Anthony Browne, 1st Viscount Montagu
- Tudor and Jacobean Portraits Database
Anthony Browne, 1st Viscount Montagu
by Hans Eworth
oil on panel, 1569
37 7/8 in. x 26 5/8 in. (962 mm x 676 mm)
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Key findings: Original dating and authorship confirmed. The left part of the picture is a modern replacement following a loss in this area. The painting appears to be at least partially painted by a studio hand.
The picture was in the collection of the Earls De La Warr at Buckhurst, Sussex where it was noted and sketched by Sir George Scharf in 1884. It was at Dover House, Torquay by 1885 and was sold by the 12th Duke of Somerset at Christie's in 1890 when it was purchased by the Gallery.
The portrait was originally acquired by the National Portrait Gallery as 'William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke'. Faint traces of an inscription are visible at the top right of the portrait, and an x-ray of 1962 revealed it to read: 'AETATIS XL/[MDL] XIX ' (aged 40/1569). The sitter wears the great collar of the Order of the Garter which helped to identify him as Viscount Montague, as all other eligible Knights of the Garter were eliminated on the basis of age or likeness. Anthony Browne, who was created Viscount Montague in 1554, would have been 40 in 1569. The portrait matches well with the engraved portrait in Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder's 'Garter Procession' of 1576-78 and a full-length portrait at Burghley.
Notes on likely authorship
The picture has no signature or 'HE' monogram. Strong noted in 1969 that the handling is identical with Eworth's portrait of Richard Wakeman of 1566 (private collection) (Strong, 1969, p.225). See also discussion of painting technique below.
Commentary on condition, painting style, technique
The panel, which is made from three boards, has suffered considerable damage and the thin left board is entirely a modern addition.
There is considerable restoration evident in many areas. The paint surface has many restored ground and paint losses, particularly along the panel joins, along the bottom edge of the painting and in the fur. Many areas have also suffered considerable abrasion, especially in the dark brown costume and the fur.
The lettering at the top right of the portrait has been removed almost entirely with a sharp tool which has gouged small pits into the ground, leaving the shapes of some letters cut into the paint and exposing the white ground (see micro 18). It is possible to read the upper line of letters ('AETATIS XL'), but the only legible letters on the lower line are the last three on the right end ('XIX').
The painting style of this work has some similarities to Eworth's portrait of Lady Dacre and Gregory Fiennes (NPG 6855), and a similar order of execution, but the method is more systematic and does not show any of the noteworthy subtleties characteristic of Eworth's best work. The flesh paint is, however, blended in the manner of Eworth which was often a wet-in-wet technique. There are also fine, evenly parallel lines 'combed' on the paint surface on the ends of a finger tip on the left hand and at the top of the ear where the hair ends over it. This technique was used in other portraits by Eworth, such as Lady Dacre and Gregory Fiennes (NPG 6855) and Mary I (NPG 4861), and was evidently carried out with the same type of small brush or tool that had evenly parallel stiff bristles or comb teeth.
The details painted in lead-tin yellow (i.e. the gold stitching, buttons, sword and Garter collar) are executed rather mechanically, as are the final brushstokes for the hair. The St George and the Dragon on the garter is however more accomplished in contrast. It would seem likely that some sections of this picture were painted by a studio hand.
Justification for dating
The technique and materials in use are entirely consistent with a work from this period. The faint inscription on the surface at the top right of the work reads '[MDL] XIX' (1569). The costume also dates the portrait to the late 1560s.
Dendrochronology has indicated that the wood used for one board of the panel derives from a tree which cannot have been felled before 1553. This suggests a felling date after 1561.
Drawing and transfer technique
Underdrawing is evident from the surface and with infrared reflectography. It can be seen in the face (outlining the features and as spaced hatching along the edges of the beard and moustache) and the left hand. The underdrawing is simple and seems to be traced.
A small number of changes to the final composition made by the artist are evident from x-ray and infrared analysis. The key areas of changes to the composition are as follows:
- the upper outline of the left eye was raised at the painting stage
- the right edge of the face was made slightly wider in the painting stage.
Relevance to other known versions
- Similar face pattern in head-and-shoulders composition at Stoneacre, National Trust, NT 863929
- A portrait was recorded at Lumley castle in the 1590 inventory and was sold on 11th August 1785
- Another unverified portrait was recorded at Melton Constable Park in the collection of Lord Hastings by Prince D. Singh which was last known to be in the collection of J. Astley in the 1960s (Portraits in Norfolk Houses, p.26)
- An engraved portrait exists in Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder's 'Garter Procession' of 1576-78
- A full-length portrait exists at Burghley. This is apparently a posthumous portrait, probably seventeenth century, but is clearly based on a portrait which was held then to be an authentic likeness
- The National Portrait Gallery also owns a watercolour on paper (NPG 2398) which is a copy of a head and shoulders version of the portrait at Burghley
Strong, Roy, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 1969, p.225
Duleep, Singh, Portraits in Norfolk Houses, 1928, vol. 2, p.26
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Compare high-resolution images against the painting - mainly x-ray and infra-red photography images, but sometimes UV or raking light images - side by side with the ability to zoom in on details.
The painting has suffered considerable damage and most of the left panel member is missing and has been replaced with a modern addition to integrate with the rest of the painting. The paint surface has many restored ground/paint losses, especially along the panel joins, along the bottom edge of the painting and in the fur. Many areas have suffered considerable abrasion, especially in the dark brown costume and the fur, where the paint surface is uneven and thin, exposing the ground in some parts.
With the microscope it can be seen that there are residues of old restoration in many areas. Many of the grey sleeve decorations near the cuff on the right are not original but were applied by the last restorer. The face, the hand on the right, the collar and right cuff and the gold decorative details on the costume and on the Garter chain are in comparatively good condition. The lettering at the top right has been removed almost entirely with a sharp tool which has gouged small pits into the ground, leaving the shapes of some letters cut into the paint and exposing the white ground. It is possible to see that the upper line of letters read: 'AETATIS XL'. But the only legible letters on the lower line are the last at the right end: 'XIX'. Some very small residues of the lead-tin yellow paint remain. There is much restoration. The modern synthetic varnish has a matt waxy surface. It does not appear to have discoloured.
Number of boards: 3
Panel Orientation: Vertical
An examination of tree rings, which can help to provide the earliest possible felling dates for the wood used for the panel. The technique can also indicate the geographical origin of the wood.
Number of boards: 3
Last date of tree ring: 1553
The boards were labelled A to C from the left (from the front) for analysis. There were sufficient rings for analysis on boards B and C. The ring sequences and the appearance of boards A and C indicated that they were derived from the same tree. The last tree ring from all three boards identified was from 1553. No sapwood is present at the outer edges of the boards and therefore a terminus post quem date can be applied to the panel. Adding the minimum expected number of sapwood rings suggested that the board came from a tree felled after 1561.
A technique used to identify changes in composition beneath the surface of the paint layers and to understand the physical structure of a panel or canvas.
The broad brushstrokes of the white chalk ground can be seen. Details containing lead white are clearly visible, such as the collar, cuffs and Garter collar and medallion. The balsa blocks on the back of the panel are clearly evident (see x-ray mosaic 01).
A technique used to observe the layers beneath the paint surface which can reveal underdrawing and changes to the initial design.
Thick black lines of underdrawing are visible in the paint surface as well as with infrared reflectography. It can be seen in the face, outlining the features and spaced hatching along the edges of the beard and moustache (see IRR mosaic 01). It is also visible in the hand on the right (see IRR mosaic 02). It is mechanical and simple, and has the appearance of tracing. The hatching along the edges of the beard and moustache is more widely spaced than the hatching on the portrait of Nicholas Heath (NPG 1388).
Change to the composition/pentimenti
Infrared reflectography shows that the top outline of the eye on the right was raised a little at the painting stage.
Investigation into microscopic pigment samples or samples of other media in order to help with dating, to reveal the order of the paint layers and help to understand the painting techniques used.
Paint samples were taken to analyse the pigments and layer structure of the painting in November 2007.
Ground and preparation layers
The panel was prepared with a thick white chalk ground. No obvious priming layer could be seen in the samples but the broad brushstrokes of the priming can be seen in x-ray.
Flesh and cuffs
Cross-sections show that the structure of both the flesh and the cuff are similar. Possibly the white of the cuff lay under the hand, a change of composition/pentiment, in the area where the sample was taken. The samples (3 and 4) both contain a thick layer of lead white with tiny amounts of black. The sample from the hand also has a fine layer of pink over this grey. An unusual looking white could be seen on the white cuffs. The painter has used two pigments, lead white and chalk. Chalk seems to have been mixed in oil to produce slightly different white effects, a more translucent white than with lead white. Libby Sheldon suggests that the painter could create the appearance of a diaphanous material more readily with chalk.
Vermilion forms the scarlet of the oval jewels on the chain. The dark parts around the ovals are painted with lamp black and earth pigments.
The sword hilt is painted in quite an elaborate mixture of pigments to achieve the illusion of gold. The sides are painted with lead-tin yellow, with touches of red lead as well as orange and yellow earth pigments.
The background (see sample 7) has two layers. The lower paint layer consists of a dense, mixed grey, made with red (probably red earth), black, a greyish white and occasional yellow ochre. The upper layer is much browner, with a high proportion of red and white and less black.
An examination of the construction of paint layers, glazes and condition often using a microscope. This method provides important evidence concerning an artist’s technique and paint handling and can reveal a specific artist’s characteristic painting style.
Painting style and method
The panel was prepared with a chalk ground. The broad brushstrokes of the lead based priming layer can be seen in x-ray.
A warm reddish brown can be seen, with the microscope, in the tiny paint losses in the dark costume. It is most likely to be residues of old varnishes caught at the bottom of the tiny losses (see micro 16).
The underdrawing is mechanical and simple, and has the appearance of studio work. The painting style has some of the manner of the portrait of Lady Dacre and Gregory Fiennes (NPG 6855) and a similar order, but the method is systematic and lacks any of the subtleties of the Lady Dacre and Gregory Fiennes portrait.
Paint layer structure
The flesh paint was applied at an early stage. It is blended in the manner of Eworth, often wet-in-wet, such as on the finger tips and the nose (see micro 14 and micro 03).
There are fine even parallel lines in the paint 'combed' over the surface on the ends of a finger tip on the hand on the right and at the top of the ear where the hair comes over it (see micro 15 and micro 04). This technique was used on the portrait of Lady Dacre and Gregory Fiennes (NPG 6855), and on Mary I (NPG 4861), and was evidently carried out with the same type of small brush/tool with evenly parallel stiff bristles/comb teeth.
With the final blending of the paint surface in the flesh, the right edge of the face was altered a little over the grey background paint. The final brushstrokes for the hair are rather mechanical.
The white cuffs and collar were painted at an early stage. The blackwork embroidery on the cuffs and collar (see micro 12), and the black hat were painted at a late stage. The details, painted with lead-tin yellow, of the gold stitching, buttons, aglets, sword, and Garter collar, were applied last. Much of this detail appears rather mechanically executed (see micro 07, micro 11, micro 08 and micro 13). But the St George on the Garter chain is more finely painted (see micro 09 and micro 19).
The blue background to the lettering has discoloured, this appears to be smalt. The highlights are painted with lead-tin yellow and there is a darker yellow beneath which is probably yellow ochre as with the yellow details in the portrait of Mary I (NPG 4861) (see micro 06).
The background was painted in two stages, as with the other portraits by Eworth, such as Nicholas Heath (NPG 1388) and Lady Dacre and Gregory Fiennes (NPG 6855). The light brown first layer was laid in at an early stage. The later darker paint was added at the end of the painting process. This can be seen at the right edge.
Order of construction
- White chalk ground
- There is a thin lead based priming layer
- Flesh and white cuffs
- Hair and beard
- Part of the sword hilt is painted over the hand on the right
- Slight changes in the shirt cuff and hand
- Details on costume: jewels, buttons, Garter chain and St George
- Black embroidery on collar and cuffs, black hat
- Final edges of the flesh paint and details of hair
- Dark right side of background, applied last
Lead white, lamp black, lead-tin yellow , vermilion (made by the dry-process), smalt, red lead, orange and yellow ochre, green in the Dragon: probably verdigris mixed with lead-tin yellow
Changes in composition/pentimenti
The upper outline of the eye on the right was raised at the painting stage. The right edge of the face was made slightly wider during the painting process and the edge of the final flesh paint layers were painted over the background colour. The edge of the cuff and the hand on the right were changed slightly (see Paint sampling).
A method which helps to reveal past restoration and the extent of varnish layers.
Ultra violet shows the painted reconstruction of the left side (see UV 01). Restoration can be seen in the losses down the panel joins and in the costume at the lower right. There are numerous small areas of restoration scattered over the costume and the face. The aglets (tags) on the sleeve on the right appear to have been strengthened with restoration.