John Lumley, 1st Baron Lumley
7 of 19 portraits on display in Room 2 at the National Portrait Gallery
- Tudor and Jacobean Portraits Database
John Lumley, 1st Baron Lumley
by Unknown Anglo-Netherlandish artist
oil on panel, 1570s
41 in. x 35 5/8 in. (1042 mm x 905 mm)
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New Date: 1570s or 1580s
New attribution: Unknown Anglo-Netherlandish artist
Key findings: Dendrochronology revealed that the portrait was painted in the 1570s or 1580s, slightly later than was previously thought.
Purchased from the Leggatt brothers after its sale at Christies on 22 June 1979 (lot 144). Previously in the collection of Major General Sir George Burns of North Mimms Park.
John Lumley, 1st Baron Lumley built up one of the greatest art collections of his age and his passion for collecting portraits is recorded in the Lumley Inventory made in 1590.
Notes on likely authorship
The style of painting is consistent with an Anglo-Netherlandish artist from this period. The portrait has previously been attributed to Steven van der Meulen (Strong, 1969, p. 131), whose oeuvre has recently been largely reattributed to Steven van Herwijck (Grosvenor, 2009, pp. 12-17). However, as both van der Meulen and van Herwijck died in the 1560s the artist responsible for NPG 5262 must remain as an as yet unidentified émigré.
Commentary on painting style, technique
The painting is in good condition. The paint layers are thinly applied and the painting method is straightforward but with interesting manipulation of layering light over dark to create shadow. The sword hilt is painted in a particularly economical but effective manner, skilfully exploiting the black of the costume beneath.
In x-ray it can be seen that the pale lead priming layer is more thickly applied in the upper part of the painting, beneath the head, background and shoulders, and the face paint is thinly worked over this priming. This technique provides an enhanced base layer to the area around the face, which allowed the following paint layers in the area a greater reflective range. This selective enhancement of the area around the head is a technique which becomes increasingly common towards the end of the sixteenth century. The hands do not appear to be painted within a full reserve left for them when the initial black costume layers were applied. It is not uncommon in paintings of this period for the flesh paint of the fingers to be extended over dark costume paint which has been painted over the edges of the reserves left for hands. However, in this portrait the dark paint beneath seems to have been deliberately exploited as shadow.
Justification for dating
Dendrochronology has revealed that the tree used to make the panel was felled between 1563 and 1578. This indicates that the portrait was painted slightly later than was previously thought. However, the techniques and materials in use are consistent with a work from this period and it is therefore likely that it was painted in the 1570s or 1580s.
Drawing and transfer technique
No clear underdrawing can be seen using infrared reflectography. A small number of very fine lines were observed around the eyes and beneath the ear but it is not clear whether these are underdrawn or thinly applied paint.
Relevance to other known versions
Related portraits include:
- a similar portrait survives in a Private collection, which includes the Lumley cartellino
- a version also appeared in the saleroom at Sothebys in 9 July 1997 (lot 14)
Cust, Lionel, The Lumley Inventories, Walpole Society, VI, 1918, pp. 15-35
Grosvenor, Bendor, The identity of the famous painter Steven: Not Steven van der Meulen but Steven van Herwijck, The British Art Journal, 9.3, 2009, pp. 12-17
Hearn, Karen, The Painters, The Lumley Inventory and Pedigree, ed. Mark Evans, 2010, pp. 55-8
Hill, G.F., Two Netherlandish Artists in England: Steven van Herwijck and Steven van der Meulen, Walpole Society, XI, 1922, pp. 29-32
Strong, Roy, The English Icon, 1969, p. 121
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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 is in good condition and appears structurally sound. The painting has a history of flaking, although no evidence of this was seen at the point of examination. Areas of raised paint were noted in the black costume, the background, and to a lesser degree in the face, but these appear stable. The paint surface has suffered abrasion in the black costume, particularly in the sleeve on the right), and in the grey background. The paint surface has been well restored and the visible retouchings are generally well matched. In some areas, particularly along the lower half of the left-hand panel join (from the front), the restoration is a little cloudy and has a raised texture. The varnish appears even but is a little unsaturated and has a slightly matte waxy surface.
Number of boards: 3
Panel Orientation: Vertical
Panel condition observations
There is a fixed cradling structure attached to the reverse of the panel; this does not appear to be causing any serious structural problems. An old split in the upper left-hand corner has been filled and restored and does not seem to have opened further since this treatment was carried out.
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: 1563
The boards were labelled A to C from the left (from the front) for the purposes of analysis. Sapwood was present on boards B and C which allows a felling date range to be applied to the panel. The ring sequences of boards B and C were sufficiently similar to suggest that they are derived from parts of the same tree, and the sequence matched reference data for eastern Baltic oak. The last ring identified in board B was 1563, and 1556 in board C. Adding the minimum and maximum expected number of sapwood rings suggests these boards were derived from a single tree felled between 1563 and 1578. This dating indicates that the panel was painted slightly later than 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 vertical wood grain and broadly applied lead white priming are evident in x-ray. The priming was more thickly applied in the upper third of the painting, beneath the head, background and shoulders. The non-original cradle structure on the reverse is highly visible and to a certain extent restricts a clear reading of the paint layers. Minor compositional changes can be seen in the hat, where it was extended on the right-hand side during the painting process. Areas of paint damage in the lower left-hand corner can also be seen (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.
No clear underdrawing is visible using infrared reflectography. A small number of very fine lines were observed around the eyes and beneath the ear. However, it is not clear whether these are underdrawn or whether they are thinly applied paint. Small pentimenti can be seen using infrared reflectography, where the hat was extended along the top right-hand edge, and where alterations were made to the hands. These changes are visible in normal light (see Surface examination). In viewing the hand on the left using infrared reflectography, it appears that the index finger was significantly lengthened, as it appears that a nail was originally painted further up the finger towards the current knuckle (see IRR mosaic 02). A reserve can be seen in the hand on the left, from the wrist to the knuckles.
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 August 2009.
The appearance of the chalk ground differed in some samples, probably due to the use of conservation consolidants. Sample 8 showed the original creamy-white tone. The thin lead white priming appears in most samples, but Libby Sheldon suggests that it was not brushed very precisely over all the chalk ground as the thickness in the samples varies or is not present, as in Sample 2.
Use of blacks
A variety of black pigments were identified in this painting. The characteristic oblong splinters of charcoal black can be seen mixed into the whites of the eyes. The black in and around the moustache is more rounded than the angular charcoal pigment particles, which suggests a plant black from fruit stones such cherry, almond, or peach.
Different blacks are used in the costume, including a smooth, rich black which may be bone black.
The black costume was painted with different types and mixtures of pigments to achieve sparkling grey in some parts and an intense smooth black in others.
Sample 5: The most intense, dark smooth black was mixed with a brownish tint, suggesting some kind of bituminous black or burnt black, such as bone black, with a warm brownish hue.
Sample 6: The greyish black is a combination of plant black or clearly divided angular particles, mixed with red lake and a little lead white.
There is sophisticated modelling in lead-tin yellow, ochre and an organic lake. There are translucent remains of discoloured varnish but also traces which appear to be a yellow glaze.
Sample 7: Taken from the side of the ridge of the handle. Dispersion showed a large quantity of chalk present, suggesting a yellow lake precipitated in chalk.
Green background curtain
Sample 1: Dispersion shows the good condition of the green glaze.
Sample 2: From paint where the green glaze lies over the pale undermodelling of highlights. There are two preparation layers of chalk, with the red underlayer for the background above. There are two thin, translucent dark layers over the red layer and over the pale undermodelling for the curtain. The lowest one contains black particles in a brown translucent medium, it is discontinuous and is possibly a compositional underlayer. Above is a thin dark blue layer containing indigo and some lead white, which may form the darkest part of the undermodelling. The thick impasto of the light undermodelling is composed largely of lead-tin yellow, with traces of indigo and would have been a very pale, bright green. The pure copper green glaze (verdigris in oil) was applied, in a generous layer, over three different tones of undermodelling.
Sample 8: The chalk ground is in good condition. The thin white lead priming is above this. The grey undermodelling is a thick layer of plant black and white which lies over the priming. The copper green glaze over this has discoloured a little to brown in some parts.
Sample 4: From the lower-left background. A dark layer of almost pure black lies over the the reddish underlayer (containing red ochre).
Sample 10: From the upper-right background. This was too heavily involved with overpaint (black with French ultramarine and other pigments), but seems to include some of the warmer brownish black of the coat.
Coat of Arms
The green parrots are painted with a mixture of verdigris and either lead-tin yellow or lead white. Both can be seen in pure form in other parts of the parrots.
Sample 9: The orange colour has a slightly pock-marked appearance, as if soaps have formed in it, which is characteristic of some kinds of vermilion, but could imply the presence of a lead-based substance in or under the vermilion. It is very orange in hue but examination in dispersion identified it as dry-process vermilion.
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 painting method is straightforward but with interesting manipulation of layering light over dark to create shadow. There is a deliberate use of a dark underlayer where lighter paint was laid over the dark costume paint, as in the sword hilt and the fingers. The paint layers are thinly applied.
The panel has a chalk ground layer, above which is a thin lead white priming layer. The pale priming can be seen in several areas at the edges of the panel and beneath the thinly applied flesh paint. Small lead white soaps are evident throughout the paint surface, probably from the priming layer.
The pink underlayer for the background does not extend beneath the face. A reserve was left for the head and the flesh paint was thinly worked directly above the white priming. The top lip was defined by the shadow of the moustache, and the lower lip was thinly painted above the white priming using vermilion, black and a little lead white (see micro 12). The black pigment particles seen in the lips are rounded in character, similar to those of plant black, such as fruit stone. The paint mixture used in the flesh contains mostly vermilion and lead white with some occasional red lake. The same mixture was used in the features and shadows, with an increased proportion of black and earth pigments.
The eyes were simply painted using earth pigments, red lake and black to define the outline and shadow. A mixture of charcoal black and lead white was used for the whites of the eyes, and red lake and vermilion can be seen in the tear duct area (see micro 02). Hands It appears that the hands were not painted within a full reserve left for them at the initial painting stage, but were partially applied over the black jacket paint. A reserve was left between the wrist and knuckles, and does not extend to the fingers or outer edges of the hands. This is clearly seen using infrared reflectography (see IRR mosaic 02|img/[5262_2009_IRR_mosaic02.jpg]}). Beneath the thinly applied flesh paint, the dark costume was purposefully used to define the shadows and mid-tones of the flesh above. The deepest shadows between the fingers were then added using a dark brown paint mixture above (see micro 15). In the portrait of Thomas Gresham (NPG 352), the flesh paint for the fingers is also laid over the black costume paint, but this is a change in the composition (although in parts the dark underlayer does create shadow), whereas the use of dark underpaint in the Lumley portrait seems deliberate in order to achieve shadows in the flesh.
The pale priming shows through as a mid-tone in the beard. The beard was built up thinly using a mixture of earth pigments, black, vermilion and red lake. Individual hairs were then painted with fine brushstrokes, with lead white added for highlights. The brown paint has a characteristic fine craquelure noted in the hair of Mary Queen of Scots (NPG 1766) and fur collar of William Butts (NPG 210).
The costume was painted before the grey background was applied. It appears that the jacket was painted first using a rich black, with a little red added. The cloak was then applied above using a similar mixture, with a greater proportion of red lake to add a warm, brown tone to the costume. The fur edging has a particularly high concentration of red mixed into the black, making it much more brown in tone. The detail in the costume was achieved using a different black pigment to that seen elsewhere. This has a silvery grey, sparkly appearance, similar to that of graphite, and contrasts with the rich black of the surrounding costume (see micro 06). Paint sample analysis has shown that the most intense, dark and smooth black is made with pure black with a brownish tint which suggests the addition of a bituminous or burnt black. The greyish black is a combination of plant black or clearly divided angular particles mixed with red lake and a little lead white. This would give the greyish parts of the costume a cool purple tint to distinguish them from the warm, intense black elsewhere (see Paint sampling). The painter's technique is interesting, with the use of a variety of black pigments to achieve varying tones and detail within the costume. Lead soaps can be seen throughout the dark costume, which probably originate from the lead white priming beneath. The costume paint has suffered abrasion, particularly in the sleeve on the right, and there are areas of restoration. The cuffs and collar were first laid in using a grey mid-tone, with lead white highlights and detail added above (see micro 04).
The gold chain and pendant were painted over the black costume with lead-tin yellow (see detail 08). The circle for the pendant was incised with a compass prior to painting and this can be seen using microscopy (see micro 22). The pearl at the bottom of the pendant was painted using a mixture of a sparkly black pigment and lead white. The highlight on the pearl was then painted with lead white (see micro 09).
Sword hilt and belt
The sword hilt and belt were painted over the black costume, using lead-tin yellow, yellow ochre, and an organic yellow lake (see Paint sampling). Lead-tin yellow was first applied to the area of the sword hilt in a thin layer to create a rough division between the shadow and highlight. For the highlight a second application of lead-tin yellow, mixed with a little yellow ochre and yellow lake was then brushed in a thicker layer on the left-hand side of the hilt. The two areas were then blended with a soft brush, by dragging the thickly applied lead-tin yellow across into the area of shadow, using individual brushstrokes (see micro 08). The use of the dark underlayer is clearly deliberate. Shadow on the tip of the hilt was created by scumbling lead-tin yellow over the dark underlayer. Yellow ochre mixed with a little black was used in some areas of the sword hilt.
The glove was painted over the black costume and index finger on the hand on the left using earth pigments, black, vermilion and lead white. The index finger was worked up quite fully and included details such as the fingernail, before the glove was painted over it (see micro 21). The glove was initially laid in using a mid-brown colour, above which shadows and highlights were applied using the same pigments in differing proportions. As with the hands, sword hilt and belt, the underlying dark costume shows through the thinly applied upper paint layers (see micro 05).
The background was first laid in with a reddish underlayer, made mostly with red earth. This can be seen through the thinly applied dark upper layer, and appears to vary in tone between areas of shadow and highlight (see micro 14). In the area directly to the right of the sitter's head, the underlayer is cooler in tone than elsewhere. The underlayer can also be seen where the grey paint has suffered abrasion. The upper layer is disrupted by wear, small cracks and lead white soaps but it is evident that the painter intended the warmth of the underlayer to have an effect on the grey upper layer. The reddish underlayer was also applied before the undermodelling for the green curtain.
The background drapery was painted with a copper green glaze applied over blue/green underpainting, with lead-tin yellow and indigo (see Paint sampling), painted with quite vigourous brushstrokes with thick light areas and mid-tones, and thin darks. In some parts there appear to be two relatively thin, translucent dark layers. The lower one, which was not continuous, is made with black particles in a brown translucent medium and may be some form of compositional underlay. Over this there is another thin layer which is dark blue in colour, containing indigo with some lead white. This layer may have formed the darkest part of the undermodelling, and a mid-tone may have been the same blue with a greater proportion of white. The thick impasto of the lighter folds on the undermodelling are composed mostly of lead-tin yellow with traces of indigo, and would have been a very pale, bright green. The green glaze on the curtain is in good condition with no evidence of degradation.
The undermodelling on the green tablecloth is grey, painted with lead white and toned with plant black (with no lead-tin yellow or indigo). The undermodelling is glazed with a layer of copper green as in the curtain. However, a little browning at the upper edges shows that there is some degradation. The tassels along the lower edge of the tablecloth were painted using single, fine brushstrokes of lead white over the grey modelling layer. These were then glazed with copper green, and final touches of lead white were applied to define the highlights (see micro 03).
Coat of Arms
The coat of arms was painted over the grey background at a late stage in the painting process (see detail 07). A pale grey layer was applied first, followed by a thin application of lead white and charcoal black in the white rectangular areas. The black and red (vermilion) details were then applied (see micro 19), followed by the parrots and lead-tin yellow details. The parrots are painted with a green which seems to be a mixture of verdigris and with either lead white or lead-tin yellow. Dry-process vermilion was identified (see Paint sampling).
The framing was painted using lead-tin yellow for the highlights, and lead-tin yellow and yellow ochre were mixed in areas of shadow (see micro 20). The parrots were fluidly painted with wet-in-wet blending, using a fine soft-haired brush. Lead-tin yellow, black, vermilion, lead white and copper green glaze pigments were used, and in areas of highlight, lead-tin yellow was mixed with the copper green glaze (see micro 18). Remnants of discoloured varnish can also be seen on the surface.
Order of construction
- Chalk ground
- Priming (lead white)
- Red underlayer for background
- Undermodelling for background drapery and tablecloth
- Face, hair and beard and reserve for hands
- Collar and cuffs laid in with pale grey
- Costume (rich black followed by silvery grey/black detail above)
- Background grey
- Detail and highlights in collar and cuffs
- Sword hilt, pendent and belt
- Copper green glaze in background drapery and tablecloth
- Coat of arms
Lead white, charcoal black, plant black, bone black, probably fruit-stone black, vermilion, red lake, lead-tin yellow, earth pigments, yellow ochre, yellow lake, indigo, copper green glaze, verdigris
Changes to composition/pentimenti
Slight alterations were made during the painting process. These include lowering the eyelid of the eye on the left and the top of the shoulder on the right slightly, and reducing the width of the hat at the edges on the right side. The alterations to the hat were made when the background was applied, using the grey to cover the edges of the black and redefine the contour (see micro 11 and micro 16). These pentimenti have become apparent due to an increase in transparency of the oil paint over time.
A method which helps to reveal past restoration and the extent of varnish layers.
Patches of green fluorescing natural resin varnish can be seen in the costume and hat when viewed in ultra violet light. It is likely that cautious cleaning in areas of vulnerable black paint accounts for the presence of these residues. The paint surface is in good condition, with minimal retouching. Areas of restoration mainly appear along the panel joins, splits and in the lower-left corner. Patches of very bright fluorescence with a blue tone can be seen in and around the panel split, which probably relates to a filling or adhesive material. The green background drapery in the upper-right corner has a very brushy appearance when viewed in ultra violet light (see UV 01).