The eBay Portrait (2019)
 
 
 
     
 
Called Lady Jane Grey
Said to be “Elizabethan English School”
Oil on wood panel
12 x 10 in. (estimated)
Private Collection
 
     
 
 
 
    Portraits said to depict Lady Jane Grey Dudley continue to emerge since the publication in 2015 of A Queen of a New Invention: Portraits of Lady Jane Grey Dudley, England's Nine Days Queen. And sometimes they appear in unusual places. The portrait illustrated above surfaced in an eBay “Buy It Now” listing early in 2019. The price was set at £7500 (approximately $9700), though the seller also included a “Make An Offer”option. The listing described the portrait thus:
 
     
 
Lady Jane Grey circa 1553 at the time Jane was made Queen of England for 9 days. It shows Jane in royal robes with a heavily embroidered dress and a magnificant [sic] aray [sic] of jewles [sic] and necklaces, [sic] she wears a bullion embroidered coif that holds her hair up and a wide brimmed hat with bird of paradise plumes[.] A rare survivor.
 
 
 
 
    The seller attributed the work to “Elizabethan English School” despite the obvious contradiction that what we now refer to as the Elizabethan Period did not begin until the accession of Elizabeth Tudor in November 1558, almost five years after Jane Grey’s death in February 1554. The painting probably does nonetheless date to the sixteenth century, however, based on the use of a single-board wood panel as the support.
 
     
 
 
     
 
    There are three adhesive paper labels on the back of the board. The manufacture of the central label is consistent in style with auction house and sale gallery labels of the nineteenth century. It bears an inscription in French, “Jane Grey reine d’ Angleterre 1554” (Jane Grey Queen of England 1554). The style of the handwriting is likewise consistent with that of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The label in the upper right corner bears a different handwriting, the style of which is less readily datable but is nonetheless likely pre-twentieth century. That label is inscribed with a number, 6057, and two series of letters, JRR and UAR. These are probably inventory control identifiers used by an auction house or sale gallery that handled a sale of the painting at some point in its history.[1] The third label (not shown in detail) was applied much more recently and reads “660/6.”
 
     
 
    
 
 
 
 
    The condition of the painting is difficult to assess when relying solely upon digital photographs, but it does appear to be in relatively good conditon for its apparent age. One or more layers of old varnish have become discolored, resulting in a brownish cast in several areas. This is most noticeable over the face, where the discoloration has created a mottled appearance in the skin tone (see below, top). There are also numerous areas of streaking that appear to be caused by dirt collecting in the troughs of heavy brush strokes preserved in the old varnish. That streaking is particularly evident over the feathers along the lower margins of the hat and over the white chemise of the costume (see detail below, bottom). Additionally, there is a significant crack extending down the center of the board from the top margin and almost to the lower batten that was previously filled on the back of the board but that has since reopened. A second crack can be seen in the upper right corner of the front of the board (upper left of the back) that has not been repaired. All of these issues are relatively common in paintings of such age, however.
 
     
 
 
     
 
    
 
     
 
    Despite the modern paper label on the reverse of the board indicating that the sitter is Lady Jane Grey, that identification is strongly contradicted by the subject matter of the painting. The pastoral or landscape background, for example, is very seldom encountered in female English portraiture dating from the first half of the sixteenth century. The overwhelming majority of portraits of English women of that period most commonly depict those women in an indoor and thus socio-culturally suitable domestic setting. This was particularly true of English women of royal rank similar to or greater than that of Jane Grey. Portraits of women in pastoral settings more commonly originate instead in southern and eastern Europe.[2] Additionally, the costume worn by the sitter is entirely incorrect for England in the middle of the sixteenth century. English women of high social status in that period wore French hoods almost exclusively, whereas this sitter is wearing a heavily decorated turban- or snood-like hair wrap similar to a coif, and that wrap is overlaid with a rather enormous wide-brimmed hat augmented with numerous feathers resembling emu or ostrich feathers. Examples of high-staus English women of the mid sixteenth century wearing wide-brimmed hats in their portraits are essentially unknown, and emu or ostrich feathers were exceedingly uncommon in English fashions of the same period.
    The headgear seen in this painting is, in my opinion, more consistent with fashions from the earliest decades of the sixteenth century in eastern and southeastern Europe, especially the Germanic states of the Holy Roman Empire and the Kingdoms of Bohemia and Hungary. Two particularly appropriate paintings illustrate this assertion. The first depicts Judith with the head of Holofernes, painted by the German artist Lucas Cranach the Elder in about 1530, in which Judith’s headgear is remarkably similar to that of the sitter in the eBay portrait (detail, upper left below ).[3] Judith wears a nearly identical (except for the pearls in the eBay portrait) coif-like wrap for her hair that is again surmounted by a wide brimmed hat heavily decorated with ostrich-like feathers. The only apparent difference between the two hats lies in the slashing at each of the four quadrants of the folded-back brim of Judith’s hat. Hints of more numerous slashes are faintly visible in the extended brim of the eBay sitter’s hat, but they are partially obscured by a combination of discolored varnish, craquelure, and poor photography. It should also be noted that, again like the sitter in the eBay portrait, Judith wears two heavily-jeweled and choker-like collars, the uppermost of which is very much like that of the lady in the eBay painting.
    The second comparison example is known as the Fulbeck Portrait and, intriguingy, was also once said to depict Jane Grey, as discussed in A Queen of a New Invention (upper right below).[4] The Fulbeck Portrait acquired its identification with Jane Grey as early as the end of the eighteenth century and was sold under that same title through Sotheby’s (London) in 2002. That painting is now known to be a copy of a portrait of Anne of Bohemia and Hungary that was itself created in 1519 by Hans Maler. The Fulbeck sitter’s headgear again consists of a wide brimmed hat overlying a turban-like coif, though no ostrich feathers are present.
 
     
 
    
 
     
 
    
 
     
 
    The rationale for identifying the sitter in the eBay Portrait as Jane Grey most probably stems from a past comparison to the Fulbeck Portrait. The latter was widely published as both lithographic and engraved prints beginning in 1822, all with the identification of the sitter as Jane Grey repeated. The prints were produced in large numbers and widely circulated across Europe throughout the first half of the nineteenth century.[5] The engraving on the left above was created by Robert William Sievier of Cavendish Square, London and printed by John Brydone, also of London. The inscription indicates that it was first printed on 4 June 1822. The engraving on the right was created at about the same time by Antoine Maurin, a Frenchman who resided in England in the 1820s. Scholarship on Maurin is sparse, but he is known to have produced engravings of numerous contemporary English persons as well as of other French citizens living in England. His non-contemporary subjects appear to be limited to just two female historical figures, however: Jane Grey and Marina Mniszech.[6] Another Frenchman, François Le Villain, printed Maurin’s engravings in his own Paris workshop. They were then sold throughout Europe, either as individual sheets or leaves, or as one in a larger collection of engravings by several artists, all published by Edward Bull and Edward Churton of London.
    It seems altogether likely that these prints, published so widely and authoritatively as authentic images of Jane Grey, served collectively to allow a former owner or past art dealer to identify the eBay portrait as likewise a depiction of Jane Grey. The style of the headgear is sufficiently similar between the Fulbeck and eBay Portraits and yet simultaneously so uncommon in English portraiture that one can concede a certain naive logic in concluding that the paintings depict the same woman. But in light of the confirmation in 2015 of the identity of the sitter in the Fulbeck Portrait as Anne of Bohemia and Hungary, that same logic would require identifying the lady in the eBay portrait as likewise Anne. Much more probably, however, the lady is some other person of status from the same geographic region as Anne (i.e., the region consisting of eastern Germany plus neighboring Bohemia and Hungary further east) and probably even from the same narrow chronological period, circa 1520-1530. She is certainly not Jane Grey, and it is all but impossible that the original artist intended her to represent Queen Jane. In actuality, the similarity of the costume in the eBay portrait to two paintings that both date to the third decade of the sixteenth century suggest the likelihood that the eBay Portrait was also created in that decade. The eBay Portrait may be as much as thirty years older than its seller presently believes.
 
     
     
    J. Stephan Edwards, Ph.D.
Palm Springs, California
21 February 2019 
 
       
       
       
 
NOTES :
     
 
[1]
 
The eBay seller did not provide any provenance for the painting in his listing or in my contact with him. A search of the Getty Museum’s Sales Catalog Database for sales throughout Europe (particulary France) in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries of portraits said to depict Lady Jane Grey reveals 44 separate recorded sales between the seventeenth and the twentieth centuries. Many can be eliminated based on the materials used (e.g.: enamel on copper, engraving) or size (e.g.: miniature, full length). A large number can also be excluded because their current whereabouts have already been reliably identified. Only a handful remain, but none of those are sufficiently well described in the corresponding sale catalogue to allow them to be identified with this painting.
 
         
 
[2]
 
See, for example, the many confirmed portraits of Queen Katherine Parr, last wife of Henry VIII, of Queen Mary Tudor, and of Queen Elizabeth Tudor. An exception can be found in the Ditchley Portrait of Elizabeth, but that example is an allegorical painting in which the background is imaginary and serves a specific symbolic purpose. Perhaps the single most famous portrait of a woman in a pastoral setting is the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, painted in northern Italy in the first decade of the sixteenth century. Intriguingly, a precise location of the Mona Lisa landscape was suggested by Italian researchers in 2012. See Rosetta Borchia and Olivia Nesci, Code P. Atlante illustrato del reale paesaggio della Gioconda (Mandadori Electa, 2012).
 
         
 
[3]
 
My sincere thanks to Lee Porritt for alerting me to Cranach’s depiction of Judith. The artist Lucas Cranach the Elder (d.1553) served as court painter to the Elector of Saxony, who was also Duke of Saxe-Wittenberg in eastern Germany.
 
         
 
[4]
 
J. Stephan Edwards, A Queen of a New Invention: Portraits of Lady Jane Grey Dudley, England's Nine Days Queen (Palm Springs: Old John Publishing, 2015), 66-69.
 
         
 
[5]
 
The late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries witnessed something like a fad for collecting engraved prints of existing painted works of all kinds. Engraved prints were bought and sold both individually and bound together in volumes, and they were often of both significant size and significant cost. The print illustrated on the left above measured 18 inches by 14 inches, while that on the right measured 19 inches by 13 ¾ inches. Prices commonly reached or exceeded several shillings, or the equivalent of £75 ($100) or more if calculated in terms of earned wages.
 
         
 
[6]
 
The story of Marina Mniszech (1588-1614), known in Russian folklore as Marinka the Witch, has certain parallels to that of Lady Jane Grey Dudley. Marina was the daughter of Jerzy Mniszech, a Polish nobleman with royal ambitions. Mniszech arranged in 1605 for Marina to wed the Russian Tsar Dmitriy I, known to history as False Dmitriy or Pseudo-Demetrius. Dmitriy was an impostor who, beginning in 1600, posed as the youngest son of Ivan the Terrible, Dmitriy Ivanovich. The real Dmitriy had died nine years previously under suspicious circumstances, but False Dmitriy claimed to have secretly escaped an assasination attempt and to have remained in hiding until his “miraculous reappearance.” Fleeing Russia and the authorities of Tsar Boris Godunov shortly after his “reappearance,” False Dmitriy succeeded in gaining the support of the Polish Crown, which was at that time often involved in armed conflict with Russia. He subsequently raised an army of sufficient size to enable him in 1605 to seize the Russian throne from Feodor II, the sixteen-year-old heir of Tsar Boris Godunov, who had himself died just six weeks earlier. Marina’s father was a keen supporter of Dmitriy’s claim to the Russian throne. This perhaps facilitated his ability to promote Marina as a bride for Dmitriy. The couple were soon wed, first per procura (by contract in the absence of the groom) in Kraków in November 1605 and then in person in Moscow on 8 May 1606. She was also crowned Tsarina on that latter occasion. Like Queen Jane Grey Dudley, Tsarina Marina reigned just nine days. Dmitriy had begun losing the support of the court and the nobility almost as soon as he had seized the Russian throne, in part because he sought to change the Russian state religion from Russian Orthodoxy to Roman Catholicism. He was assassinated on 17 May 1606. He was succeeded by Vasili Ivanovich Shyusky, who reigned as Vasili IV. After a period of imprisonment under Vasili, Marina was exiled back to Poland in 1608. But soon after her arrival there, her father arranged for Marina to meet a second man claiming to be the deceased Dmitriy Ivanovich. This new Dmitriy had first appeared in Starodub, Russia in August 1607, and by the spring of 1608 he had gained control over much of southern Russia and established a royal court and government at Tushino (now a suburb of Moscow). Whether compelled by her father or out of her own personal ambition, Marina publicly claimed that the second Dmitriy was one-and-the-same as her deceased husband, Tsar Dmitriy. But Dmitriy II never fully suceeded in replacing Vasili IV on the Russian throne and was instead murdered by one of his own followers in December 1610. Marina gave birth to a son, Ivan, just one month later. At about the same time as the birth, Marina married Ivan Martynovich Zarutsky, a Russian supporter of Dmitriy II living in exile in Poland. After unsuccessfully attempting to promote Marina’s son Ivan as the “rightful” successor of Tsar Dmitriy (I and II), the couple fled to exile in Astrakhan, a town in southern Russia. The populace of Astrakhan quickly turned against Zarutsky, however, and rose against the couple, forcing them to flee. Cossacks soon captured them and turned them over to the Russian government. Zarutsky and Marina's three-year-old son Ivan were executed in Moscow in 1614, and Marina died in prison soon thereafter. (Meanwhile, Vasili IV was deposed in July 1610, and the Russian nobility transferred the Crown to Vladislav of Poland, the fifteen-year-old son of the Sigismund III, King of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Vladislav was still a minor, leading Sigismund asserted a claim to act as regent. The claim was rejected, and hostilities ensued. Finally, in February 1613, a Russian national assembly elected Michael Romanov, aged seventeen years, as Tsar Michael I of All Russia, initiating the Romanov Dynasty in Russia. Vladislav survived to be elected King of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in his own right in November 1632 following the death of his father in the previous April, the Commonwealth being an elected monarchy.)
 
         
         
 
 
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