Dress and Textiles, Portraits: British 16th and 17th C 49 Who might be the artist of this portrait and the sitter portrayed?

Topic: Other

Without further research and investigation, the best information for this painting as it stands is a 17th Century unknown lady painted by an unknown artist. The dress worn by the sitter is distinctly 17th century (1610-20). The turned down ruff, for example, is not seen till the 17th century and the waistline is higher than was seen up to 1610.

Elizabeth Chilver, Entry reviewed by Art UK


This portrait was previously attributed to Antonis Mor. It was also previously thought to be a member of the Boleyn family, possibly Mary Boleyn.

Jacinto Regalado,

It certainly looks Jacobean to early Caroline, and Mor is quite out of the question. It is stiffish and somewhat crude, thus not by a first rate hand (unless it's been mangled by poor restoration), but it is in the vein of late Paul Van Somer or earlyish Cornelius Johnson.

Whaley Turco,

That's a distinctly Anglo Saxon face if that helps with the last name. High Cheekbones and Narrow Chin are the dead giveaways. I don't find it as Crude as Jacinto. It's obviously a 2nd tier painter but the lace work is very nice and so is the cloth. The face has been quite nicely represented, yeah it's not the Mona LIsa.. lol.. But I would say it probably looked just like her. With the Left Hand being the most ambitious part of the painting. And he did a good JOB....

Sophie Grillet,

She certainly looks sad enough to be in mourning, but I don't know whether jewellery was worn by mourners. Could it be Anne Boleyn herself following her miscarriage of January 1536?

Elizabeth Chilver,

@Sophie Grillet
This is not Anne Boleyn - too late. This is a 17th century painting (c 1610 - 1620) of an unknown woman, which is around 80 years after Anne Boleyn or even Mary Boleyn.
She is not in mourning. "Mourning" was a specific form of dress in the 16th century that was solely worn during a funeral. The "modern" view of a "mourning" dress is a Victorian one (and even that was not as strictly observed as we might think).
This is simply an example of an elite woman in her daily dress, who we do not know and we do not know the artist either.

Lou Taylor, Dress and Textiles,

Looking at the turndown ruff- cuffs - hairstyle - high waist I would date this to c 1619-25- see comparative portraits. She is not in mourning dress as Elizabeth notes, though I disagree with her opinion that mourning dress was 'solely worn during a funeral'- see my book 'Mourning Dress, a Costume and Social Story;.. 1983 reprint 2012.

Luke Aaron,

I think this is a portrait of a daughter or granddaughter of Catherine Howard nee Carey, Countess of Nottingham, painted by Cornelius Johnson or from the studio of, or someone whose works are attributed as early works by him.

So I believe it is indeed a member of the Boleyn family, a great- or great-great-granddaughter of Mary Boleyn (and very possibly Henry VIII).

There aren’t enough portraits of the daughters or granddaughters to compare fully, and of the ones said to be of them it can’t be established with surety which is of which.

Images of two daughters, ‘Elizabeth Stewart nee Howard, Countess of Carrick, earlier Elizabeth Southwell’ and ‘Frances Fitzgerald nee Howard, Countess of Kildare, later Frances Brooke, Baroness Cobham,’ both show family resemblance to the sitter, and a penchant for lace cuffs and dark dresses.





http://www.tudorplace.com.ar/images/Howard,Frances{LPARENTHESES} CKildare).jpg

Elizabeth and her older daughters Elizabeth, Frances and Katherine were ladies in waiting and/or maids of honour of the Queen, Anne of Denmark, and involved in her funeral. Could this be painted after her funeral in 1619? (The dark veil…)

The c.1620 portrait of the youngest daughter of Elizabeth, ‘Lady Margaret Mennes nee Stewart,’ is by Cornelius Johnson, or attributed as such. The composition is almost identical to the unknown portrait, oval aside:



It’s size is also very similar, 29 x 24 inches vs 30 x 24.5. Are the sitter and Margaret Mennes mother and daughter, aunty and niece, or half-sisters or cousins, both painted by Cornelius Johnson and/or someone from his studio, or someone whose work is now said to be early works by CJ?

The style of the painting in question is also similar to the ‘Countess of Exeter’ c. 1620 portrait (in reality, probably one of the Countess of Exeter’s daughters) by ‘Cornelius Janssen van Ceulen’ (Cornelius Johnson) at the Milwaukee Art Museum:



The hair, ruff, lighting, pale white face and darker surrounds, are similar.

Thanks for reading.

Jacinto Regalado,

This is an early Cornelius Johnson (1620):


The quality is clearly superior to that of the picture under discussion, unless it has been damaged by restoration. However, style of Cornelius Johnson would be plausible.

Louis Musgrove,

Aha- another of the Ipswich collection I don't recall having ever seen. Acquired from M Maynard-I am guessing that is Marjorie Maynard , the daughter of Guy Maynard who was in charge of Ipswich Museum for a while.He died in 1968 and I know Marjorie slowly disposed of his art collection.So this is probably a good picture deserving of investigation. I see Ipswich have two other portraits associated with Antonis Mor, which look a different style- so perhaps thats how this attribution came about. The fingers of our sitter look longish,perhaps that's a halmark of the artist??

Luke Aaron,

RE. Cornelius Johnson, @ Jacinto Regalado, who says: “This is an early Cornelius Johnson (1620): https://bit.ly/2ZARMn4 The quality is clearly superior to that of the picture under discussion, unless it has been damaged by restoration. However, style of Cornelius Johnson would be plausible.”

Yes, but would you wait until you could paint that well before you started doing it professionally? Nor did he. Especially as all accounts state that he was in London working for a year or two before then. There are no 1618 or 19 portraits by Cornelius Johnson that are as accomplished as that. Earlier ones are less accomplished. As is the work in question.

I think it is unsafe to say the portrait is in the style of CJ. It is either almost certainly by him in an earlier style he had, or it is by someone else. It cannot be said it is ‘style of’ as how can it be in the style of someone whose style it doesn’t match and/or who hasn’t become a significant painter in London yet, unless he had, and this was like his earlier style, then if so, it may well actually be by him.

The 1618-19 style is more like late-Tudor portraiture, and he would have initially had a style more like that of the Netherlands he came out of. 1619-20 on, more heading towards Van Dyck eventually. It is said that Johnson could learn and vary his style as needed, even later imitating Van Dyck so much that some people think that some Van Dyck-attributed works are unsafe.

If the portrait under discussion is not by Cornelius Johnson, then every other early and unsigned work attributed to Cornelius Johnson is unsafe. That begs the question why wasn’t he working when he was in London in 1618 and 1619? If he was, what was he working on? Maybe on portraits in an earlier style that some people now don’t think were by him because it doesn’t match the style of a year later and he didn’t sign them.

It is entirely possible that he had an earlier style, and works he didn’t sign, then sometime in later 1619 his style advanced and he began signing his works also.

Anne of Denmark’s funeral, which I associate the work in question with, was on 13th May 1619. I suggest signing the front bottom-right corner on the oval began sometime in later 1619.

Either the early unsigned ones are not by him, and a lot of museums, galleries and collections need to be informed, or they are.

A possible timeline of works, with style advancing:

Early unsigned:

John Milton, after Cornelius Johnson, 1618

The Countess of Exeter, c. 1620, Cornelius Janssen van Ceulen. Style similar to the work in question.

The work in question, that I say is 1619.

Lady Margaret Mennes, c. 1620, attributed to Cornelius Johnson. Composition almost identical to the work in question.

Then the signed works begin:

Portrait of a Woman by Cornelius Janssen van Ceulen, 1619 https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/2a/Portrait_of_a_Woman_by_Cornelius_Janssen_van_Ceulen,_1619_-_Cleveland_Museum_of_Art_-_DSC08862.JPG

Portrait of a Woman, Traditionally Identified as the Countess of Arundel, Cornelius Johnson, 1619

Sir Alexander Temple, Cornelius Johnson, 1920 https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f5/Cornelius_Johnson_-_Sir_Alexander_Temple_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

Portrait of Susanna Temple, Later Lady Lister Cornelius Johnson, 1620

Luke Aaron,

It is more accurate to say the work in question is in the style of Paul van Somer, as in this famous ‘Francis Bacon, Baron Verulam, Viscount St. Alban,’ portrait, 1617:

The colour and light on the face, the ruff, similar.

Maybe Cornelius Johnson started signing the works when he felt he wasn’t imitating any more and had a name of his own. The ovals are obviously something van Somer didn’t do. If he was imitating van Somer people may have wanted to pass the work off as a van Somer, so wouldn’t want his signature on. That happened again with him later, as people wanted to pass their CJ van-Dyck-alike portraits off as Van Dycks.

Jacinto Regalado,

The picture has probably been damaged by attempted restoration, in my opinion, but in any case I am not an expert on Johnson. The matter should be addressed by someone with greater expertise in this area, such as Group Leader Bendor Grosvenor.

Louis Musgrove,

The thing is all the Cornelius Johnson portraits cited have rosy cheeks and no hands visible.
I have been searching for a pale face and appalingly painted hands, and have come across William Larkin- who was Court painter between 1610 and 1619.Many examples of his work are easily findable.
A possibility????

Jacinto Regalado,

Based on the dazzling group of portraits attributed to Larkin at Kenwood House, he was a very fine painter for his period. This is a different sort of picture, and probably a little later than his work (but again, regardless of who painted it, it looks altered after the fact).

Luke Aaron,

This is the sitter, or a very close relative of the sitter, in another portrait:

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/44/Alathea_Talbot_{LPARENTHESES} Ingestre_Hall_Residential_Arts_Centre).jpg


They look very close, and are wearing a same or very similar earring in both.

I think the work in question and the one at Ingestre are both of ‘Brighid Nic Gearailt, Brighid Chill Dara, Lady Bridget Barnewall, Viscountess Kingsland, earlier Bridget O'Donnell, Countess of Tyrconnell.’ Daughter of Henry FitzGerald, 12th Earl of Kildare and Lady Frances Howard, daughter of the Earl of Nottingham. A notable Irish Gaelic poetess of which no previous likenesses are known.

The portrait at Ingestre Hall Residential Arts Centre is named as ‘Alathea Talbot (c.1590–1654), Countess of Arundel and Surrey’ by British (English) School, 1619’ but that is wrong.

James Innes-Mulraine tackles this portrait, calling her “a lady formerly called Lady Alathea Talbot Countess of Arundel at Ingestre. By comparison with the contemporary portraits by Daniel Mytens (Arundel Castle and NPG) we can agree that it is probably not Lady Arundel…”


Indeed, these are the real Alathea, Countess of Arundel:



https://www.meisterdrucke.uk/kunstwerke/500px/Daniel_Mytens_-_Double_Portrait_of_Thomas_Howard_14th_Collector_Earl_of_Arundel_and_his_wife_Ale_-_{LPARENTHESES} MeisterDrucke-227891).jpg


Mulraine suggests the sitter is a possibly Catholic or Catholic sympathiser, by analyzing the jewellery. ‘Frances Fitzgerald nee Howard, Countess of Kildare, later Frances Brooke, Baroness Cobham’ was herself no stranger to Catholic-related controversy—her husband was implicated in the ‘Bye Plot’ and ‘Main Plot’ against James I, the object of which was supposedly religious toleration of Catholics and Puritans. It is not far-fetched to suggest her or a daughter of her were Catholics or heavily Catholic-sympathising, especially as they lived in Ireland.

Going on the dates on the Ingestre portrait: Aetat 32, 1619, the sitter was born in 1586 or 87.

The Howard daughters, ‘Elizabeth Stewart nee Howard, Countess of Carrick, earlier Elizabeth Southwell’ and ‘Frances Fitzgerald nee Howard, Countess of Kildare, later Frances Brooke, Baroness Cobham’ are too old.

It is one of their daughters.

Of the daughters of Elizabeth:

Elizabeth Southwell is born in ‘about 1586’ and was the mistress of Sir Robert Dudley, illegitimate son of Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester, and they eloped in 1605 and became Roman Catholics in France. By 1613 were in Florence. It COULD be Elizabeth Southwell, but did she come to England? She had thirteen children, and died in Italy in 1631. Probably not.

Catherine, next oldest daughter, was reportedly born around 1600, so it’s not her.

Daughters of Frances Howard:

Bridget O'Donnell nee Fitzgerald, Countess of Tyrconnell and wife of Prince Rory O'Donnell, last King of Tyrconnell and 1st Earl of Tyrconnell, later Viscountess Barnewall of Kingsland, from 1616 wife of Nicholas Barnewall, 1st Viscount Barnewall, was born ‘c. 1589.’

Second daughter Elizabeth Plunkett nee Fitgerald, Countess of Fingal, died in 1611. So not her.

So I think it is Brighid Nic Gearailt, Brighid Chill Dara, Lady Bridget Barnewall, Viscountess Kingsland, nee Fitzgerald, earlier Bridget O'Donnell, Countess of Tyrconnell. Daughter of Henry FitzGerald, 12th Earl of Kildare and Lady Frances Howard, daughter of the Earl of Nottingham.

She is said to be ‘beautiful’ in the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica entry for Rory O'Donnell, her first husband who left Ireland in the Flight of the Earls—a significant moment in Irish history at the time.


She is a known poetess. Only one poem survives. It’s in Gaelic, ‘Response to Eochaidh O hEodhasa’s poem,’ in the last lines she says: “My surname will not be heard, until yesterday comes again; my forename, all my know, is shared by a saint in Heaven.”

Maybe her likeness, too, may now be known again.

She lived on the FitzGerald estates in Kildare until 1619, after which, in England. Both portraits of her are from 1619.

She would have been 32-ish in the portrait in question, using the Ingestre portrait as a guide. So I think the age on the Ingestre portrait shows that Brighid Nic Gearailt was born in 1586 or 87, not c. 1589 or 90 as commonly stated.

@ Louis Musgrove, regarding the hand: this portrait attributed to Robert Peake certainly piques my interest:

http://www.historicalportraits.com/ArtWorkImages/Peake Mary Darrel high res MN572 l.jpg


Exact same composition as the work in question. Awkward left hand with elongated fingers also. Size almost exactly the same also 31 x 24.5 inches this, vs 30 x 24.5 for the unknown portrait.

It is entirely possible CJ was trying to copy the style of certain aspects of William Larkin also before he advanced out of it then started signing his works.

Therefore I suggest a style transition for Cornelius Johnson:

From the artwork in question…

To here:
http://www.historicalportraits.com/ArtWorkImages/Peake Mary Darrel high res MN572 l.jpg

To here:

If we accept the last one, signed by Cornelius Johnson, is by Cornelius Johnson, then the second one can also clearly be by Cornelius Johnson—see the hair, the head, the face—and it has a dodgy hand. And the painting in question, whose composition (sitter position, angle, lighting, framing, size, etc) is virtually identical to the second work, also has a dodgy hand.

I think we can see progression in the works of Cornelius Johnson, from a style more of emulating others, into one more recognisably his, when he starts signing them.

Therefore, I think the work under discussion is of Brighid Nic Gearailt, Brighid Chill Dara, Lady Bridget Barnewall, Viscountess Kingsland, nee Fitzgerald, earlier Bridget O'Donnell, Countess of Tyrconnell. Daughter of Henry FitzGerald, 12th Earl of Kildare and Lady Frances Howard, daughter of the Earl of Nottingham. Poetess. Born 1686 or 87 according to the Ingestre portrait, previously stated to be born c. 1689 or 90. Great-great-granddaughter of Mary Boleyn and possibility Henry VIII. Probably painted by Cornelius Johnson in his early-1619 style, possibly after the death or funeral of Anne of Denmark, queen consort of England, Scotland and Ireland, 2nd March (death)--13th May 1619 (funeral).

If so, it is amazing to have identified two portraits of this poetess and notable figure in Irish history when none were previously known.

Luke Aaron,

Apologies -- I mean born 1586 or 87, not 1686 or 87. It's always the numbers that get me in the end. Please forgive. The artwork, I can handle, just not the dates.

Tim Williams,

This is almost certainly not a painting by Cornelius Johnson. And whilst I admire you tenacity and research Luke, vague or even strong similarities between sitters features is unlikely to identify this lady because all portraits in this period looked very similar.

I would say it was a provincial artist - someone like Souch, Larkin, Gilbert Jackson etc, (and there are others completely lost to history) it also appears to be heavily overpainted due to previous damages - there must be 5-10 splits to the panel all of which have been restored in the past. It looks like the face has been completely overpainted giving it a sort of Victorian medieval revival appearance, so it's a difficult picture to get to grips with.

I think you would need to uncover some identifying symbolism within the painting (jewellery etc, though I can't see anything that would help), find another version of this exact painting, or rigorously inspect it first had to see if there may have once been an inscription giving the sitter's age at the time of the sitting.

It might help to find out who the previous owner M. Maynard was and where they bought it.

Luke Aaron,

@Tim Williams. Thanks for suggesting ‘we can’t identify a sitter by facial features, or by the art at all, have you tried looking on the back for a name?’ or to that effect. If you’d have come in and said that earlier, it would have saved a lot of typing. In fact, using that argument, why is this website even in existence?

It would be helpful if you could show me any portrait of the time or any time where the sitter’s facial features and earring look as much alike to this and the Ingestre portrait as they do to each other. Please, show me one. Just one.

You said all portraits of the period look alike, ok, show me it.

Look at the philtrum. (That’s the bit in the middle of the upper lip, under the nose).

Look at the lines where the light hits the sides of the bridge of the nose.

Did they overpaint it using this other portrait as a reference? Or might they perchance be of the same person?

If it’s too small for you to see, find the biggest version you can online, save the image on to your computer, and the same with the image in question, then open them and zoom in closer and directly compare. That’s what I did. Sorry if I did wrong by actually looking at the artworks.

Those two portrait sitters are the same person, and they both also have family resemblance to the Howard ladies also, as previously shown – her mother and aunt.

Many portraits of Anne of Denmark look much, much, much more dissimilar from each other in the facial features than these two do to each other, and they are all of Anne of Denmark, and she was the most recognisable woman of the time in England.

So much for all portraits of the period looking alike.

I am not too worried about the artist—but then, I haven’t been able to take your advice and look for his name on the back. So how can I know? Visual reasoning obviously won’t cut it.

It does look like other pre-signature works attributed to CJ, so if we can’t know about this, if it is “almost certainly not a painting by Cornelius Johnson” then please email all the museums and collections and give them the bad news. They’d probably all say – “Why didn’t you tell us this sooner? Where have you been all our lives?”

I’m just working with what I’ve got. I don’t believe almost exactly similar composition (sitter position, angle, lighting, framing, size) can be dismissed easily. Odds against far too great.

Please show me another work of the time definitely by another artist, where the composition is alike to this work in question and the others I have shown where the composition is so alike to it. You can’t.

I think these all came out of the same place, and the style in that place changed over time. It could have been one artist, new to London, developing over time.

I don’t think art historians or others in the industry generally have high visual aesthetics perception, cognition, appreciation. It is so book-learning and rote-learning heavy, and essays and dissertations to get qualifications, and rote agreeing with earlier people and with gatekeepers brings rewards, or else are technicians, ‘look on the back of it’ or ‘scan it with a machine’ that any high-visual creative perception people are weeded out or would just never enter the field anyway. There’s an inverse correlation between both those types of people, which are high trait contentiousness I’d say, with the barriers to entry and acceptance and success, the gatekeeping, vs high trait openess/creativity/aesthetics people. I’m not the first to realize it.

High trait conscientiousness is directly correlated with success in life, but… in art perception…not necessarily. It is a literal fact to say that not everyone sees the same thing, when looking at the thing, so no point in arguing about that. Like they say about when you read a poem, the poem also reads you.

Her age was around 32, I believe. She’s the lady in the Ingestre portrait, same face, same earring.


https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/44/Alathea_Talbot_{LPARENTHESES} Ingestre_Hall_Residential_Arts_Centre).jpg

A famous poet, Brighid Nic Gearailt, great-great-granddaughter of Mary Boleyn and Henry VIII.

Early-to-mid-1619-ish, I believe. I could be wrong, I’m just trying my best. Forgive any impudence.

Luke Aaron,

Victory! I guess learning the hard way is better than not learning at all.

Luke Aaron,

Her sister, Elizabeth Plunkett nee Fitgerald, Countess of Fingal, at the time of her child marriage?:




The ‘Portrait of a young girl’ attributed to Paul van Somer could well be Bridget when young or her sister Elizabeth Plunkett nee Fitgerald, Countess of Fingal, or maybe her cousin Catherine Verney nee Southwell.

Elizabeth Plunkett nee Fitgerald, Countess of Fingal, was a child bride, so perhaps the painting is thus connected to the marriage.

She is sometimes listed as being ‘Elizabeth Plunkett nee O’Donnell, Countess of Fingal,’ the daughter of Lady Bridget Fitzgerald (the lady in question) and Rory O’Donnell instead of her sister. There is some confusion which she was. Sadly she died young.

I worked this all out by looking at faces, clothing, fans people are holding, and artworks. It’ll never catch on.

The young girl's mother?:

The young girl's sister? Or mother?

That line of shadow, inside from the nose toward the eye. It’s a distinctive facial feature. Both the Ingestre portrait and Paul van Somer’s ‘Portrait of a young girl’ have it so similarly. They are either closely related, or the same person. I detected it by using my distinctive spherical facial features.

Luke Aaron,

Indeed, shall do. Will rein it in. In defence, I see the line 'Please support your comments with evidence or arguments' below the comment box, so I have done that. I would hope others can give evidence and arguments.

Luke Aaron,

To give a bit of possible cultural/historical context to the sitter:

RE. Brighid Nic Gearailt, it is staggering to think that she was essentially the last Irish Queen, her first husband the last King of Thir Chonaill, she may have been viewed as such by those who didn’t accept submission to James I. And descended on her mother’s side from Henry VIII, the great tyrant.

To find two portaits of her, when there were none before, would be quite a thing.

Luke Aaron,

Irish government may want to purchase.

Louis Musgrove,

Tim Williams- I have already mentioned who Marjorie Maynard and her father were-above 22-02/12.42pm
Luke- that reference to Robert Peake-yes the hand is very similar-Hmn! and also to me the face could be a younger version of our sitter here,-paintings of this age do look very similar!.Peake was also a court artist till about 1616,- along with Critz and Gheeraerts .

Tim Williams,

Sorry Louis, I didn't mean to overlook your good work, just the thread was hard to digest, and I didn't see it.

Luke, I wasn't trying to start an argument or belittle you - I was just trying to direct your valiant efforts in the direction of evidence based research. I've been down the circumstantial path many times before and it generally leads nowhere. Mortifying suggestions I proposed ten years ago are fine examples of this. My route into art history is nothing like you imagine, I was half decent art student, better musician, and am still highly disorganised! But we should stick to the topic...

Luke Aaron,

@Tim Williams. Yes, apologies from me. Regarding the works, the ladies are the same person. The works with the same composition were out of the same place, almost certainly. Both points cannot be dismissed out of hand. I’ve said what I wanted to say, above in earlier posts, already anyway.

@Louise Musgrove. Yes, so if Peake was the court painter, our guy could be painting in the style of him initially.

I think the composition --the framing, size in frame, angle, lighting, etc--are crucial. An artist’s style can advance, get better, stop imitating, or stop imitating one and start imitating another, but no-one would mimic the exact same composition of someone else when there’s no point, and so much variation in composition elsewhere. I think the composition is a house style at that time, in that place. I think it’s early Cornelius Johnson.

I have discovered a previous unidentified portrait of Lady Mary Wroth by the same painter also – same composition, and a dodgy hand:



Previously called ‘Circle of Robert Peake the Elder Portrait of a Lady Wearing a Patch.’ It is said to be c. 1619-21. It’s is said to be ‘with Strachan Fine Art, London, from 2016.’

It is her, see portraits of her:



Lady Mary Wroth was a famous poet, as was Brighid Nic Gearailt. I think they were friends. James Multraine was discussing Mary Wroth when he was asking who the sitter in the Ingestre portrait was, due to the location, and discussed another one that I think is Mary Wroth:


So this discovery of the new Mary Wroth painting by me would be a second connection between the two famous poetesses in terms of paintings. Two that James Mulraine was looking at, one of each lady, and two from the same artist, one of which is the artist in question here.

We would like to thank all who have contributed to this discussion for very interesting points over costume, style and attribution. Unfortunately being unable to access object history files and the painting due to lock down means we can not provide additional images of the back at the moment. This might help clarify some of the discussion but for now it seems to have gone as far as it can.
Hopefully we can send images in the near future and once again thank you so much for all the information.

Howard Jones,

Two additional descendants of Mary Boleyn were the Essex girls, the sisters of the doomed 2nd Earl. The younger sister Dorothy Devereux married Henry Percy the Wizard Earl of Northumberland, while the elder sister Lady Penelope born a year before Shakespeare, dazzled society with her beauty and elegance. A musical patron, the muse for almost every Elizabethen poet, a superb dancer and singer, and a serious political schemer this Lady was multi talented but her most striking attribute was her astonishing beauty. Some might have known Penelope as the ‘secret’ heroine of Sir Philip Sidney’s poem Stella and Astrophel. Her beauty was of such renown that her portraits were circulated to foreign monarchs including Henri III King of France and King James VI in Scotland.

There is a double portrait painting of both Devereux sisters in the art collection at Lord Bath’s Longleat House. But there is another portrait of Penelope Devereux, lost for centuries, circulating on Pinterest web sites where it has been incorrectly tagged as the French beauty Marie de Cleves the love interest and close companion of Henri III of France.

This lost painting was acquired in about 1960 for the collection of the Bowes family in the USA and later moved into storage in an American Museum. Unfortunately no European provenance has survived. Comparing the lady in the Bowes’ picture with the elder sister in the Longleat portrait we clearly get a match. She could be wearing the same dress and the jeweled circlets in her hair are almost identical. The Bowes’ portrait also matches the detailed description of Stella provided by Sir Philip Sidney in his epic poem.

This painting would have been an ideal subject for an Art Detective investigation if only it had been kept in an English Museum, but it should still be of special interest for the study of Sidney’s works. This Elizabethan beauty may also have proved to be an inspiration for the playwrights Christopher Marlow and Ben Jonson. We know that in 1604, as an actress, Lady Rich appeared as the ‘blacked up’ goddess Ocyte for Jonson’s play the ‘Masque of Blackness’.

The name and nationality of the painting’s artist remain unknown. Penelope’s widowed mother Lettice Knollys had remarried the Earl of Leicester Queen Elizabeth’s long standing favourite. Leicester was a great patron of ‘selfies’ and renaissance style paintings and this portrait of his step daughter appears to have been made by an artist familiar with Italian techniques. Maybe a modern 16th century Art Detective expert can recognise the painter’s work. Whatever his name he had created the most beautiful likeness since the portrayal of Nefertiti Queen of ancient Egypt.




Returning to the Colchester and Ipswich painting it appears that although both the Devereux sisters qualify as great grand daughters of Mary Boleyn they can both be discounted in the search for the sitter for this Art UK investigation.

Luke Aaron,

@ Howard Jones. Thank you, Howard.

The jewellery of the pearl on the head in the two Penelope Devereux portraits is very similar to that in my newly-discovered Mary Wroth portrait:


and James Mulraine’s:


Mary Wroth was Philip Sidney’s niece, and was a poet also.

All these people would have known each other, but Penelope was a generation older. Bridget Fitzgerald, Mary Wroth and Penelope Deveraux all had connections to poetry, to court, to or as ladies in waiting of EI and/or Anne of Denmark, were distantly related to each other, and all were descended from people who fought or ruled in Ireland as aristocracy or Lord Deputies/Lord Lieutenants over the same period. I think their husbands, fathers, grandfathers would have known each other all too well in Ireland. It’s like a catalogue or famous names in association Tudor Ireland mixed with those fashionable in Tudor England at the time.

Howard Jones,

Penshurst Place the home of Mary Wroth's father Robert Sidney became almost a second home for Ben Jonson. Mary Wroth and Penelope Devereux/Rich both had parts as actresses in Ben Jonson's 'Masque of Blackness'.

In the the portrait of Robert Sidney tagged by Luke above, Robert Sidney (later the Earl of Leicester) appears to be shown wearing a sling across his chest. Is it known whether his left arm was badly wounded in battle?


I believe there is another picture of an unknown man which might also be of Robert clearly showing a sling supporting the left arm. I will see if I can locate it.

Luke Aaron,

@ Howard Jones Thanks for that Howard. Here is a man with a sling, I think it’s a fashion thing. Thomas Holte, 1st Baronet of Aston Hall:

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:British_School_-_Sir_Thomas_Holte_{LPARENTHESES} c.1571–1654),_1st_Bt_of_Aston_Hall_-_1885P3184_-_Birmingham_Museums_Trust.jpg

Here is his son, Edward Holt, in a portrait by ‘Cornelius Johnson’ says Artuk.org:


So similar to all the others I’ve pointed out above – the composition and framing, the hand a little awkward but getting better. Style more evolved.

Here is Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton wearing a sling:



He was certainly connected to the highest poetry circles, if you know what I mean.

Here is something supposed to be of him, attributed to John De Critz the Eldar:



But I don’t think it’s by John De Critz the Elder or that this is Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton aged 17 in 1590, as the collection suggests. I think it’s his son James Wriothesley, Lord Wriothesley at 14 in 1619 or 18, painted by my guy.

Do the black string/lace/fabric ties show mourning? If so, for Anne of Denmark in early-mid 1619?

My Mary Wroth portrait has them, too:


As does my Bridget Fitzgerald portrait at Ingestre—hanging from the ears:


Luke Aaron,

To summarize regarding this portrait, for ease, everything I have to say:

1. If Cornelius Johnson can imitate van Dyck later he can imitate someone else earlier. No-one can say “this is clearly not by him.”

2. If the artist did his work right, we might never know who it is by. If CJ can imitate people, when he didn’t sign things we probably won’t know who it’s by, as that’s the point.

3. This Ipswich portrait is very similar to other works attributed to early Cornelius Johnson.

4. If this portrait is proven to not be by CJ then many other portraits attributed to early CJ are not by him either, as they are by the person who painted this and not CJ.

5. The composition of this Ipswich portrait is almost identical to other works attributed to CJ, including signed works (see the size, positioning, angle, lighting, a hand more poorly painted).

6. You can see a progression of the painting style, he may well only have started using the ovals and signing them at a certain point (mid or late 1619?).

7. The sitter is the same person as in the Ingestre portrait, 1619, which is associated with the Arundels, Talbots and Mary Wroth.

8. Mary Wroth was a poetess and so was Bridget Fitzgerald who came to live in England in 1619. Mary Wroth and the Countess of Arundel and people they knew were a large circle of aristocracy, fashionable people, poets and patrons of poets.

9. From early-mid Tudor times onward expensive portraits were recognizable likenesses, even if they have an ‘Instagram filter’ on. Expensive likenesses are likenesses.

10. The Ipswich and Ingestre sitter has overwhelming likeness to the ‘Howard ladies’—Elizabeth and Frances, who were the daughters of Katherine Howard nee Carey, Countess of Nottingham, Elizabeth 1st’s closest friend in her latter years and her half-niece and half-cousin-once-removed.

11. Using the dates of these ladies and their daughters, the sitter is Bridget Fitzgerald, daughter of Frances Howard.

12. Other portraits associated with the Ingestre portrait sitter have ermine motifs and red and white colour schemes. These are referencing the arms of Barnwell/Barnewell. From her second marriage Bridget was Lady Bridget Barnewall, Viscountess Kingsland.

13. I think the pregnancy portrait that James Mulraine has on his site is the sitter, Bridget, with pregnancy weight gain on her face. She has a red and white dress with ermine motifs.

14. Therefore the work under discussion is of ‘Bridget Fitzgerald,’ Brighid Nic Gearailt, Brighid Chill Dara, Lady Bridget Barnewall, Viscountess Kingsland, nee Fitzgerald, earlier Bridget O'Donnell, Countess of Tyrconnell. Daughter of Henry FitzGerald, 12th Earl of Kildare and Lady Frances Howard, daughter of the Earl of Nottingham. Poetess. Born 1586 or 87 according to the Ingestre portrait, previously stated to be born c. 1689 or 90. Great-great-granddaughter of Mary Boleyn and Henry VIII. Probably painted by Cornelius Johnson in his early-1619 style, possibly after the death or funeral of Anne of Denmark, queen consort of England, Scotland and Ireland, 2nd March (death)--13th May 1619 (funeral).

15. Bridget Fitzgerald was the last Irish Queen in Gaelic Irish culture, her first husband Rory O’Donnell, the last King of Tyconnell. Irish Gaels who didn’t accept James I wouldn’t have accepted that Rory O’Donnell was ‘Earl of Tyrconnell’ under James. It is possible that Rory didn’t accept, gave lipservice. He later left Ireland in the Flight of the Earls—the end of the old Gaelic ruling order.

16. Three newly discovered and identified portraits of the last Queen in Ireland, last Irish Queen, last Gaelic Queen, last Gaelic royal, Queen of Tyrconnell, who was also a famous Gaelic poetess of the time, are very significant to Ireland and the government or a major museum or foundation there or in the US will probably want to buy one or all of them then display with fanfare. This will undoubtedly make the news, and thrill people. You’re welcome.

Luke Aaron,

I have discovered a portrait of the sitter’s mother near the end of her life by Anthony van Dyck.

As people seem to go mad for Van Dycks, maybe it’ll get someone’s heart pumping.

Our sitter: Bridget O’Donnell/Barnewell, nee Fitzgerald:


Also the sitter:



Her mother: Frances Brooke, Lady Kildare, Baroness Cobham, earlier Frances Fitzgerald nee Howard, Countess of Kildare:

When younger:



When older:




It is stunning to see a woman who was a Lady of the Privy Chamber to Elizabeth I when young, now an older woman painted by Van Dyck. That’s history alive right in front of your face.

She was a great-granddaughter of Henry VIII and Mary Boleyn and a daughter of the Lord High Admiral who commanded the victory over the Spanish Armada. Her mother was Elizabeth’s Chief Lady and closest friend in the later years.

She became a Lady of the Privy Chamber to Queen Anne and the governess of Princess Elizabeth, future Queen of Bohemia.

Her daughter was the last Gaelic Irish Queen, last Queen of Tyrconnell.


Jacob Simon,

Luke is right (24 February 2021), "I think it is unsafe to say the portrait is in the style of CJ. It is either almost certainly by him in an earlier style he had, or it is by someone else." In fact, it is quite clear on stylistic grounds that the portrait is not by Cornelius Johnson.

Luke's identification of the sitter (24 March 2021) is not really readily supportable from the evidence, nice though it would have been. A jump too far with a portrait where there is little to help us.

Jacinto Regalado,

Jacob, at least to my mind, the "style of painter X" designation implies the picture is not by painter X but by someone else, typically a lesser hand, following or resembling the style of X. It is clearly different from "attributed to" painter X, which implies the work could be autograph painter X. I do not mean to instruct you, which would be presumptuous, but rather to explain my thinking.

Jacob Simon,

I agree with your helpful analysis, Jacinto. All I'm saying is that in my opinion this portrait is not by CJ, nor is it style of CJ. These early portraits are tricky.

Luke Aaron,

It is indeed difficult, my very thoughts, as I detailed https://www.artuk.org/artdetective/discussions/discussions/is-this-portrait-by-cornelius-johnson-if-not-anne-of-denmark-who-is-the-sitter if an artist didn’t want you to know who painted it, as he was imitating more prestigious painters, do you really think you can do better than the artist? Really?

However, analysis of the materials used, wood, paint, canvas, anything, might show a consistency to one artist or studio vs another, over time.

Jacob, it is not clear that it is not CJ. You are supposed to give evidence and arguments here, not just state things, wrongly.

You have no idea what CJ painted like in earliest days before he signed them. It is almost exactly like others attributed to CJ and in a progression straight into those he signed.

If you cant live with the finish being him, then it is a CJ that was studio-of CJ finished by someone else, or was overpainted, or a later copy. Therefore certainly ‘After-an-earlier-style-of-CJ.’

It is more likely that the same place, same studio or artist kept the compositional style the same (angle, size, placement, lighting, etc) and evolved their painting style, than CJ and another unknown painter had the exact same compositional style for no good reason, when no-one else did.

A CJ with an overpainted face and hand is a CJ with an overpainted face and hand.

If the work is “clearly not by CJ,” or after his style, you’d better tell the NPG:


You know the people who said that work was CJ or after-CJ at the NPG and who signed off on it from above, but you didn’t pipe up then, what’s changed now?

Consistency would be a start. If you believe what you say, why don’t you go through the NPG and redo attribution? Start a little closer to home please.

This portrait of Sir Robert Bruce Cotton at the NPG, attributed to ‘CJ’ or ‘after CJ’ is interesting. Why can’t they date this? It would be helpful. Is it an original, from what date? Or an original overpainted? What dates? Or a later copy?

It says “17th-19th century, based on a work of 1629.” How do we know this?

Could our work be similar? So essentially we are both right? The similarities to CJ are not by accident, but it wasn’t his hand who finished it?

The composition of this Sir Robert Bruce Cotton portrait is exactly the same as the work in question, and the ruff the closest I’ve seen. It is almost exactly the same size as the work in question also, 762 mm x 635 mm vs 760mm x 620 mm.

And this work is called Cornelius Johnson or after- Cornelius Johnson by the National Portrait Gallery, no less. You’ve probably heard of them.

If the person who identified that were to read all this talk, they’d agree with me. So I am not exactly without friends.

As I’ve said before, the composition is exactly like early CJs, including signed ones.

A generous interpretation would be that CJ was copying this artist’s composition, whoever it was—but why? There is no reason. Prestigious Peake’s or van Somers are not in this composition.

It is more likely that it is CJ’s composition choice, as shows consistency into his signed works. In the years before his more mature CJ style, and before he started signing, he was painting something, trust me. So, what?

Isn’t it likely CJ was in the studio or circle of RP, or painted after his style, then evolved his style then started signing then, then later changed again toward Anthony Van Dyck?

Or alternatively a whole raft of early work attributed to CJ before he started signing are not him, but why then is there stylistic consistency into his signed works?

It’s like Ground Hog Day, I’ve said this before, and showed evidence, earlier above in this comment train.

As I’ve already said, if this is Bridget Fitzgerald by CJ, her cousin Margaret Stuart Mennes has a portrait attributed to CJ, in an oval, almost exactly the same size and composition, and then compare that to a signed CJ oval:

Our sitter:


Margaret Stuart Mennes:


Signed CJ oval (this is not the Countess of Arundel, it is a Barnwell/Barnewell, one of Bridget’s in-laws from her second marriage, the ermine and red and white is from the arms of Barnewell):

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornelius_Johnson_{LPARENTHESES} artist)#/media/File:Cornelius_Johnson_-_Portrait_of_a_Woman,_Traditionally_Identified_as_the_Countess_of_Arundel_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

Are you going to say the MSM portrait is not a CJ? Who ever it is, they are rather good, and if you don’t think a whole slate of ‘CJ’-attributed portraits are actually by CJ, you sure took a long time to pipe up about it. Shouldn’t you be telling this to all the people who hold them?

Lastly, Jacob, with greatest respect, I wouldn’t be telling me that I have made a jump too far on something. Most Art Historians are visually-impaired administrators. The whole field is catastrophically misguided. On this very site we had people saying that a portrait that is clearly not Elizabeth Stuart, Queen of Bohemia was Elizabeth Stuart, Queen of Bohemia, and no one challenged it.

There is plenty to “help us.” Likenesses of mother, portraits of cousin and sister-in-law, other portraits of sitter, importance of sitter established, famous Irish noblewoman and Gaelic poet/daughter of lady important to EI, AoD and Princess Elizabeth, sitter returning to England from Ireland in 1619 therefore portraits would then happen.

I don’t want to upset, only to help. Why else would I bother?

Please be open to the possibility that what I say is correct. Mull it over, ask others, show it to others.

If two portraits are of the same woman or are clearly someone’s daughter, there are not enough PhDs, Professorships or Gallery positions in the world to give you the authority or ability to change it.

There almost certainly isn’t documentation to prove it, as else it wouldn’t be previously undiscovered before I get there, would it?

Louis Musgrove,

What I thought was hair-due to gloomy condition of painting- is upon closer inspection an Irish Mantle. A large piece of Lace attached to the top of the head.Given the cost of lace at this time-well!!!!
Sadly I don't think Ipswich has the money to clean and restore this potentially interesting painting.

Jacinto Regalado,

I expect it's been restored in the past, Louis, and not too well, which is part of the problem.

Lou Taylor, Dress and Textiles,

I have lightened this portrait and see NO ' large piece of Lace attached to the top of the head. ' She IS wearing some kind of low-lying jewelled hair piece - probably attached to a comb. Her ruff and cuffs are made up from reticella lace, which was indeed very expensive. I am not sure what the fabric is - that makes up her 'veil. It could be lace but could be fine embroidered muslin.

What is an IRISH MANTLE please? I would love to know.

Jacinto Regalado,

Lou, a quick look online reveals that an Irish mantle is apparently a shawl-like garment with a fringed border worn over the shoulders, but I don't think that applies to this picture.

Luke Aaron,

The brat (“brot”) or Irish mantle/cloak/shawl is most culturally-identifiable item of Irish clothing ever, worn since prehistory, the Bronze Age. Originally a heavy cloak made of rough wool, it later had lighter fabric and lighter coloured variants for wealthier female wearers. Even wealthy and highest-status Irish people would have worn it, or a variant.

The brat may not mean a lot to you, but it sure meant a lot to the Irish—and the English, who banned its wearing, as the biggest symbol of Irish cultural identity.

In Elizabethan times the brat was associated with Irish rebellion fighters – they could be made waterproof, and it is exactly what Irish rebel fighters would have been wearing, out living, moving, hiding and fighting under the elements.

We don’t even have many, or any, good images of it from history, despite it being the most famous Irish cultural clothing item, due to cultural persecution.

It is going to be hard to see a brat in the painting if you’ve no idea what you’re looking for.









Brats later had an edge to them—furry, or frayed, or different coloured.

If Bridget Fitzgerald is here wearing a brat, she is wearing a piece of Irish cultural clothing that was banned by her g-g-grandfather, H8.

“no person or persons of what estate, condition or degree they be, shall use, or wear any mantles, cote or hood, made after the Irish fashion”

If not a brat mantle she is wearing a wimple-like veil, which was contemporary Irish wear for more highly-placed woman.

Thank you Louis for raising the issue of clothing. Very pertinent.

What she is wearing over the top and back of her head is in the correct position on the head, in the middle-to-back of the top, that a brat is worn as seen in the few images.

It looks more to me that she is wearing a veil, which Irish woman of status would have worn, but it is unclear if this Irish veil was essentially just a descendent of the brat that is lighter and worn by wealthy high-class woman.

Whichever it is, this sitter, aside from the ruff and lace cuffs, is not wearing English cultural clothing. She is wearing Irish cultural clothing. Yet she is clearly very wealthy and/or significant – as viewed by the lace.

She is wearing ‘guna’ – Irish woman’s gown, on top of a ‘leine’ – traditional linen underdress.




Her gown is similar to the late-16thC-to-early 17thC ‘Shirone Gown,’ see the high waist:


In her clothing Bridget is representing Irish culture.

Oh really, my last Gaelic Irish Queen is wearing very expensive lace like a very important person and is wearing the classic elements of Irish dress? I worked out who it was by facial resemblance and dates alone.

How many other top level nobles with heavy Irish connections, are important enough to paint, or are even in England to be painted, who look ridiculously similar to Frances Howard, Lady Kildare, mother of Bridget Fitzgerald, and who’s dates/age matches up to the portrait, are there? Bridget Fitzgerald.

Ipswich will not need money to restore it, hands should be bitten off in getting to one of the few portraits of the last Gaelic Irish royal and famous Gaelic poetess.

Like… a Princess Diana of Irish culture or nationalism. Iconic figure, known for being beautiful, but somewhat of a tragic or sad history, but so many captivating links to history (H8, Mary Boleyn, the Flight of the Earls).

Please support your comments with evidence or arguments.

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