Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey
1 portrait on display in Room 1 at the National Portrait Gallery
- Tudor and Jacobean Portraits Database
Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey
after William Scrots
oil on panel, circa 1570-1580s (1546)
18 7/8 in. x 11 7/8 in. (480 mm x 301 mm)
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Key findings: Dendrochronology has shown this picture to date from a slightly later period, and the painting may be a copy of an earlier lost work by Scrots or an artist working in his style.
The earliest known owner of the work was Sir Henry Bedingfield of Oxburgh Hall. The portrait may have been an item in a sale in Copenhagen in the 1930s, possibly with the firm Winkel & Magnussen. It was then sold from a private collection at Christie's in 1973 where it was purchased by the Gallery.
Notes on likely authorship
Significant numbers of different portraits of Surrey exist, indicating that he may have sat for his portrait on numerous occasions. There are several types of portraits of him extant. This portrait is a version of a type said to originally have been painted by William Scrots. In March 1551 the king paid fifty marks to Scrots for 'three great tables', two of Edward VI and the 'third a picture of the late Earl of Surrey attainted' (Strype, 1822, p.217). It is not known why a portrait of Surrey was commissioned after his death, but it may have been painted to hang among a historical collection of portraits of other courtiers from the reign of Henry VIII. Given the later date of NPG 4952, it is possible that it derives from the portrait commissioned in 1551, which is now lost.
Commentary on condition, painting style, technique
The paint surface is in reasonable condition although there is a considerable amount of abrasion, particularly in the background green. There has been restoration in this area and in the doublet, beard, hat and the flesh, and some of this is now a little mismatched.
To create the green background colour, a deep copper glaze was applied over an opaque, paler green layer. Much of this is abraded. The paint is relatively thickly applied in the flesh, and lies directly over the off-white priming. In a similar manner to a method adopted in Scrots's painting of Edward VI (NPG 442), shadows and contours were then defined above this initial opaque flesh tone with thin applications of darker earth pigment and fine, smoothly blended brushstrokes. This technique, and the use of wet-in-wet, were also utilised in the flesh, moustache and hair. The darkest brown hairs were added last, using a very fine brush. The handling appears to indicate that this artist was directly copying an earlier work, perhaps by Scrots.
Justification for dating
The technique and materials in use are entirely consistent with a work from this period. Dendrochronology indicates that the wood derives from a tree which was felled after 1566. This key piece of evidence demonstrates the picture must be a later version of a lost picture.
Drawing and transfer technique
Infrared reflectography has revealed considerable underdrawing in the face, white collar and beard. The lines are generally short and rather mechanical, suggesting that they were transferred from a preliminary drawing or pattern. The lines defining the features are not continuous, which suggests that they were probably made with a liquid drawing medium over previously traced or pounced marks. The painted marks appear to follow the underdrawn lines accurately, and in some areas the underdrawing can be seen through the paint surface, such as the right eye.
In common with a later version, there are no major, obvious changes to the composition in the painting stage. The outline of the right shoulder may have been moved a little between the drawing and painting stages: the black doublet was painted slightly inside the drawn line.
Relevance to other known versions
There are a number of other versions of this portrait type of varying dates, all of which are on canvas:
- Parham Park (ex Sir Berkeley Sheffield Collection)
- Knole (Lord Sackville, first recorded in 1728)
- Castle Howard
- Arundel Castle (Duke of Norfolk; recorded in 1637)
Strong, Strong, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 1969, pp.307-308
Strype, John, Ecclesiastical Memorials, 1822 (reprinted 1977), vol.2, pt. 2, p.217
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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 paint surface is in sound condition, despite a considerable amount of abrasion. This is particularly noticeable in the background green, where much of the upper green glaze has been thinned. Mismatched restoration can be seen to cover much of the abrasion, particularly in the background, doublet and flesh.
A considerable amount of milky and mismatched restoration is present over the green background, as well as scattered islands of discoloured varnish which remain on the surface after the last cleaning campaign, undertaken in 1973 (see Sheldon Sample 3).
Further milky and mismatched restoration can be seen in the flesh, beard, hat and doublet.
Number of boards: 1
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: 1
Last date of tree ring: 1558
The panel is constructed from a single board with no sapwood and, therefore, a terminus post quem date can be applied. The last heartwood tree ring identified dates from 1558 and adding the minimum expected number of sapwood rings suggests the tree used for this board was felled after 1566. The board is approximately 290 mm wide, which is typical of the majority of full width boards seen in panel paintings. As this picture is undated and the board does not seem to have been significantly trimmed prior to use, it is suitable to apply an Eastern Baltic 8-40 year LEHR- usage range to this panel; this gives a conjectural usage-date range of 1566-1598. This information confirms that the panel could not have been painted around 1546, as was previously thought.
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 backgound is dense due to lead-tin yellow pigment in the underlayer of the background. The fine modelling in the face can be seen (see x-ray 01). The broad brushstrokes of the priming layer are visible under the costume and hat but in the background they are obscured by the dense lead-tin yellow pigment. The crack down the centre of the panel is evident with some paint losses. A small pin or staple (at the back of the panel) can be seen across the crack in the forehead.
A technique used to observe the layers beneath the paint surface which can reveal underdrawing and changes to the initial design.
Considerable underdrawing can be seen with infrared reflectography in the face, white collar and beard (see IRR mosaic 01). Due to the black pigments used in the hat and doublet, no underdrawing was detectable in these areas but the basic forms of the costume would have also been underdrawn.
The black underdrawn lines are generally short and rather mechanical, suggesting that they were transferred from a preliminary drawing or pattern. The lines defining the features are not continuous, which suggests that they were probably made with a wet drawing medium over previously traced or pounced marks - for example, in the lines defining the sitter's left eye and tear duct .
The painted marks appear to follow the underdrawn lines accurately, and in some areas the underdrawing can be seen through the paint surface, such as the sitter's right eye (see micro 01).
Changes to Composition/pentimenti
There do not appear to be any obvious pentimenti, although the outline along the shoulder on the left may have been moved a little between the drawing and painting stages. Here, it appears that the black doublet was painted slightly inside the drawn line.
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 2008.
Ground and priming
The ground layer is composed of white chalk, bound in oil (medium analysis was undertaken at National Gallery in 1973).
Above the ground layer, a thin off-white priming can be seen. This is composed of lead white, with traces of charcoal black and red and brown pigments (probably red ochre and umber). The addition of these pigments would have provided a definite warm hue to the priming; perhaps pinkish grey in tone.
The rich brown of the sitter's hair contains a good proportion of red ochre, as well as umber, plant black and lead white. This mixture was probably the same brown used for the sitter's eyes.
The white of the collar is composed of predominantly lead white. However, large particles of charcoal black and traces of what appeared to be smalt were added to the paint mixture, providing a bluish tint next to the adjacent flesh colour.
The green background appears to be constructed with a thick underlayer of lead-tin yellow, modified by a deep copper green glaze. The structure of the lower layers is the same as seen elsewhere, with a thick chalk ground and off-white priming layer. The first green paint layer is very yellow and opaque in appearance and has the characteristics of lead-tin yellow (this was confirmed by Plesters during her analysis in 1973). Above this, a copper green glaze can be seen.
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
Also see Joyce Plesters' and Libby Sheldon's reports (1973 and 2008).
Chalk ground layer bound in animal glue .
Thin lead white priming layer in oil medium (tested 1973). This contains occasional particles of red lead and charcoal black. The presence of this layer has also been verified in samples taken by Sheldon, although this analysis also found traces of red ochre and umber within the essentially white priming. As a result of the addition of these warm pigments, the overall tone of the priming would itself have been a warm off-white, perhaps even slightly pale pink colour (see Sheldon, Sample 4).
Black underdrawing can be seen in the face, for example in the left side eye (see micro 01).
Paint layer structure
Face and beard
The whites of the sitter's eyes are composed of a pale grey mixture of lead white, black, vermilion and ochre. A vivid red lake was then used to define the inner corner of the eye and tear ducts, which was blended wet-in-wet to white below. In a similar manner, red lake was also used to create deep shadows in the lips (see micro 01, micro 02, micro 03 and micro 07).
The first layers of flesh, beard and moustache paint appear to have been laid in after the white collar, the initial pale yellow/green background tone, doublet and hat (see micro 08, micro 15 and micro 19). The paint is relatively thickly applied in the flesh, and lies directly over the off-white priming. Above this initial opaque flesh tone the shadows and contours are modelled with thin applications of darker earth pigment and fine, smoothly blended brushstrokes. This technique, and the use of wet-in-wet, was also utilised in the flesh, moustache and hair. The darkest brown hairs were added last, using a very fine brush. These hairs were painted above the white collar and doublet , using the same brown mixture as that used to define the contour of the ear (see micro 01, micro 02, micro 03, micro 05, micro 06, micro 07, micro 10, micro 14, micro 19 and micro 20).
Despite the relative thickness of the flesh paint, carbon black underdrawing can be seen through the paint in a number of areas such as the eyes, temple, eyebrow arch and nose (see micro 01 and micro 05).
The flesh has been abraded in many areas, particularly in the nose, where it has a patchy mottled appearance (see micro 05). Many areas of abrasion seen in the beard for example, have been restored with what is now a milky, mismatched colour.
Surface examination suggests that the white collar was built up with an initial thin, pale grey paint layer, composed of lead white, charcoal black and a little vermilion. This was applied directly above the priming. Analysis by Sheldon in 2008 has not confirmed the presence of vermilion particles in the sample taken, however, traces of smalt were observed (see Paint sampling). The bluish grey paint mixture was made using both charcoal black and smalt mixed into lead white. Above this pale grey base layer, a thicker application of the same paint mixture, with much more lead white was added to define the folds and highlights in the painted cloth (see micro 11 and micro 13 and layer structure below).
Paint samples taken in 1973 and 2008 confirm the presence of an off-white priming layer beneath the black doublet. This area is now significantly abraded. In some areas, such as either side of the neck, the surface has a sparkly appearance which is due to the presence of a broken-up varnish layer on the surface and to the use of a particularly granular and shiny carbon black pigment.
The hat appears to have been painted after the initial background green colour was applied and before the flesh and hair. The layer structure here is similar to the black doublet, with the use of a deep charcoal black pigment above the ground and an off-white priming layer. Above this, small aglets (tags) were painted using lead-tin yellow. Many of these have been reinforced with restoration (see micro 17 and micro 18).
The background is composed of at least two layers. Directly above the priming, there is a pale yellow-green opaque layer composed of lead-tin yellow, lead white and verdigris. Above the lower green layer, a deep copper green glaze was applied to create a deep, rich and intense green. Much of this glaze has been heavily abraded, leaving a rather patchy surface appearance, where the paler opaque green layer shows through more strongly than originally intended. Despite the abrasion that has been caused, the copper green glaze is better preserved in some areas, particularly along the left edge of the panel (see micro 09).
On examining the surface closely, it appears that the green glaze was the last area to be painted as it overlaps the white collar and doublet in a number of areas (see micro 13).
Order of construction
- Chalk ground layer bound in animal glue
- Thin lead white priming layer in oil medium
- Green background: composed of lead-tin yellow, lead white and verdigris
- First layer of white collar paint: composed of lead white, charcoal black, smalt and perhaps a small amount of vermilion (see micro 11)
- Doublet: composed of a thick, intensely black paint layer composed of 'knobbly, shiny granules' of carbon black in oil medium (see Plesters' report - 1973)
- Hat with aglets (tags) above
- Opaque white highlights/definition in the white collar
- Initial layer of flesh and beard
- Eyes and lips
- Thin paint containing earth pigments was used to define features and shadow in flesh, beard and moustache
- Final copper green glaze was applied over the background
- Wiry hairs on the beard appear to have been applied last, using a paint mixture composed of red ochre, umber, plant black and lead white
Charcoal black, plant black, lead white, red ochre, earth pigments, lead-tin yellow, verdigris, copper green glaze, vermilion, red lake, smalt
Changes in composition/pentimenti
The outline along the shoulder on the left may have been moved a little between the drawing and painting stages.
A method which helps to reveal past restoration and the extent of varnish layers.
Examination in ultra violet light shows dark restoration in the face, down the repaired split in the panel; the restoration extends down the whole repair (see UV 01). There are other retouchings along the lower edge and small scattered retouchings in the costume, hair and face, and background. There is dark retouching in the background along the edges of the collar and ears. The varnish appears a little opaque and some old uneven residues remain, due to careful cleaning, on the hat and the coat.