Sir Henry Unton
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)
Click on the links below to find out more:
This portraitback to top
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 and.
Linked publicationsback to top
- I-Spy National Portrait Gallery, 2010, pp. 10-11
- Tudor Portraits Resource Pack, p. 32
- Audio Guide
- Charles Nicholl, Shakespeare and his Contemporaries, 2015, p. 15
- Cooper, John, A Guide to the National Portrait Gallery, 2009, p. 13
- Cooper, John, Visitor's Guide, 2000, p. 110
- Cooper, Tarnya; Fraser, Antonia (foreword), A Guide to Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 2012, p. 24
- Gibson, Robin, The Face in the Corner: Animal Portraits from the Collections of the National Portrait Gallery, 1998, p. 24
- Gittings, Clare, The National Portrait Gallery Book of The Tudors, 2006, p. 29
- MacLeod, Catharine, Tudor Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery Collection, 1996, p. 33
- Nicholl, Charles, Insights: Shakespeare and His Contemporaries, 2005, p. 14
- Ribeiro, Aileen, The Gallery of Fashion, 2000, p. 52
- Ribeiro, Aileen; Blackman, Cally, A Portrait of Fashion: Six Centuries of Dress at the National Portrait Gallery, 2015, p. 68
- Robin Gibson, Pets in Portraits, 2015, p. 46
- Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 628
- Strong, Roy, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 1969, p. 315
- Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, pp. 56 - 57
Placesback to top
- Place portrayed: France (Coucy La Fère, France)
- Place portrayed: Italy (Padua, Italy)
- Place portrayed: Italy (Venice, Italy)
- Place portrayed: Netherlands (Nijmegen, Netherlands)
- Place portrayed: United Kingdom: England, Oxfordshire (Ascott-under-Wychwood, Evenload Valley, Oxfordshire)
- Place portrayed: United Kingdom: England, Oxfordshire (Faringdon Church, Faringdon, Oxford)
- Place portrayed: United Kingdom: England, Oxfordshire (Oriel College, Oxford)
- Place portrayed: United Kingdom: England, Oxfordshire (Wadley House, Faringdon, Oxford)
Subjects & Themesback to top
Events of 1596back to top
Current affairsFears of Spanish invasion of England and Ireland.
An expedition under Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex and Charles Howard, Baron Howard of Effingham sacks Cádiz, Spain.
Robert Cecil (later Earl of Salisbury) is made Secretary of State.
Sir Francis Drake dies from fever during an expedition to attack Spanish territories in the New World.
Art and scienceThe poet and administrator Edmund Spenser publishes the last three books of The Faerie Queene, an epic allegorical poem in praise of Queen Elizabeth I.
The unusual narrative portrait of the soldier and diplomat Henry Unton is commissioned by his widow.
The actor and theatre manager James Burbage builds Blackfriars Theatre, London.
InternationalSpanish forces capture Calais, France.
The Battle of Keresztes - Mehmed III, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire defeats the combined forces of Sigmund Báthory, Prince of Transylvania and Maximilian, Archduke of Austria.
Sigismund III of Poland transfers the capital of Poland from Kraków to Warsaw.
See this portrait
On display in Room 2 at the National Portrait Gallery
Exhibitions and displays
- Framing the Face: Collars and Ruffs
Until 16 July
- Life, Death and Memory
Until 16 March 2018
- Reproducing Fame: Printmakers and the Nineteenth Century Stage
Until 31 July