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19 JAN, 2010

More on Jane Dormer...

Posted By Hope Walker

In my previous blog I briefly discussed two recently published books on Lady Jane Grey. Since then I have (finally) obtained a copied of Eric Ives' "Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery." Although, as I mentioned in my previous blog, Ives book only briefly addresses the portraiture of Lady Jane (pp. 14-17), since Dr. Ives does mention my research in his footnotes, I did want to clarify a few points and address at least one portion of his argument.

First, I should say that Eric Ives' book is a beautifully written, heavily-sourced, volume. I enjoyed reading it immensely and, given that I have been working on a project on the portraits of Jane Grey for some time, found its contents particularly useful and relayed as much in an email to Dr. Ives yesterday.

However, in that email I also mentioned to him that his text fails to correctly cite a short entry I wrote for the Philip Mould catalogue (2007) for their Lost Faces exhibition. That, in itself, is a minor detail that was probably the result of an overzealous editor. Still, since Dr. Ives does mention my research, I thought I would respond to the contents of his footnotes in this latest edition of the blog. I should also like to add that the Philip Mould entry was a heavily edited version of a much longer essay on the Fitzwilliam portrait and, although I will be writing about this picture for the catalogue, since I have already published this essay (as I mentioned in the previous blog), I feel comfortable in discussing the picture in more depth here. In order to do that, however, it would first be useful to take a look at the relevant portion of Dr. Ives' text:

"...Another painting which has been advanced is an anonymous three-quarter length from the 1550s by Hans Eworth.[17] The one substantive clue to the identity is the embossed 'D' on the sitter's girdle book, leading to the suggestion that again the painting was produced to mark Jane's marriage. [18] However the sitter is hardly a sixteen-year-old, and the interval between the announcement of Jane's marriage in April and her imprisonment in July is too brief for a painting to be finished, and thereafter no Dudley was in any position to pay for a completion. [19] There are, furthermore, alternative candidates among the Dudley women - the duke's wife Jane and their two daughters or even the touching possibility of their daughter-in-law, Ambrose Dudley's wife whose sudden death affected the duke deeply.[20]..."

[17] Hans Eworth, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

[18] J.S. Edwards, "A new face for the lady," in History Today 55 (2005), 44-5, but see n. 20 below.

[19] It is also arguable that the costume dates from the later 1550s.

[20] A possible identification from outside the family is Jane Dormer, the future Duchess of Feria and one of the Mary Tudor's great favorites, though again the appearance of age would be a problem. Lost Faces, pp. 86-7. Dr Edwards now finds this 'convincing'.

Footnote 19 points to the costume of the sitter, a subject which Janet Arnold has already discussed; she dated the portrait to 1557 in her 2004 treatise on the wardrobe of Elizabeth I. [She had previously argued for c. 1554. Either date works for Lady Dormer; as David Loades has noted, she was likely engaged to the Duke in 1554-the same year Queen Mary was married-and the Duke returned to England in 1557 in order to act as Philip's representative.]

Footnote 20 references my short catalogue entry for the Philip Mould catalogue. The problem with Dr. Ives' implied argument about the age of the sitter is that it is impossible to know the age of the Fitzwilliam picture sitter because the picture is not inscribed-not with an age, a date, or any other mark, including an artist's monogram. Therefore, when we speak about the 'appearance of age' we are, in fact, speaking about something that is entirely subjective and bordering on the nebulous.

What we do know is that Eworth was fully capable of depicting a young woman (such as the portrait of Mary Grey-age 17 and Unknown Lady-age 20), a woman in middle age (Lady Dacre), and a woman in advanced years (Unknown Lady, 1558-age 61). The woman depicted in the Fitzwilliam portrait is without a single wrinkle, which is quite opposite the previous two pictures, in which both ladies have extensive wrinkles about the eyes and mouth. In fact, setting aside the other similarities, the face of the lady in the Fitzwilliam portrait has more in common with Eworth’s portrait of “Anne Penruddocke“, who was 20 at the time she sat for her Eworth portrait, than it does the Society of Antiquaries portrait of Mary I (age 38). Of course, this is not in-and-of-itself conclusive.

Still, these facts do suggest that the woman depicted is young, although perhaps not youthful. And, such a ‘young-but-not-youthful’ appearance matches well with Lady Dormer's biography. Jane Dormer appears to have spent nearly all of her teens and early 20s in the household, then Court, of Mary I. There she was a popular pontential bride who was, for example, courted by Edward Courtenay, the Earl of Devonshire-a high-ranking peer who was also a favorite cousin of Mary I-and the Duke of Norfolk. Yet, in spite of the attentions of these high-ranking figures, Jane, according to her biographer, "would do nothing, without the consent of her Majesty, who had no great will to leave her, and would say in the treating of these matters, that Jane Dormer deserved a very good husband; and would add further, that she knew not the man that was worthy of her" (Clifford, The Life of Jane Dormer, 68); Lady Dormer spent the whole of Mary's reign unmarried. Further, although Lady Dormer’s date of birth is often reported as 1538, this is not entirely clear; she may have been born as early as 1527. If this earlier date is correct, she would have been at least 28, if not 30, when she sat for the Fitzwilliam portrait.

Another interesting note about the visage of the Fitzwilliam picture is that her face appears very thin, almost gaunt, with prominent cheekbones. And sometime prior to August, 1558 Jane's biographer notes that:

"When it chanced that Jane was not well, as that she could not well attend upon the queen, it is strange the care and regard her Majesty had of her, more like a mother or sister than her queen and mistress. As in the last days of this blessed queen, she being at Hampton Court, and to remove to London, Jane having some indisposition, her Majesty would not suffer her to go in the barge by water, but sent her by land in her own litter, and her Physician to attend her" (Clifford, The Life of Jane Dormer, 69).

This illness may well have been nothing serious. However, it certainly appears that the Queen was concerned–concerned enough to send her personal physician to ensure Lady Dormer received the best care. It is tempting, then, to consider that perhaps the reason that the face of this sitter appears as it does is because Lady Dormer had been quite ill just prior to the work’s creation.

Dr. Ives other suggestion is that the portrait may be otherwise linked to the Duke through his wife Jane (Guildford), who would have been 48 in 1557. In my opinion, this arguement is problematized by the jewels of the lady, which are–as Roy Strong and others have noted–decidedly Catholic in their iconography. Given this, I believe that it would seem odd for any of the very Protestant Dudley women to sit for a portrait that carefully mirrors a portrait of the very Catholic Queen Mary, while wearing a jewel that references her name and highlights her religion. It is, as I have argued in the past, much more likely that the most beloved of Mary I's ladies-a very Catholic lady who was to marry the King’s favorite and envoy in England-would sit for a portrait while wearing a jewel that references the name of her most beloved sovereign and friend.

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