified as Sir Charles Lucas but is clearly not him when compared to other portraits of him. It is in the Tate and has been subjected to a thorough scientific examination. It is now described as a "Portrait of an Officer" and we may never know his identity.
The portrait in question also bears little resemblance to Dobson's portrait of Lucas - moreover Lucas was not a Naval Officer. Both portraits bear a superficial similarity to Dobson's portrait of Col Richard Neville, which has also been identified as Lucas, but he was not a naval officer either.

Martin Hopkinson,

This may not be relevant - there is a connection between the Corsham collection and that of the Rev John Sanford [Mss at Corsham Court], who collected paintings primarily in Italy in the 1830s, and whose account book is in the Barber Institute. There was a Sanford sale, Christie, 9 March 1839

The collection is looking into the conservation files to see if they contain anything relevant. Viewing the back of the painting will be less easy, as it is hanging in the Queen's House, but they will check next time they perform a routine check on alarms. They will keep us posted.

The NMM paper conservation file has been checked and adds nothing to what's on the database notes: there is no note of markings on the back.

The only point so far omitted above from information in the Getty Sales Index is what it cost Sir Paul Methuen (as 'Mr Killigrew', lot 110) at the Duke of Chandos post-mortem sale by Cock on 7 May 1747 (Lugt 665) - which was either £10 15s or £10 5s.

(The Getty list also includes a half-length of Sir Charles Lucas sold by Cock on 17 May 1737 (Lugt 473) which may well be no. 43 in the NPG show of 1983-4 (private coll.) -though there only noted as 'presumably' the picture noted by Vertue. c.1740 in Lord Hardwicke's collection -but at least the dates fit. )

How do we know there was Admiral Henry Killigrew sale in 1727, between his death in 1712 and that of his widow in 1729) but of which there does not seem to be an obvious listing?

Douglas Quick,

George Vertue Notebooks II, Walpole Society Volume XX, p.58 - Vertue attended (at least the viewing) the Sale in December 1727 - he then lists a number of paintings in the catalog by Anne Killigrew which were sold at Admiral Killigrew's sale. This was part of his notes re Anne Killigrew and not a general description of the sale.

More generally, I have been giving this some further attention and excluding options.

In particular at this point I am assuming that it was not in the Chandos collection in 1725 as a result of its absence from the ST-83 Inventory which appears to have been very thorough. It is unlikely to have been misidentified as one of the other paintings shown as Dobsons. While it appears that the Sir Giles Brydges portrait is highly unlikely to have been a Dobson in the first place, a portrait of Sir Giles stayed with the family and was at Thornham Hall after the third Duke moved there (interestingly, but of no relevance to this discussion, Thornham had previously been owned by the descendants of Thomas Killigrew). What may well be the Dobson by Dobson, looks to have descended again through the family and ended up at Stowe where it was sold as Lot 13 on the 21st Day of the Sale in 1848.

As a result the “Mr. Killigrew” by Dobson would have entered the Chandos collection between 1725 and 1747.

Chandos was in significant retrenchment mode by that time and was thus making far fewer purchases.

As a result it may be instructive to check the possibility that it could entered the collection as a result of inheritance or marriage (or both if one of his wives inherited it). As well the first Duke had passed away in 1744 so it is possible that it could have been acquired by his son the second Duke and added to the 1747 sale although this seems less likely (possibly in exchange for family portraits which they wanted to keep in the family?).

I have also been working on the Killigrew family angle. I have downloaded and reviewed a number of Killigrew Wills (Thomas d. 1683, William d. 1695, Henry d.1712, Lucy d. 1729) none of which are of assistance at this point. The early history of the Killigrew family portraits (including the Van Dycks) seems unclear. It has been suggested that Sir Thomas Killigrew d. 1683, was the source for many of them but there is no reference to them in his Will. His own single portrait by Van Dyck, now at Weston Park was already out of his possession at his death – having been owned for some time previously by Sir Peter Lely and out of whose collection it was sold in 1682. Interestingly so was the lovely portrait of Thomas’ sister Anne – Mrs. Kirke.

I am currently pursuing some other Chandos angles.

Douglas Quick,

While continuing to investigate the source for the Chandos Killigrew by Dobson, I wanted to at least make another suggestion for the sitter. I recognise that these suggestions are speculative but at least serve to being together several otherwise disparate strands of information.

This relates to some extent to the iconography. It seems curious to me that at a time when the vast majority of the Dobson output had a specific military emphasis – armour, leather jackets, pistols and swords, the current sitter is in very fine civilian clothing with his right hand on an elegant sword and his left with a piece of paper. From a brief review of other portraits by Dobson I am not aware of the same combination in any other work. There are many accoutred for war – Colonel Richard Neville, Sir Charles Lucas, John, Baron Byron, and a few with a paper, Sir Richard Fanshawe and Sir Thomas Aylesbury.

As a possible solution I suggest that the meaning is the obvious one – a role which combines the sword and the pen. Working from the Fanshawe portrait the paper may mean that the sitter was a diplomat. However the sword and the ship and Urania elements might indicate a most unusual type of diplomat where it combines both a diplomatic and also a governance role with overseas trade. I believe that a good candidate for this might be the Ambassadorship to Constantinople (sometimes referred to as to Turkey”).

This was a particularly unusual posting and there was an active dispute between the King and the Levant Company as to who enjoyed the right to the appointment as well as the removal of the then current incumbent, Sir Sackville Crow. This dispute raged on through 1644-1646 and is discussed at length by Daniel Goffman in “Britons in the Ottoman Empire 1642-1660”.

The position was also a lucrative one. Charles was anxious to control the appointment both for reasons of sovereignty as well as possible revenue. The Levant Company wanted to maintain control themselves to protect their economic interests. Parliament was interested in over-riding Charles’ power for the same reasons.

It is worthwhile exploring the material provide by James re the Killigrew family and particularly Sir Peter Killigrew.
While it has always been stated that Charles’ nominee to replace Crow was Sir William Killigrew, there are indications that it was not as simple as that.

It is important to understand that at the Stuart Court there were two branches of the Killigrew family present – who were second cousins once removed. Both branches were descended from Sir John III Killigrew of Arwenack.

Sir William Killigrew, (1605-1695), of whom we have heard the most and who is given as the sitter in the Van Dyck portrait at the Tate, was descended from John III’s third and by far the youngest son, Sir WiIliiam Killigrew (1555-1622). Most importantly, his father was Sir Robert Killigrew (1580 - 1633) who held numerous important and highly lucrative posts under King James I. He also managed to obtain the governorship of Pendennis Castle, a traditional Killigrew family post. The much coveted position had been taken from Sir John V Killigrew (1567-1605) of the senior branch of the family due a failure to properly maintain it – much less as a result of his free-booting ways – a continuation of the alleged piracy of his father Sir John IV and his wife the notorious female pirate Mary Wolverston Killigrew.

Sir Robert achieved a grant to himself and his son Sir William by survivorship.

However Sir John VI Killigrew (1583-1633) subsequently attempted to revive their family fortunes – apparently through usefulness to the Duke of Buckingham. As Sir John was childless the beneficiaries were his brothers. Sir Peter Killigrew (1593?-1667) went to court and acted as a diplomatic courier to then Prince Charles during his famous trip to Madrid in 1623 to seek the hand of the Spanish Infanta. He obviously continued to enjoy the King’s favour as Charles intervened with Thomas Lucas in September 1625 to allow Peter Killigrew to marry his daughter Mary (the sister of Sir Charles Lucas and Margaret Lucas later the Marchioness and eventually Duchess of Newcastle). They married in October 1625. In fact Thomas Lucas died shortly before his daughter’s marriage. Shortly thereafter The King advised the Court of Wards to “show all possible favour” to the widow and mother of the underage heir “for Mr. Killigrew’s sake”. On November 17 1625 Peter Killigrew received a pension from the King of 200 pounds. This was rounded off when Sir Peter was knighted at Charles’ coronation in December 1625.
Subsequently during the Civil War he acted as a confidential courier between Parliament and Charles in negotiations for a settlement.

In short, he appears to have been liked and trusted by both the King and Parliament.

It is, therefore, of interest that Charles appears to have proposed him as a replacement for Crow as ambassador to Constantinople.

Goffman notes at p 84 that in May 1646 Crow had heard that Sir Peter Killigrew had been dispatched as “Ambassador-Designate” to replace him. While I have not yet been able to find documentary proof Goffman at p. 239 footnote 45 states that the King did indeed propose Peter Killigrew for the position.

However there appears evidence that Sir William Killigrew considered the post his and had appeared before the Directors of the Levant Company claiming that he had Charles’ commission (Goffman p.90). There is certainly documentary proof that Sir William had been promised the appointment but by exactly who is more difficult to determine. In May 1645 Lord Jermyn writing to Lord Digby (CSP 1644-1645 p513) says that he – ie Jermyn is determined to support Sir William. However this is as against Sir Richard Browne who Jermyn says has Parliament’s support. Jermyn was Sir William’s first cousin. In November the following year the Queen (quite possibly at Jermyn’s urging) wrote to Charles that there is an engagement for Sir William to have the post with Sir Richard Browne thereafter if Killigrew cannot get the Levant Company’s approval.

While it is possible that Goffman has confused the two Killigrew’s it seems at least as likely, that Charles had in fact proposed Sir Peter Killigrew (which was passed on to Sir Sackville Crow) but that as Crow’s removal dragged on, the Queen gave Jermyn assurances that Sir William could have the post and so wrote to Charles. Sir William then tried to force the issue by appearing before the Levant Company realising that if he could get their approval he would stand the best chance of getting the King to confirm the Queen’s promise.

In the event the Company refused and proposed a merchant candidate Edward Barnard instead and ultimately agreed on a compromise candidate Sir Thomas Bendish (c.1607–1674).

It certainly has the hallmarks of Charles’ usual disastrous policy of telling different people different things.

Could the Dobson portrait be Sir Peter Killigrew who had it painted after the King’s decision to appoint him only to be disappointed after interventions by the Queen in favour of Sir William?

If one accepts the proposition that it is a portrait of an ambassador to Constantinople / Turkey, then it could be any of Sir William Killigrew, Sir Peter Killigrew or Sir Thomas Bendish.

The sitter’s apparent age would favour would favour Sir William or Sir Thomas as they were both in their late thirties / early forties in 1645/46. However Sir William appears ruled out by comparison of the sitter’s appearance to the Tate portrait long said to represent Sir William. Sir Thomas only appears to have entered the picture late in 1646 and Dobson died on October 28, 1646 so the timelines are tight and would have need to have occurred after Dobson’s return to London in 1646.

The sitter’s apparent age works against Sir Peter who would have been in his early fifties if one accepts the usual birthdate. However he otherwise has much to recommend him.

I am not aware of any portraits or representations of either Sir Peter or Sir Thomas.

On a finishing note, there is a further linkage to Chandos if one follows this analysis. The first Duke of Chandos was the grandson of Sir Henry Barnard, “Turkey Merchant” who was very likely related to Edward Barnard. Sir Henry’s mercantile connections seem to have led to the appointment of his son-in-law James Brydges, 8th Lord Chandos, the first Duke’s father, as Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire in 1680. Indeed his portrait as Ambassador hangs today in the British embassy in Ankara.

Thanks very much for that fascinating suggestion, or rather series of them. The likeness is sufficently close to contemporary Killigrews to think the man might be 'of that ilk' and there must have been a reason his earliest known identity in Chandos hands was 'Mr Killigrew'. The other technical point I think we should double-check is that the ghostly ship is a now sunk surface feature, not a pentimento sketched in and then overpainted with a later layer that has become transparent : i.e. a man intended to sail, but who didn't.

J S,

apologies again, I see now that this sale has already been noted. I'll get my coat!

Jacob Simon,

This discussion, "Who is this Royalist naval commander painted by William Dobson (1611–1646)?" is about a very fine portrait at the National Maritime Museum.

It attracted a series of very well informed contributions in March 2019 and then tapered off, although the NMM website has been updated as a result with specific reference to this Art Detective discussion. The NMM website acknowledges that the portrait's identity remains uncertain, despite the richness of the discussion.

In the circumstances, four years later, has the time come to close the discussion as inconclusive, following the lead of the NMM website?

Marcie Doran,

While it's not my intention to delay the closing of this already lengthy discussion, I thought I'd post the results of my research in case something stands out as meriting further research.


James Fairhead, 08/03/2019 10:07, mentioned the portrait of Sir Charles Lucas by Dobson over the fireplace in the Library at Corsham House. That book from 1819, 'Walks Through Bath', also states on page 262 that two of the daughters of Sir Charles Lucas (d. 1648) married into the Methuen family. A work with the title 'Portrait of Thomas Killegrew, Jester to King Charles II', by Dobson, was in the Music Room (see item 89 on page 257).

Regarding Pieter's comment 08/03/2019 09:52, an image (attached) in the 'Sphere' of December 30, 1933, shows the portrait 'Sir Charles Lucas', "by William Dobson", that was loaned to the British Art Exhibition at Burlington House by Lord Methuen. It is similar to the portrait 'Colonel Richard Neville' by Dobson at the National Portrait Gallery

I wonder if any of the documents at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies on British Art in the category "Dobson, William, 1611-1646:'Papers' " would be helpful to this discussion Note especially the "letter from Bill (?), Christie's, dated 23 August 1951, concerning a portrait of Sir Charles Lucas by Dobson" and the "five letters from Lord Methuen, Corsham Court, dated October-November 1951, concerning an attribution".

And, I wonder if paintings of Neville, Lucas or Killegrew were in this 1850 inventory of the paintings of Corsham Court, Wiltshire, and 128 Park Street, Grosvenor Square, Middlesex.

Marcie, the painting mistakenly called 'Sir Charles Lucas' at Corsham in your attachment from the 'Sphere' (1933) is a version of Dobson's 'Col. Richard Neville', the prime one being that in the NPG since 1981 when purchased from his descendant Robin Neville.

Just going back to where we started on the NMM 'Royalist'. The earliest recorded information, reliable or not, is that the painting in question may have (not certainly did) come out of the Killigrew family. If so, its early 1640s date would make it coeval with the five (acc. ODNB) surviving sons of Sir Robert Killigrew (d. 1633) of whom the three known ones were the eldest, [Sir] William (1606-95) courtier and soldier, the playwright Thomas (1612-83, who was the fourth) and the Revd Henry (1613-1700), who was fifth and also a literary figure. The others were Robert (b. 1611 - d.o.d uncertain) and - if five survivors is correct - one other.

Both William and Thomas were painted by Van Dyck and our sitter - in feature and hair colouration - could reasonably pass as a brother of Thomas. William was certainly darker, though of similar head form, and fairly clearly not our man. But - as often observed here - 'likeness' of itself (including personal opinions 'pro' or 'contra') proves nothing and the evidence in the painting itself does not tie up with what we know of any of the five brothers beyond the fact that William (not a navigating man, which the pictorial attributes suggest) had a thwarted ambition to be ambassador to Constantinople . (Admiral Henry Killigrew, c.1652-1700, in whose ill-documented post-mortem sale it is unproveably reported to have first appeared was son of the Revd Henry.)

All one can therefore say (at boldest) is that while thought in the 18th century to be a member of the Killigrew family, and with some likeness to the two sons of Sir Robert of whom we have portraits - especially Thomas - who it is, and whether a Killigrew or not, remains elusive.


I am not as knowledgeable as those who have commented above but I am currently carrying out a personal study of this period and wonder of the sitter was Robert Rich, the 2nd Earl of Warwick. He commanded a privateering expedition in 1627 and in 1642 he was appointed Commander of the Fleet by Parliament. He also looks very much like the picture of Robert Rich by Van Dyck .

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Osmund Bullock,

Diane, the Van Dyck of Robert Rich, 2nd E. of Warwick (1587–1658), is at the Met in NY, and dated there to ca. 1632-35: Rich would have been about 45-48 years old, which seems about right – in any case it obviously cannot be after 1641 when the artist died.

Our unidentified sitter by Dobson is thought to be ca. 1643, and certainly cannot be before 1642 when the painter followed the royal court to Oxford (and remained there until 1646). The thinness of the paint layer, with the weave of the canvas clearly visible beneath, is a sure indicator of a portrait from Dobson’s Oxford period (thought to be because of a scarcity of materials) – his few surviving works from earlier years show a far more generous application of paint.

This leaves your suggestion with two insurmountable obstacles. (a) Our sitter of the early/mid-1640s looks much younger than Rich did even ten years earlier – the latter would have been about 56 in 1643, and our man is clearly nowhere near as old as that. And (b) anyone less likely to have been with the King in Oxford can hardly be imagined – after the monarch’s departure to the city from Whitehall, Rich’s always suspect loyalty rapidly dissolved, becoming (to quote the ODNB) “… one of the most active champions of the parliamentary cause”. He subsequently “… took a leading part in the parliamentarian war effort”, and in the summer of 1642, as the new commander of the English navy, was largely responsible for securing the fleet for parliament.

As it happens, I can’t agree that our sitter “looks very much like” Rich (as depicted by Van Dyck) either – apart from anything else, our man has blue/grey eyes, while Rich’s are shown as brown. But the circumstantial impossibility that it could be him means we don’t have to get into always vexed matters of comparative physiognomy.

Robert Rich is a significant figure but (agreeing with Osmund) mere mention of his name sets political warning lights flashing against any likely link with Dobson at Oxford. Rich - shown as of darker colouring too - was also painted by Mytens before Van Dyck superseded him in Charles I's favour. This one of 1632 is NMM BHC3080, acquired in 1949:

Though not for resolution here there is also a perhaps early Mytens studio version/copy (NMM BHC3081, Greenwich Hospital Collection) that appears to have come from Thomas Pelham, 2nd Earl of Chichester, in the 1820s.

I started this discussion in 2019 in the hope it might resolve a very longstanding mystery. Regrettably it remains one as to exact sitter identity, though traditionally a member of the Killigrew family (see my previous 'recap' of that at 14/02/2023 00:58), but has also re-aired the general evidence about the painting's history, which is summarised in the last paragraphs here:

As nothing more convincing has emerged, it's probably time to call a halt.

Louis Musgrove,

Before you close-might I suggest the possibility of our sitter being Capt John Burley. (Burleigh). One of the martyrs. Executed 1648. A momento mori that might explain the exceptional quality.There is a drawing of him in the NPG.

As far as I can see the NPG has only a well posthumous 1665 group print including Burley and a 19th c. one based on it (no 'drawing') and with no demonstrable connection here. Let's wrap this one up.

Just a footnote worth mentioning at slightly more length than in the NMM online entry (which is currently updating a little).

There is a fine H.P. Bone enamel miniature copy of this painting in the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore (WAM 38.99), which appears to be the one he exhibited at the RA in 1843 (no.1097). Bone's inscription on the back calls it 'Sir Charles Lucas' and says it was then in possession of 'F.R. Saye Esq.' (sic, assuming the Walters transcription is accurate).

The NMM entry follows the RA spelling of 'Say' in assuming this means the portrait painter, Frederick Richard Say (1804-68). While it might be someone else, the Walters spelling is the sole mention of an 'F.R. Saye' that appears on immediate web search and Bing AI immediately and apparently wrongly suggests a family connection with Fiennes clan as as Lords Saye and Sele - which is a cautionary note in itself!

The 1904 Graves listing also abbreviates the original 1843 RA entry, which in full reads 'Lieut. Charles Lucas, enamel, from the original by Dobson, in the possession of F. R. Say, Esq.; formerly in the Corsham House collection'. Both say 'Lieut.' not 'Sir'.

The curators at the Walters Art Museum kindly checked the inscription on the Bone enamel miniature copy. The 'Saye' spelling is a mistake and their online entry will be corrected to 'Say'. From phone snaps they sent which I can't post here - a pity since, of its sort, its just as good as the original and very finely framed - it looks like 'Lieut.' for 'Sir' in the 1843 RA catalogue was also a transcription error at the time.