3. Elizabeth as Princess, 1550

Introduction:  ‘Elizabeth as Princess, 1550’

Many artists were active during the Tudor era, but one of interest who worked for four out of the five Tudor monarchs was Levina Teerlinc.  Teerlinc, (her first name is variously spelled Livinia, Lavinia, and Levyn), a Flemish-born woman, became a gentlewoman to Mary I and a gentlewoman of the privy chamber to Elizabeth I.  More astoundingly than the foreigner gaining such prestige at court, Levina was one of the most famous portrait miniaturists of the Tudor Era. Unfortunately, “few miniatures thought to be by her now exist, and none are signed” (Doran 272). Because limited examples of her work survived, identification is difficult. Although Court records do give vague descriptions of her miniatures, certain identification cannot be made.  Around 1550 Teerlinc painted a portrait of Elizabeth as a young girl. Considering there are disputes of what works can be attributed to Levina, there is supposition that such miniatures as the portrait that will be the focus of this blogger, previously titled, ‘Elizabeth as Princess, 1550,’ could be by her.
Portrait of a Young Woman–Yale Center for British Art believed to be Elizabeth as Princess in 1550. 

Levina Teerlinc, born in 1510 in Bruges, was the eldest of five daughters of Simon Binnink (also Binninck, Benninck, Beninc and Bening) and Katherine Scroo.  Simon was a “famous illuminator, whose father, Alexander Binnink, had also been a well-known illuminator” (Williamson Catalogue of the Collection of Miniatures the Property of J. Pierpont Morgan Vol 1 12).  Levina, perhaps in absence of a male heir, followed in their footsteps. She studied in Bruges with her father and she “apprenticed with the Croatian miniaturist working in Italy, Giulio Clovio” (Frye 79).  By the late 1530s she was becoming well known for her skill (Levin 345).

Simon Bening
‘Self-portriat of Simon Bening, aged 75 in 1558’  Victoria and Albert Museum Collection. London, England. 1 Dec. 2014. Web. 22 Dec. 2014. 

Levina married George Teerlinc (also referred to as Teerling) “a burgher of Blankenberghe, a small town near Bruges” (Weale 278). The first official mention of Levina Teerling “occurs in Bruges, February 4, 1545, when she and her husband closed the estate of George Teerling, the Elder” (Bergmans 233).  Within the year, Levina and George moved to England at the invitiation of Henry VIII.  Obviously, the king had heard of Levina’s artistic talents and, with the recent death of his court painter Hans Holbein, was interested in obtaining for himself a gifted replacement.

Upon her arrival, King Henry showed his appreciation for the talented painter, whom he had recruited, by offering her the astounding pay of £40 per annum.  Marked in his account books for November 1546 is the entry, “Mrs. Levyna Terling, paintrix, to have a fee of 40l a year from the Annunciation of Our Lady last past during your Majesty’s pleasure” (“Henry VIII: November 1546, 21-30” 475).

On the death of Henry VIII in January 1547, she “continued in post … and remained in post to Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I” (Taylor “Death of Court Artist Levina Teerlinc”). In fact, she was “appointed court-painter to Edward VI with a salary of £40 a year, paid quarterly” continued by his sisters (Weale 278). Sources differ on the amount as some claim it to be 40, others 11 or 10 and one, even two pounds.  It is too difficult to read the original records to be certain.  We do know that in November 1559, Teerlinc is “granted a lifetime annuity (the document is in the National Archives, Kew) at £40 p.a. and the document translates that this is in recognition of her loyalty” (Taylor “Death of Court Artist Levina Teerlinc”). Twice we see evidence of Levina mentioned in the warrant payments for King Edward VII.  Once in either late 1550 or early 1551 (Collier 18) and then in the “Quarters Wages at Mydsomer” Misteris Levin Terlinge, stands out as a ‘paintrixe’ among those identified as painters.

“Item to Anthony Totto, painter
Item to Barthilmewe Penne, painter
Item to Misteris Levin Terlinge, paintrixe
Item to Richard Atzile, graver of stones” (Collier 31).

Interestingly, Levina is mentioned again in an entry by the Privy Council in October of 1551 with a twist—the record cites the payment as being sent to her husband.  A “warraunt to pay unto George Tarling, in way of the Kinges rewarde, being sent with his wyfe to the Lady Elizabeth’s Grace to drawe owt her picture, ten poundes (Great Britain, Privy Council 376). Roy Strong calls this ‘cryptic’ and a ‘huge sum’ (Strong Gloriana 52). Nothing appears too cryptic about this; in that age it was common for the husband to receive the wages for his wife, or maybe George was her agent.  In fact, the entries above are more noteworthy because the ‘paintrixe’ was granted her own warrant.  This blogger will agree with Strong’s assessment of the payment to the Teerlincs as being generous.  Based on the historic conversion tables of MeasuringWorth.com, the value of £10, in real price that would be £3,090 in today’s monies or the labor value of £43,700.  The year 1551 was also noteworthy, as this was the year that Levina and George’s only child, a son Marcus, was born (Taylor “The Portrait Miniature as a Love Token”).
Privy payment  (Great Britain, Privy Council 376).

During Mary’s reign “Levina did miniatures of the queen at prayer and portraits of other noblewomen, such as Mary’s cousin, Catherine Grey” (Levin 345). Art historians now believe based on its style, that Teerlinc produced the illuminated manuscript Queen Mary’s Manual for Blessing Cramp Rings and Touching for the Evil.  No further mention of Levina is made in official records until 1556.  She “presented Queen Mary ‘as a New yaer gift a small picture of the Trynitie’” (Bergmans 232).
Katherine Grey npg
Portrait miniature of Katherine Grey, Countess of Hertford; Katherine Grey, Countess of Hertford (Portrait miniature) ca. 1555-1560. From the Victoria and Albert Museum.

A couple of years later there is mention that Levina had presented Elizabeth I, upon her accession in 1558, with her portrait “finely painted on a card which remained of Her Majesty under the care of Mistress Newton; and had in returne ‘one casting bottell guilt weighing 2¾ oz’” (Bergmans 232).  And in 1561 she presented to the Queen her image “in a box finely painted. One guilt salt with a cover, weighing five and a quarter ounces, was the return made for this” (Foster 12). Evidently, the works were so highly prized by Elizabeth that “instead of entrusting them for safe-keeping to one of her ladies-in-waiting, as was customary with such gifts, she kept two of them permanently in her possession” (Somerset 356).

Elizabeth admired Teerlinc’s work to such an extent that Levina not only painted individual portraits of the queen but also “portraits of Elizabeth on her tours, on progresses, through the countryside, with her knights of the Garter, and participating in various religious ceremonies such as washing the feet of poor women on Maundy Thursday” (Levin 345).
An Elizabeth Maundy, 1560. Levina Teerlinc. 

With Elizabeth facing away from the viewer, the painting is more “a record in the tradition of manuscript illumination of the piety of a royal female in the middle of devotional activity” (Frye 86).

Levina probably was “also responsible for designing the new seal for Elizabeth” (Perry 64).

Teerlinc therefore, was instrumental in devising the political and religious imagery of Elizabeth.  She “created the conventions for portraying the queen as Defender of the Faith” while simultaneously, giving herself an “important state role” (Perry 64).   In addition to the trust and admiration Levina received from her royal patrons (remember she was a gentle woman of the court as well), she received her annuity, additional payments and “expensive presents, such as a pair of gilded spoons and a gilded salt-cellar (Jensen).

The Teerlincs clearly “lived in comfortable circumstances and had high social status” (Levin 345).  Levina’s husband George was referred to on a deed as an “Esquire and  Nobleman, attached to the House of the Queen of England” (Williamson Catalogue of the Collection of Miniatures the Property of J. Pierpont Morgan Vol 1 12). In 1566, George was “granted the lease of a property in Stepney, where he built a new house valued at five hundred pounds” (Levin 345). That same year, “Levina, her husband, and her son Marcus officially became English subjects” (Jensen).

When Levina died, she was “considerably wealthy and highly regarded for her miniatures in England” (Gray 258).  Most historians maintain that she died at her house in Stepney. Although Melanie Taylor, an art historian, confidently states that Levinia Teelinc died on 23 June 1576, the exact date of her death is speculation.  (Taylor “Death of Court Artist Levina Teerlinc”). We do know that “George Teerlinc returned to Bruges and died there before 25 August, 1580” (Weale 278).  Her death, it is surmised, was why he traveled to Bruges. If she predeceased George, she would have had to die before 1580 which some art historians dispute because two miniatures documented to have been “‘fynely’ painted by Lavinia Teerlinc in 1590 at Greenwich” (Williamson Catalogue of the Collection of Miniatures the Property of J. Pierpont Morgan Vol 1 12). If so, she would have still been alive and working in England beyond 1580.  Surprisingly for such a prominent person, although it is “believed she pre-deceased her husband,” …there is “no documentary evidence to support this belief” (Williamson Catalogue of the Collection of Miniatures the Property of J. Pierpont Morgan Vol 1 17).

A painting attributed to Nicholas Hilliard and recently tentatively identified as miniature portrait artist, Levina Teerlinc can be seen online.  Erna Auerbach detailed this portrait in the 1950s explaining the Flemish style head-dress and the use of Elizabeth I’s livery leading Melanie Taylor to interpret this to be a possibility of Levina Teerlinc (Taylor “The Identification of the Portrait of Levina Teerlinc”). Adding weight to the suggestion, viewers can use the self-portrait of Simon Bening above to compare the features of the two sitters–a family resemblance can be seen.

Although we know there was a self-portrait of Levina none exists.  There is a letter from 1561 by Giulio Clovio, Levina’s former teacher, “thanking her for the gift of her self-portrait” (Frye 83).  The painting cannot be traced beyond the time of Clovio’s death in 1578. It would have been unusual for a married woman to send such a personal gift to a man who was not her husband.  Art historians contend that she “intended her gift to imitate the masculine custom of exchanging examples of one’s skill with eminent practitioners in distant areas, such as are recorded to have taken place between Dürer and Raphael” (Perry 46).  Giulio’s letter refers to this type of exchange.  He told Levina “artists are accustomed to enjoy seeing diverse styles of those who work in their field, I judge that it would not displease you to be able to consider the style of those of us working in Italy” (Perry 46).  Interestingly, he then went on to discuss her gifts, so surprising in a woman, and her beauty.

“For you are a lady, such that being not only so beautiful and so youthful, are also so excellent in an art which is very rare amongst men, let along, amongst ladies.  Love and wonderment combine to have me keep your portrait beside me and I enjoy it at all hours as the dearest thing that I could have, and for the most marvelous that one might see” (King 395).

Added to her former tutor’s wonderment for her loveliness and skills (which he should have been well aware of) we have her student’s determination to diminish artwork by a woman.  Nicholas Hilliard wrote A Treatise Concerning the Arte of Limning in 1600 with very clear views on the art of miniature portraiture.  What is striking for us is the fact that it is now generally accepted that Levina Teerlinc taught Hilliard the art of limning. Yet, he believed painting was an art for men.  He wrote, “I wish it were so that none should meddle with limning but gentlemen alone, for that it is a kind of gentle painting, of less subjection than any other” (Montrose 299). There is no disputing Hilliard’s skill. He obviously, is more popular today than his teacher Levina, but his lack of acknowledgement of the contemporary admiration she earned is astounding.  Even

Lodovico Guicciardini, an Italian writer and merchant who lived in Antwerp, mentioned Levina in his work of 1567, Descrittione di Lodovico Guicciardini patritio fiorentino di tutti i Paesi Bassi altrimenti detti Germania inferiore.  He said Teelinc was “just as good as her father in the art of miniature” (Taylor “Death of Court Artist Levina Teerlinc”).  Despite Hilliard’s opinion of woman artists, Levina did achieve broad recogniation for her gifts, she became a salaried courtier, and was marked “for special mention, honour and privilege” and excemplified the prestige and “high profile that women court artists could acquire” (Mainz 42).

Teerlinc, respected and well paid, had a much longer career than many of her colleagues although she is lesser known today.  Many paintings attributed to Hans Holbein or Nicholas Hilliard are probably being done so at the “expense of Levina Teerlinc” (Bergman 236). Horace Walpole cautioned “we must not consider every old picture to be a Holbein” (Foster 12). Roy Strong is encouraging that reaction.  As Director of the Victoria & Albert Museum, Strong has had the opportunity to examine works from the Museum’s collection, and others from sources around the world.  He has “endeavored to sort out and, where possible, re-interpret facts throwing fresh light on …contributions of …artists such as Levina Teerlinc” (Foskett 344).  Therefore, Levina, considered one of the greatest portraitists of her time, most likely received many commissions as she was not only an illuminator of manuscripts and a painter of miniatures, she was also “trained as a scrivener and calligrapher” (Frye 79).  Then why are there no known works by her?  Besides the prejudice of assigning credit to Holbein and Hilliard, there is also the suggestion that many works were lost when the palace of Whitehall burned in 1698 (Foster 12).  Art historians warn the “possibility that all of her work may have disappeared should perhaps be considered…” (Foister 635).

The recent attribution of works to Levina Teerlinc may be as misplaced as automatic assignment to Holbein or Hilliard, yet it does lead to more discussion and scholarly research.  Until more works can be positively identified to her and more details of her life can be put forth, we will have to simply make do with those miniatures that seem she is the most likely candidate to have produced.  One can acknowledge that most of the miniatures now assigned to Teerlinc, “with their stiff little features and match-like arms, are certainly by the same artist, and she seems to be the most likely candidate” (Foskett 344).

To the modern eye, the thin arms, tiny features and stiff poses of Levina’s portraits are not appealing.  Art historians put her work in perspective by describing the miniatures as “at once light and very carefully modelled, and show all the individiual characteristics of the features of the models” (Bergman 233).  Maybe, just maybe, Levina Teerlinc will receive the recognition she deserves as a ‘paintrixe’ in the world of Tudor England.

Part I:  ‘Elizabeth as Princess, 1550,’ Was It Elizabeth?
Considered one of only two known solo portraits of Elizabeth before her accession, this one is attributed to Lavina Teerlinc.  The artist, who died in 1576, was Netherlandish by birth and professionally active in Britain.  Now part of the Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection this portrait had an interesting journey to its present location.  Bought by Christopher Fry, a London art dealer, for 760 pounds at the auction house Sotheby’s in 1970, it was part of a “pair of rare and important miniatures attributed to Luke Hornebout of a man and his young wife” (Martineau). These two portraits appear to be from the collection of Mr. C. H. T. Hawkins, of 10, Portland Place, which were sold at auction as part of “Mr. Hawkins’s collection of pictures by old masters” (Roberts 276).  Shortly after their sale, scholars dismissed the idea that they were a pair, as a man and his wife.  The style and potential dates did not match and so they were then dealt with as two separate paintings.

Described only as a ‘portrait of an ‘unknown woman,’ this limning is now “reasonably attributed to [Levina] Teerlinc” a Flemish painter attached to the Tudor court (Strong Gloriana 52).  The miniature was eventually put up for sale again (Fellman). Purchased by Paul Mellon, it was then donated by him in 1974 to Yale University becoming part of the collection of the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art where it “sat in a drawer in a climate-controlled room” (Martineau). While the portrait has always been available to scholars, with two exceptions it has been out of the public view since the center opened in 1977 (Fellman).

Framed, the round miniature measures at 2 ¾ x 2 ½ inches (7 x 6.4 cm). Portrayed is a young woman with light-brown hair, parted down the middle with blue eyes—described by Roy Strong as a “fully developed, tough teenager” (Zairn).  Dressed in a black, square-necked gown with a brooch accessorized by oak leaves, acorns and tiny yellow flowers, the sitter’s arms are unnaturally thin (more a reflection of the artist’s style than the physiology of the sitter) and there is a distinct up-turn to her nose. The figure is set-off by a lapis blue background which included “inscribed in the artist’s hand, in gouache, center left: ‘o | +A N+’; in the artist’s hand in gouache center right: ‘+xviii’” (“Portrait of a Lady, Possibly Lady Jane Grey”).  With the only identifier the comment that the young woman was 18 years old, Roy Strong, working with the Victoria and Albert Museum exhibit on Tudor miniatures, identified and labeled the Yale portrait as ‘Possibly Elizabeth I as a Princess’ (Fellman).  Because Teerlinc’s limnings were mostly done of the royal family, Strong believes that the Yale miniature is of Elizabeth as a princess.  The age is correct and his comparison to other paintings of her proved to him that the features were close enough to be the same.  This theory held sway for many years.  Modern art historians equate royalty as the few people who could afford to commission a miniature. People of status in Tudor England were expected to make an outward display of magnificence.  “Elite members of society had traditionally achieved this by favouring objects fashioned from the most expensive materials” (Doran The Elizabethan World 568).  What better way for a royal to show social standing than with the portrait / jewel combination of a miniature.

With the inscription of Roman numeral 18 on the canvas, Elizabeth would have been the most viable candidate as she would have been that age in 1551—a date close to the time the portrait is believed to have been executed. Exact dating of the work is elusive.  Most historians attribute it to 1550 although the dates range from the Yale University, Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art website which marks it as 1546 to a later exhibition site stating the “wall copy read …  ca. 1553” (Zarin).

Taking into account the plainness of the dress, the relatively unimpressive style of jewelry, the fact that Elizabeth had never worn flowers attached to her jewels, and the physical features of the sitter—especially the turned up nose and light colored eyes, one could easily dismiss the claim that the portrait was Elizabeth as a Princess.

Still identified by some sources as ‘Possibly Elizabeth as a Princess,’ or ‘Unknown Woman’ by others, it was when in 2007 the Philip Mould Gallery in London requested the work that a further identity became attached to the miniature.  Reluctant to loan out the piece of art, the curators changed their minds when it was revealed to them that Dr. David Starkey had developed a theory that the sitter was Lady Jane Grey.  Starkey’s analysis was based on the clothing, accessories and the date listed on the painting.  Interestingly, as the debate has waged the “one party that, presumably, stands to benefit most from a positive identification of the miniature—the Yale Center for British Art—has kept out of the fray entirely” (Fellman). Its curators prefer to let the scholarly debate take its course.


Part 2:  ‘Elizabeth as Princess, 1550,’ Was It Lady Jane Grey?

Previously attributed as a portrait by Levina Teerlinc of Elizabeth while princess in 1550, the miniature is now put forth as Lady Jane Grey. While the allure is great to accept this as an exciting discovery, skepticism must prevail.  Well, if not skepticism at least caution with some of the most forceful endorsements equating Susan Doran’s luke-warm commendation that the painting “may well be of her” (Doran The Tudor Chronicles 1485-1603 237).

Formulating any informed opinion as to who the sitter was is extremely difficult as this miniature has no painter’s signature, no date, nor any documented history.  Temptation is to lean toward a renowned historical figure: Elizabeth I, Katherine Howard, John Dudley’s daughters, Mary and Katherine or his daughters-in-laws, Anne Seymour (married to John, Viscount Lisle) Anne Whorwood (married to Ambrose, later Earl of Warwick), Amy Robsart (married Robert, later Earl of Liecester) or Lady Jane Grey (married Guildford) and her sisters, Katherine and Mary Grey.  Sir Roy Strong succinctly claimed “there’s an industry, always, for distinguished, educated women who get their heads chopped off” (Zarin).  Interesting, but not helpful in identifying the portrait.

Belonging to the Yale University, Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection, the only certainty is that it was painted in the mid-sixteenth century.  Markings on the painting imply that the sitter was 18 years old.  Typically, because of the expense of miniatures, they were often encompassed in jewelry to be worn by the recipient and therefore included the added expense of the costly ‘frame’; only wealthy patrons could commission such works. Besides the portrait would usually be done to commemorate an event such as a wedding, mark an important birthday, or highlight a rite of passage.  After spending money on an event along with the clothing and accessories, including a painter “was usually a relatively minor expense” (Jones 34).

So the clothes and props have been purchased, the artist lined up, what would be the reasons for the painting to be done?  Most likely the subject was a royal personage.  Dr. Starkey maintains that “it would be unusual for someone to sit for a miniature unless they had very high status” (Reynolds). While art historian Maurice Howard of the University of Sussex agreed that “sixteenth-century miniatures are largely confined at this period to the court,” this portrait must be someone royal, naming a plausible candidate was difficult (Fellman).  Who would have been eligible and for what event?

Lady Jane Grey would be near the correct age and she was both married and crowned close to the same time-period under discussion.  “Marriage was the most common reason for painting a woman’s portrait in the Tudor era” (Edwards “A New Face for the Lady”). The portraits recorded and “conveyed to potential suitors the physical and social attributes of prospective brides, especially among noble and royal families” (Edwards “A New Face for the Lady”).  Added to this, “royal weddings…which led to lavish aristocratic spending on clothes, also led to a spate of portraits to record that finery” (Jones 38). This “miniature could be linked to the marriage of Jane and Guildford in May 1553” (Ives Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery 18).

Lady Jane Grey as a viable candidate for the sitter of this painting is intriguing.  She “remained ‘invisible,’ despite being the focus of considerable courtly attention in May and June of 1553” (Edwards “A New Face for the Lady”).  Unless this is a wedding portrait, the date and events do not add up. Jane would not have had time to have a portrait completed for her coronation.  Moreover, if Jane were a potential Protestant martyr, why would Queen Mary allow her to have her portrait done while she was imprisoned in the Tower of London?

With no true and reliable description of Jane available (more on that below) there can be no certainty of her physical features.  Because the eyewitness account used by Richard Davey in 1909 has been proven a fabrication, this blogger would like to caution all readers who quote the description of Jane by Baptist Spinola, a Genoese merchant.* Clues, such as the clothing, accessories and the age painted on the canvas,  in the portrait that can be used to date it and possibly identify the sitter are no less reliable.

In this miniature, the “sitter …wears a French hood and crescent neckline in good mid-century Anglo-French style” (gegmsite.net). Was this out of style already by the assumed date of this portrait?  According to Christopher Foley, a knowledgeable London art dealer, the style had been “supplanted by the v-neck with small lace ruff” (Fellman). Others believe “the sitter’s square neckline would have been decades out of fashion” (Martineau). J. S. Edwards speculated that “Jane would likely have worn a chemise underneath the dress as a cover-up” (Fellman).This gown with its square-cut neckline reflects the well-known austerity with which Jane usually dressed. Would this be considered “an outward display of Jane’s Protestant piety” as Dr. Starkey and his colleagues suggest (Zarin)? Would she have internalized her religious teachings and displayed it “through a modest habit of dress, just as is depicted in the portrait” (Edwards “A New Face for the Lady”)? Jane did dress demurely, but she would still have been clothed in expensive fabrics, and most likely, the latest fashionable styles.  As an English proverb states, “We are all Adam’s sons, silk onely distinguisheth us” (Apperson 12). Therefore, despite the temptation to conjecture that Jane would have rejected fancy clothing and decoration, her station in life and the influence/insistence of her parents would have ensured her dressing in more costly garments.

In miniatures, the face is “literally the background, the clothes and jewels the foreground” (Jones 41).  It can be surmised that the subject was not as important as the object itself.  Faces were “glimpsed only in passing and ‘their’ hands were frequently the hands of a studio model (Jones 34).  The clothing was a different story.  The clothes “were often carefully sketched to record their color and material or they were actually sent to the studio where they could have their ‘portrait’ made at the painter’s leisure” (Jones 34). The background, the face, was created to “support variable and complex depictions of hair, ruffs, jewelry, clothes, and other objects” (Jones 35).  Faces were often the work of an assistant, in fact, “the complexity of putting a name to a face has become notorious. Many of the identifications of Renaissance sitters are unclear or have been contested” (Jones 38).

To the modern observer, having a portrait painted that does not showcase the face seems nonsensical.  To the Renaissance audience, paintings were “as much the portraits of clothes and jewels as of the people –mnemonics to commemorate a particularly extravagant suit, a dazzling new fashion in ruffs, a costly necklace or jewel” (Jones 35).

In the Yale miniature, the gold decorations which “are sewn into the top of her dress and similar items are listed in the inventory” taken of Lady Jane Grey’s possessions, yet even David Starkey said it was “impossible to match them exactly” (Reynolds).  Added to the equation of the accessories is the brooch itself.  Dr. Starkey determined that the “brooch of gold with a face in agate” must be the one that is described in the inventory of Jane’s belongings when she was in the Tower (Fellman).  Eric Ives has determined that “as for the jewel, although Jane did have one similar, in that instance the head was carved from agate, not jet” (Ives Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery 16). Unfortunately, it cannot be positively identified and as J. S. Edwards explained, these types of brooches were fairly common in the Tudor period (Fellman).

 brooch cropped
A cropped image of the brooch.

Adorning the brooch are small yellow flowers.  Starkey believed them to be the gillyflower as a symbol of Guildford Dudley, Jane’s husband. “Gilly” was the nickname of Guildford and a “stone carving of the gillyflower survives in a wall of the Beauchamp Tower at the Tower of London” where Guildford was imprisoned (Reynolds). Dr. Edwards believed “the gillyflower analogy is a stretch” (Martineau). Eric Ives stated that the “flowers of the miniature are not the gillyflowers  … and are as likely to be cowslips” (Ives Lady Jane Grey:  A Tudor Mystery 18). Added to the spray of flowers are acorns.  David Starkey attributed these to the fact that Robert Dudley’s emblem was the acorn.  Leanda de Lisle asked a reasonable question as to why Jane would wear oak leaves for Robert (ladyjanegreyref “Death Becomes Her: The Life and Afterlife of Lady Jane Grey – Lecture by Leanda de Lisle”).

On the canvas is the lettering “ano xviii.” With Jane traditionally attributed to the age of 16 when she took the throne, this would place her two years too young. Dr. Starkey does conjecture that Jane was perhaps born before 1537 and would therefore be of an age closer to that stamped on the portrait.  He would have Jane turning 17 during either her reign or imprisonment and proposes that the accepted date of her birth “should be revisited” (Zarin). de Lisle agrees that the “writing declares that the sitter is in her eighteenth year” … which “Jane probably was when she died” (de Lisle The Sisters Who Would Be Queen 341).  Professor Edwards uses evidence found in a letter in which Jane’s tutor discussed the death of Martin Bucher who died in 1551 and the tutor mentioned that Jane was 14 (Fellman).  Obviously, this would then place Jane at the age of 16 at the time of her marriage and rise to the throne and therefore, too young to be the sitter.

An obvious way to determine if the portrait is Jane would be to match the visual with a verbal description.  Unfortunately, there are few actual contemporary descriptions of Jane and the ones that exist are vague.  On July 13, 1553, the French ambassador, Antoine de Noailles, referred to Jane as vertueuse, sage & belle (Leyde 57). While flattering to be described as virtuous, wise and beautiful, it was not very descriptive.
Page 57 Use

Another vague contemporary comment about Jane made by Girolamo Pollini mentioned her “features of the body [were] very beautiful” [di fattezze corproale molte bella] without any further description or embellishment (Pollini 351). A recently discovered letter translated by J. S. Edwards had an observer describe Jane in July of 1553 as “…a pretty and comely young lady of beautiful intellect, letters, and praiseworthy habits…” [La primogenita della Ducheʃʃa di Suffolc è una giouenetta bella,& ornata,di bello ingegno, lettere, & laudabili coʃtumi,nominata Iana] (Ziletti). On the other hand, in 1616 Francis Godwin “wrote that she was ‘handsome’ but not remarkable” (Ives 15).**

David Bartlett while declaring her “one of the most beautiful women in England” does not describe her beyond having a beauty “of a style somewhat rare in that age” and her “beauty surmounted by the most exquisite loveliness of character” (Bartlett, David 136).
Page 351

Roger Ascham, tutor to the Tudor royals, discussed at length the conversations he had with Jane, yet he only mentioned once any physical description when he established that she “replied with a smile” (Strickland 114, Soames 7). While applauding his professionalism in touting her intellect, it is frustrating not to have a greater verbal image of her as with the account by Richard Grafton.  Grafton was a London printer who later wrote, Abridgement of the Chronicles of England and described Jane in his work.  He referred to her as a “gentle yong Ladie endued with singuler gifts both of learning and knowledge as pacyent and mylde as any Lambe…” (Grafton 543).  Thomas Gibbons wrote, much later after her death, that “her person was extremely pleasing, but the beauties of her mind were still more engaging” (Gibbons 3).

Within the depictions of Jane during her final months, at her arraignment and execution, we learn of her devotion, her decorum and her clothing but not her features.  In November when she faced trial she emerged from the Tower “in a blacke gowne of clothe, tourned downe; the cappe lined with fese velvett, and edget about with the same, in a French hoode, all black, with a black byllyment, a black velvet boke hanging before hir, and another boke in her hande open…” (Nichols The Chronicle of Queen Jane, Two Years of Queen Mary, and Especially of the Rebellion of Sir Thomas Wyat 32).  Our final description of Jane comes in February 1554 when she was brought forth for her execution.  Interestingly enough, she is not described but her mood and dress are mentioned.  She was calm when “the leuetenaunt leding hir, in the same gown wherin she was arrayned, hir countenance nothing abashed” (Goldring 68).

In an elegy written by Sir Thomas Chaloner, who had known Jane, and published it in 1560, she was likened to Venus.  Chaloner, although writing in the flowery speech of the conventional Latin verse, “commends her not only for her beauty, but also for that which was a greater charm, her intelligent and interpreting style of conversation” (Lambert 252, Howard 110). Below are several stanzas of the elegy; included are the verses in the original Latin accompanied by Susan Zimmerman’s translation with alternate meanings in parentheses.

Culta fuit, formosa fuit: divina movebat
Sæpè viros Facies, sæpè loquela viros.

She was caring (educated); she was beautiful,
Her divine (noble) face often moved men, her speech often {moved men}.

Vidisset Faciem, poterat Procus improbus uri:
Audisset cultæ verba, modestus erat.

Had an immoral (wicked) suitor seen her face, he would have been consumed with
Had he heard her cultured words, he was modest.

Ipsa sed ut Facies erat insidiosa Videnti,
Lumina dejecto plena pudore tulit.

But as a face is treacherous (insidious) to one seeing (it), she herself would bear her
plentiful lights (glory) with modesty (honor) cast down.
Page 296 Latin

Consequently, Jane is described as being attractive yet with no outstanding attributes beyond her intellect, scholarship and demeanor.  Her physical description continues to evade us as does the identity of the sitter for the Yale University portrait.

*Richard Davey quoted extensively from a letter which he claimed was written by Baptist Spinola, a rich Genoese merchant who worked in London and had witnessed Jane’s procession to the Tower of London for her coronation.

“This Jane is very short and thin, but prettily shaped and graceful.  She has small features and a well-made nose (ben fatta ha il naso), the mouth flexible and the lips red.  The eyebrows are arched and darker than her hair, which is nearly red.  Her eyes are sparkling and red (rossi—a sort of light hazel often noticed with red hair).  I stood so long near Her Grace, that I noticed her colour was good, but freckled.  When she smiled she showed her teeth, which are white and sharp.  In all, a grazioso persona and animata [animated]” (Davey 253).

** In a footnote, Ives clarified that the term Godwin used was ‘not admire-able’ (Ives 295).


Part 3:  ‘Elizabeth as Princess, 1550,’ Was It Amy Robsart?

If the Yale University miniature is neither Princess Elizabeth nor Lady Jane Grey, who would be a viable candidate as the sitter?  One other senior contender could be Amy Robsart Dudley.

Amy Robsart was the only child of Sir John Robsart and his wife Elizabeth, nee Scot. Elizabeth had been married to Roger Appleyard who left her a widow and young mother in 1528.  Upon Appleyard’s death, “Elizabeth, had the life interest in his four manors” which she brought with her to her marriage to John, including Stanfield Hall (Lang).

When or where Amy was born is not certain.  The first “allusion to her is contained in the Will of her grandmother, dated 1535, and from the nature of a bequest to her, it is more than probable, her birth took place sometime between the years 1525 and 1530, and probably at Stanfield Hall” (Bartlett, Alfred 30).  Upon the death of John Robsart and despite an illegitimate “brother on the paternal side, Arthur Robsart” (Lang), Amy became “entitled to the family estates, which were of considerable magnitude” (Bartlett, Alfred 30).  Amy was “sufficiently well-dowered” to attract the interest of John, Earl of Warwick, later 1st Duke of Northumberland, as a bride for his fifth-born and third surviving son, Robert (Jenkins 20).

Lord Robert was about seventeen when he married Amy Robsart on June 4, 1550, at the Palace of Sheen; she was perhaps a year older turning 18 shortly after the ceremony.  Their wedding followed the day after his older brother’s to Anne Seymour the daughter of the Duke of Somerset, Lord Protector.  Both weddings were attended by the 12-year old King Edward VI and he chronicled them in his diary.

“1549 June 
The King cam to schein, where was a mariag mad between The L Lisle, the’rl of warwics sone, and the ladi anne, daughter to the duke of Somerset; wich don, and a faire diner made, and daunsing finished…” (Bartlett, Alfred 31).
S Robert dudeley, third sonne to th’erle of warwic, married S Jon Robsartes daughter, after wich marriage, ther were certain gentlemen that did striue who shuld first take away a goses heade wich was hanged alive on tow crose postes” (Bartlett, Alfred 32).

While the wedding appears to have been a jubilant and festive affair, it is not the purpose of this entry to discuss the turbulent marriage of Robert Dudley and Amy Robsart.  Our focus is on the fact that despite the belief that, “No portrait of Amy has survived,” there is one possibility—the miniature painted in 1550 attributed to Levinia Teerlinc (Hanson).

“The sitter “wears a black bodice, squared across the shoulders”. (Skidmore 21). We know from the few records that have survived and from a letter to her tailor (Lang), Amy wore gowns of costly materials such as that in the portrait.  Payments occurred for “scarlet petticoats, loose gowns of russet taffeta or damask, ‘laced all thick overthwart the garde’, a ‘round kirtell’ of black velvet, white satin sleeves and a bodice of crimson velvet” (Skidmore 20).  Costly yes, yet modestly cut and decorated which would reflect Amy’s status as a wealthy, un-titled woman.  While the fact that Amy and the sitter both wore expensive clothing is supportive it is not conclusive to prove the subject was Amy Robsart.  What draws particular attention is the brooch and the spray of flowers which adorn the bodice.

 brooch cropped
A cropped image of the brooch.

“A black classical face is centered in the middle of the brooch, typical of the kind of jewellery worn by many ladies at court during the period” (Skidmore 21). What is unusual is “the foliage on either side of the brooch; to the right is a spray of yellow flowers, identified as gillyflowers, and to the left are acorns and oak leaves” (Skidmore 21).

The gillyflower (what we would call carnations today) has long been associated with weddings and was seen as “a token between lovers” (Wright 162).  With this flower being a symbol reflecting marriage, it is believed that these blooms were included in the painting as it was a wedding portrait. That being the case, Elizabeth is automatically eliminated as a possible subject.  Could it be Jane Seymour or Amy Robsart?  A question which brings into play the issue of the acorns and oak leaves.

A footnote, in an article on Amy Robsart in Swedish***, stated that Eric Ives denounced the speculation that the portrait was of Lady Jane Grey because of these very sprigs.   Ives believed “If the model is a woman who married a Dudley, and if this portrait is a wedding portrait, that means by the acorn it should be Amy Robsart…” (“Amy Robsart”).  The acorn and the oak were symbols taken up by Amy’s husband Robert.  Oak leaves and acorns “represent Robert Dudley, as the Latin for oak tree is Quercus Robur” (“The Tower of London: Beauchamp Tower”).  As a pun to his own name, while imprisoned in the Beauchamp Tower, he carved “into the sandstone wall of his cell, acorns and oak leaves” (Skidmore 21).

David Starkey wrote that the flowers and leaves represent the “identifiable ‘badge’ of a family of distinction. In this case, the badges represent ‘the many sons of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland’ and Regent for Edward VI” (Fellman). Starkey claimed the gillyflowers are for Guildford, the young husband of Jane Grey—see the previous blog entry, Part 2:  ‘Elizabeth as Princess, 1550,’ for further information.

Beyond the accessories of the portrait, the subject’s facial features and coloring must be considered in determining identity.  Let us take into account the description of the portrait as presented by Chris Skidmore.

“She has a nose slightly too large for her face, her pursed lips seem too small, while her pale features redden around the cheeks.  Her light auburn hair is parted in the middle, beneath a headdress of white and black, fringed with gold. Her eyebrows are faint, almost wispy; her eyes are pale blue. Rather than stare directly at the viewer, she looks outwards, as if in contemplation” (Skidmore 21).

The nose is an obvious appendage to compare and contrast.  With its appearance of being too large for the face and with its upturned tip, this feature seems to rule out Elizabeth and Jane based on known portraits of both young women—even considering the artists would have flattered them with a more proportionate nose than was true.

Elizabeth’s hair, without a doubt, was usually described as red-gold. Although the traditional description of Jane has been thrown into doubt by Leanda de Lisle, who believes that it was invented by Richard Davey in 1909, she too was usually described with hair on the reddish spectrum. Christopher Foley, a London art dealer, stated that the Tudor connection could not possibly be made as the sitter’s hair was not red but “very clearly a sort of mousy brown” (Fellman).  de Lisle further states that since “the woman in the miniature does not have red hair and brown eyes” it could not be Jane Grey (de Lisle “Death Becomes Her: The Life and Afterlife of Lady Jane Grey”). Others, including Tarnya Cooper, a curator for National Portrait Gallery, “have noted that the sitter’s eyes aren’t reddish brown, but blue-gray” (Fellman).

Another clue which has created as much dissent as the brooch ornamentation and the facial features is the  painting’s “Latin inscription ‘An[n]o XVIII’ denoting the sitter’s age: 18” (Skidmore 21).  Amy Robsart would have turned 18 shortly after her marriage to Dudley—many speculate as soon as four days after the ceremony—placing her at the correct age.  Princess Elizabeth would have been close to 18 as well.  Lady Jane Grey would be about 15 or 16 years old.  J. S. Edwards’ recent conclusions, based on re-discovered letters written by Jane’s tutors, place her at 16 in May of 1553 (Fellman).

Although Eric Ives stated what “finally rules out the sitter as Jane is the inscription ‘A XVIII’” which would make her the incorrect age, others believe differently (Ives Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery 16).  David Starkey interprets “anno xviii” to mean that Jane would have been in her 18th year—that is, 17 years old—at the time of the portrait” (Fellman).  If the painting were painted in 1550, that would make Jane only 14. Stretching things out to 1553, the year of Jane’s marriage (thus the gillyflowers), is suspect.  Would Jane have had enough time to sit for a portrait between her wedding and incarceration in the Tower?  Would the portrait have been allowed to be completed by the Catholic Queen Mary? Would the Protestant Jane even been allowed to have an artist depict her while in the Tower?

Even though the probability of the sitter being of historic significance is slim, of the viable candidates, Amy Robsart Dudley appears most likely based on the plant symbolisms, facial features and age of the sitter.  Described in 1559 by the Imperial Ambassador, Caspar Bruener as “a very beautiful wife,” Amy, if the sitter, could be providing the only surviving portrait of herself (Skidmore 20).

Tempting as it is to assign a recognized historical figure to this miniature, one must proceed with caution.  With no documentation, this work has only recently been firmly attributed to Levina Teerlinc and its exact date of execution is still unknown.  Therefore, formulating an informed opinion as to who the sitter was is extremely difficult and must be accepted in the spirit of conjecture.  Was she Princess Elizabeth, Lady Jane Grey, Amy Robsart or any of the hundreds perhaps thousands of young women of the mid-1500s commemorating a milestone, life event by having their portrait painted as a miniature and encased in a jewel-like frame?

***Miniatyr av en okänd dam, möjligen Amy Robsart i samband med bröllopet 1550.
Spekulationerna kring detta porträtt har varit många, och damen har identifierats som bland annat Lady Jane Grey, Amy Robsarts svägerska. Det har då menats att detta skulle ha varit hennes bröllopsporträtt. Eric Ives hävdar att det inte kan vara Jane Grey, bland annat på grund av att hon skulle ha varit yngre. Han fortsätter: Om modellen är en kvinna som gift sig med en Dudley, och om detta porträtt är ett bröllopsporträtt, tyder ekollonet på att det borde vara Amy Robsart, som gifte sig när hon var exakt 18 år gammal. (Robert, robur, betyder ekollon på latin).” (Ives s. 295, 15–16). Robert Dudley använde eken som sin personliga symbol

Speculation around this portrait have been many and the lady has been identified as among things as Lady Jane Grey, Amy Robsart’s sister in law.  It has therefore, means it should have been her wedding portrait.  Eric Ives believes that it cannot be Jane Grey, among other things on the ground that she should have been younger.  He continues: “If the model is a woman who married a Dudley, and if this portrait is a wedding portrait, that means the acorn it should be Amy Robsart who would have married him at exactly 18 years old” (“Amy Robsart”). Translation by Kurt E. Pearson.


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Agnes Strickland,Alfred Bartlett, Alison Weir, Amy Robsart,Ann Rosalind Jones,Anne Boleyn, Anne Seymour, Anne Somerset, Antonie de Noailles, Appresso Giordano Zilett, Arthur Robsart, Baptist Spinola, Beninc,Binninck, Binnink,Blankenberghe,Blessing Cramp Rings,British History, Bruce Fellman, Bruges, C H T Hawkins, Carole Levin,Catherine Grey,Charles V Holy Roman Emperor, Christopher Fry, Cynthi Zarin,Daphne Foskett, David Bartlett, David Starkey,Debrett’s Peerage and Baronetage, Delia Gaze, Earl of Liecester,Earl of Warwick,Edward VI, Elizabeth I,Elizabeth Regina,Elizabeth Scot,Elizabethan,Elizabethan England,English History, Eric Ives, Erna Auerbach,Franciscus Godwin,George Apperson,George Teerlinc,gillyflowers, Girolamo dell’Ordine Pollini,Girolamo Pollini, Giulio Clovio, Glenn Homewood, Guildford Dudley, Hans Holbein,Henry VIII, J S Edwards,J. Pierpont Morgan,James Weale, John Dudely, John Gough Nichols, John Viscount Lisle, John Wright,Katherine Grey,Katherine Howard,Kew, Kurt E Pearson,Lady Jane Grey, Leanda De Lisle, Levina Terrlinc, Levinia Teerlinc, Livina Teerlinc, Lord Portector, Martin Bucher, Mary Grey,Maundy Thursday,Maurice Howard,Melanie Taylor,National Archives,Nicholas Hilliard, Nigel Reynolds, Paul Mellon Collection, Philip Mould Gallery, Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary,RIchard Davey, Roger Appleyard, Roger Ascham, Roy Strong,Sara Gray, Sarah Gristwood, Simone Bergmans, Sir John Robsart, Sir Thomas Chaloner, Sir Thomas Wyatt, Spanish Ambassador, Stanfield Hall, Stephan Edwards,Susan Doran, Susan Zimmerman, Tamara Cohen, Tamise Hills,The Family of Henry VIII, Thomas Chaloner,Thomas Gibbons,Tower of London,Treatise Concerning the Arte of Limning,Tudor, Tudor Court,Tudor Dynasty, Tudor History, Yale Center for British Art
























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