Sir Henry Unton

1 portrait

Sir Henry Unton, by Unknown artist, circa 1596 - NPG 710 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Sir Henry Unton

by Unknown artist
oil on panel, circa 1596
29 1/8 in. x 64 1/4 in. (740 mm x 1632 mm)
Purchased, 1884
Primary Collection
NPG 710


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  • Sir Henry Unton (circa 1558-1596), Soldier and diplomat. Sitter in 1 portrait.

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This highly unusual narrative portrait of Unton's life was commissioned as a posthumous commemoration by his widow Dorothy Wroughton, and is recorded in her will (1634). At the heart of the composition is the portrait of Unton, flanked by figures of Fame (top left) and Death (top right), and surrounded by scenes from his life and death. These are (anti-clockwise, starting in the bottom right hand corner): 1. As an infant in the arms of his mother, Anne Seymour, formerly Countess of Warwick, at the Unton house of Ascott-under-Wychwood. 2. Studying at Oriel College, Oxford, where he took his degree in 1573. 3. Travelling beyond the Alps to Venice and Padua (1570s). 4. Serving with Leicester in the Netherlands (1585-6), with Nijmegen in the distance. 5. On his embassy to Henry IV at Coucy La Fère in northwest France, in an unsuccessful attempt to avert a peace treaty between France and Spain (1595-6). 6 On his deathbed, with a physician sent by Henry IV. 7. His body brought back to England across the Channel in a black ship. 8. His hearse on its way back to his home at Wadley House, Faringdon, near Oxford. 9. (centre right) Unton's life at Wadley House, with scenes showing him sitting in his study (top), talking with learned divines (bottom left), making music (above left), and presiding over a banquet, while a masque of Mercury and Diana is performed, accompanied by musicians. From the house his funeral procession leads, past a group of the poor and lame lamenting his death, to : 10. (left) Faringdon Church with this funeral (8 July 1596) in progress, and, in the foreground, his monument with Unton's recumbent effigy and the kneeling figure of his widow. More detailed information about this portrait to be found at www.npg.org.uk/research/programmes/making-art-in-tudor-britain/case-studies/the-portrait-of-sir-henry-unton-c.-1558-1596.php.

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