Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk
5 of 19 portraits on display in Room 2 at the National Portrait Gallery
- Tudor and Jacobean Portraits Database
Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk
by Unknown Anglo-Netherlandish artist
oil on panel, 1565
1032 mm x 802 mm (40 5/8 in. x 31 5/8 in.)
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New attribution: Unknown Anglo-Netherlandish artist
Key findings: Close comparison with the portrait of John Lumley, by 'Steven' suggests that this painting is the work of a different artist.
Purchased in 2004 through Christies by Private Treaty Sale; previously owned by the Earl of Carlisle. Possibly the same portrait as that listed in the 1590 Lumley inventory (Cust, 1918, p. 23) and thence by descent in the Howard family. However, it must be noted that several contemporary portraits of Thomas Howard exist, none of which are recorded with added cartellini from the Lumley collection (Cooper, MacLeod and Zoller, 2010, p. 159).
Notes on likely authorship
The painting is Anglo-Netherlandish in style and is particularly sophisticated. It has previously been attributed to Steven van der Meulen (Strong, 1969, p. 125). Recently it has been proposed as part of the oeuvre of Steven van Herwijck (Grosvenor, 2009, p. 16). However, there is little similarity in technique with the portrait of John, Lord Lumley in a Private collection, which can be securely attributed to the artist identified in the 1590 Lumley Inventory as Steven. NPG 6676 is, therefore, likely to be by an as yet unidentified Anglo-Netherlandish artist working in England.
Commentary on painting style, technique
The painting method is straightforward but with some fine brushwork and modelling, especially in the face. The paint layers are thinly applied and subtle pigment mixtures and brushwork are used in the eyes, but the white highlight in the pupils is bright and over restored. An interesting dense area can be seen in x-ray in the head area. This is evidently a pale underlayer for the head, applied to increase the luminosity of the flesh paint applied thinly over it. The edges of the cuff and glove on the hand on the right were indicated first with sketchy black lines painted into the reserve when the black costume paint was applied. Similar black lines indicate the creases in the glove. These are now more visible due to increased transparency in the thin upper layers.
The structure of the column is puzzling because there appear to be two columns but there is only one column base. It is not clear whether the column on the right is intended as part of one column in shadow or whether it is a later addition. The pigment mixture differs from the column on the left, although it is painted directly over the same red underlayer as the background and the column on the left.
The painting is in reasonable condition but many of the details have been strengthened in various restoration campaigns, and this reinforcement has led to some loss of subtlety.
Justification for dating
The technique and materials in use are entirely consistent with a work from this period. The painting is inscribed, indistinctly, with the date 1565; the rest of the text is illegible (see detail 08). This date is supported by the results of dendrochronological analysis, which suggests that the wood for the panel derives from trees which were felled after 1555.
Drawing and transfer technique
A pattern seems to have been used for this portrait as it is evident from surface examination that there were reserves for the various elements of the portrait. A few very fine lines were observed with infrared reflectography, which may be underdrawn marks.
Relevance to other known versions
Other versions include:
- Audley End
- version offered to the National Portrait Gallery in November 1983 c/o Lane Fine Art (NPG Offer 122/83)
Cooper, Tarnya, and Susan Doran, Portrait of Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, dated 1565, in Susan Doran, ed., Elizabeth, National Maritime Museum, 2003, p. 217
Cooper, Tarnya, Catharine MacLeod and Margaret Zoller, The Portraits, in The Lumley Inventory and Pedigree, ed. Mark Evans, 2010, Appendix 3, pp. 157-64.
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
Strong, Roy, The English Icon, 1969, p. 125
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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 panel is flexible with movement along the joins. This is an ongoing problem which the current supports on the reverse have not solved. The central join is slightly open at the top, above the head. The individual boards all have differing convex warps. There are small losses along the panel joins which have been retouched. There are areas of raised craquelure in the black costume as well as areas of wear and abrasion, but the paint appears stable. Passages of the hair and beard have been strengthened. The retouchings are well matched apart from those in the black costume, although this is not obvious when on display. The abraded flesh paint has been heavily restored. The varnish is even and in good condition, but with a slight 'orange peel' texture.
Number of boards: 4
Panel Orientation: Vertical
Panel condition observations
The panel joins have been supported from the reverse with wooden buttons and linen canvas strips. Most of the buttons are attached to the reverse of the panel but three are attached on top of the canvas strips. The panel joins are flexible and movement has been noted in previous condition reports, showing that this is an ongoing problem.
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: 4
Last date of tree ring: 1547
The boards were labelled A to D from the left (from the front) for the purpose of analysis. No sapwood was found on any of the boards which means that a terminus post quem date can be applied to the panel. The sequences of A and D were found to strongly match but they are dissimilar enough to suggest they are from different trees. The dates for the latest tree rings were 1545, 1547 and 1546 for boards A, B and D respectively. Adding the minimum expected number of sapwood rings suggests that these boards were derived from three trees felled after 1555.
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 closely spaced wood grain can be seen in x-ray. There is evidence of a knot at the join edge in the upper right of board C. There are light areas where the priming has settled into the tool marks on the panel. No dowels are evident and the boards must have been joined with glue only. The wooden buttons on the back of the panel, damage along the joins and paint loss to the right of the mouth and in the eye on the left can also be seen in the x-ray. The broad brushstrokes of the thinly applied white priming are very clear. However, they are not evenly applied across the panel. An interesting feature can be noted which indicates that the painter applied a lead-based underlayer to the face area, most probably in order to increase the luminosity of the flesh paint layers. This appears as an area of increased density in x-ray, with smaller brushstrokes than the initial application of priming. The brushstroke direction indicates use of a left hand. This area of density extends beyond the face on each side, and down below the neck. The paint appears to have been scraped back when wet in order to create the shape for the hat. A dense line can be seen around the edge of the hat. This might be the edge of the pushed back paint but is probably the edge of the upper paint layer of the background, which was brought up to the edge of the hat reserve. The fine brushwork used to model the eyes, especially along the undamaged eye and brow on the right, can be seen in the x-ray but the contrast is reduced by the presence of the dense layer beneath the head. A reserve was also left for the hands. The remains of the inscription at the top right can be detected in the x-ray, and was evidently painted with lead-tin yellow (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.
A few very fine and faint lines were noted in the face using infrared reflectography, which may be underdrawn marks. It is evident that the black costume was painted up to the edge of the reserve left for the beard and collar and the white collar was extended over the black paint. The black costume was also painted up to the edge of the reserve for the hands. A reserve was left for the long point on the glove cuff on the right and the lines for creases in the glove and the edge of the white cuff were marked roughly with black brushstrokes. The edges of the glove were painted later over the roughly finished edges of the black costume paint. When flesh paint was applied to the hand on the left, the tip of the thumb was lengthened over black paint and the third and fourth fingers and the glove fingers were painted entirely over the black paint (see IRR mosaic 01, 02).
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.
There is a thick chalk ground. The pale priming contains mostly lead white with some traces of black, and although it seems wholly white it might be slightly grey. The priming was broadly applied with some variation in its thickness.
The flesh paint contains mostly vermilion and lead white.
The whites of the eyes contain azurite, vermilion, charcoal black and some red lake. The tear ducts contain vermilion and red.
The white contains some blue.
The grey is made with mixing various degrees of lead white.
Sample 7: Dispersion: The intense black on the costume, where the white collar cord meets the ruff, seems to be composed largely of lamp black with occasional plant black particles. There is a little azurite in the sample, perhaps added but not in cross-section.
Sample 8: Dispersion: A browner black, taken from the top of the sitter's right shoulder, appears to be a mixture of lamp black and plant black in larger particles, with a purer hue than in sample 7.
The small raised greyish dabs of impasto on the buttons may be lamp black and lead white.
Order of the Garter
The medallion is mordant gilded. The mordant is a dull yellow, mustard-like colour, and quite raised, and runs round the outside of the medallion. The gilding on the white horse is now very abraded. This is laid over a white mordant.
Sample 6: Dispersion of the blue mixed with lead white from the top of the rim of the medallion. Indigo was identified with very pale smalt.
The red is vermilion, with a red lake over it. The lead white in the mixture is very fine.
A small amount of black pigment rests on the surface, applied presumably to imitate the texture of leather.
The paint on the ring is quite different from that on the medallion. The shield shape appears to be surrounded with shell gold and may have been repaired with silver leaf.
Sample 4: From the shield shape, the red pigment is dry-process vermilion.
The purplish colour in the inner surround is red mixed with azurite.
Sample 5: Dispersion shows traces of yellow ochre and pale red lake with rather impasted azurite found in the parts with a greenish appearance.
A thinner dark green was observed which may be a copper green. It has a translucent appearance where it runs over the gold like a glaze.
Sample 1: The paint mixture on the column is predominantly black, red and white in almost equal proportions to give the purplish colour. The pigments are the same as in the background, but the proportions of the colours are varied to give the different tone. The surface of the column is varied with green/blue (with azurite) areas painted over the red layer and small flicks of red lake over the green/blue.
Sample 2: The background is composed of at least two, well-integrated layers of complex mixtures. The lower layer contains white, black and red ochre (as in the column) with a good proportion of red lead. The upper layer is predominantly red ochre and white, with a dark organic pigment which gives a reddish brown appearance.
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 with some fine brushwork and modelling, particularly in the face. The paint layers are thinly applied. There is an unusual use of gold leaf with mordant, shell gold and silver leaf. However, it is not clear whether all or some of these are original, or whether all are repairs. Many of the details have been strengthened in various restoration campaigns, including some in the most recent restoration. This has resulted in the loss of much of the original subtlety to the work, through reinforcement of intact original paint.
The panel was prepared with a chalk ground. The pale priming, containing mostly lead white with some traces of black, was applied with a broad brush. This can be seen in some parts of the paint surface, for example in the forehead, and is very clear with x-ray and infrared reflectography. A dense white underlayer was then applied to block in the head area, most probably in order to give greater luminosity to the flesh paint (see X-ray).
It seems clear that a pattern was used. No underdrawing can be seen with normal light or microscopy, and infrared reflectography shows a few very faint lines, which may be underdrawing.
The face is very thinly and finely painted over the pale underlayer. The flesh is finely modelled, particularly round the eyes and brow (see X-ray), and the light underlayer can be seen beneath. The flesh paint contains large particles of vermilion and red lake, mixed with lead white and black. The face has suffered abrasion, particularly in the forehead where a large amount of restoration can be seen (see micro 20). The lips were defined with a rich red lake glaze (see micro 13).
Subtle pigment mixtures are used in painting the eyes. Lead white, azurite, red lake, charcoal black and vermilion can be seen in the paint mixture in the whites of the eyes (see micro 21). The irises are painted with a mixture of black, white, vermilion and red lake with subtle light lines with white, vermilion, red lake, brown and yellow ochre pigments. The pupils are painted with black, brown and vermilion. The white highlight in the pupil is bright and over restored. There is a brown line round the edge of each eye made with brown, red and black. The slightly sparkly black appears to be charcoal black. There also appears to be another black pigment. The brown lines round the eyes appear to have been strengthened, although the degree to which this has been done is unclear (see micro 05).
The white paint mixture of the teeth contains some blue pigment.
The costume appears to have a warm grey underlayer. The detailed modelling layers were painted over this and final brushstrokes are painted over the edge of the final layer of background paint. The tones in the black mixtures of the costume are varied. There appear to be particles of red ochre and red lake also. The grey is mixed by varying the amount of lead white. The most intense black costume paint contains mostly lamp black with some occasional plant black particles, and a little azurite was found in the area sampled (see Paint sampling). The sample taken from the brown/black paint contains a mixture of lamp black and a plant black with larger particles (see Paint sampling). The deepest blacks appears to have a thin red lake layer over them, for example in the sword belt and the edge of the dark grey collar, which is not original. Some buttons are strengthened with old restoration, grey highlights applied at different times. The hat was painted over the background, and short, stiff brushstrokes were used to create the furry edging (see micro 11).
Collar and cuffs
Sketchy black lines were painted in the reserve for the hands, when the black costume was painted, to indicate the edge of the cuff and glove on the hand on the right. When the collar and cuffs were painted in they were extended beyond the edge of the reserves left when the black costume was painted (see Infrared reflectography). The black lines and the edges of the reserve are now visible where the cuff paint has become more transparent.
The collar and cuffs were laid in with pale grey and white, with a thin layer of black to define shadows. White was applied over this and blended wet-in-wet to create areas of light and shadow (see micro 07). White highlights on the collar and tassels on the hanging ties have been strengthened with restoration (see micro 15).
The hair was initially indicated with the dark brown/black used for the hat, by drawing the paint down over the flesh in the forehead. A thin brown was then applied for the rest of the hair, using reasonably fine, dry brushstrokes (see micro 10 and micro 16). Much of the hair and beard have been restored.
Hands and gloves
Sketchy black lines for creases in the gloves were painted into the reserve for the hand on the right when the black costume paint was applied. These have become more evident with increased transparency in the glove's paint surface. As in the face, a lot of red pigment can be seen in the flesh paint on the hand on the left. The glove in the hand on the left was painted over the dark costume paint. Small brushstrokes of thin dark brown paint were then applied in the wet glove paint, to create the stitching detail (see micro 06). Red was also used in the glove paint mixture but the red/brown visible at the right edge of the glove on the right is old restoration. Some areas of the hands were painted directly over the dark costume paint; this is evident in the thumb on the hand on the left.
The handkerchief was thinly painted directly over the the black costume using lead white and a reasonably stiff brush (see micro 09). The dark costume paint was utilised beneath the white for shadows and folds, with thicker lead white in areas of highlight. Fine brushstrokes were used to create the laced edging. Some of the highlights have been strengthened with old restoration.
Order of the Garter
The medallion was painted over the costume paint. The gold areas were painted using lead white, red lake, perhaps some lead-tin yellow, a little black and vermilion. Over some parts of this layer there is a the thick mordant (containing yellow ochre) with abraded gold leaf which might be restoration. The vivid blue used on the outer border of the medallion might also be restoration over what seems to be a thin original layer which has discoloured to some extent. Highlights on the horse have been emphasised with gold leaf over a white mordant; this might be restoration. The gold is now much abraded. The dragon is painted with lead white, some lead-tin yellow and azurite (see micro 01). The blue in the Garter strap round the medallion was identified as indigo mixed with lead white, and the top rim of the medallion was painted with another blue pigment: smalt (see Paint sampling). It is not clear whether this is original or was applied at a different time. The blue colour of the Garter ribbon is indicated with a blue highlight down the edge of the ribbon. There is no evidence of blue elsewhere on the ribbon and this may be overpaint.
The highlights may be restoration.
The technique used to paint the ring differs from that used to paint the Order of the Garter. The ring appears to have first been laid in using a deep red, above which basic details were added, and shell gold was applied. Vermilion and azurite were then painted above. Silver leaf was used also, perhaps as a repair (see micro 03). The red, brown and azurite on the crest seem to be original.
The column was first laid in using a dark red similar to the overall background colour, but with a purplish tone. The red is composed of red ochre, charcoal black, and lead white in almost equal proportions (see Paint sampling). Above this, the base of the column was thinly painted using lead white, a little charcoal black, red earth and azurite. The initial red layer can be seen beneath the grey column base in areas of abrasion (see micro 18). The marbling pattern was carried out using a thin application of dry grey and blue paint mixtures (see micro 17 and micro 19). As with the column base, lead white, charcoal black, azurite, and red ochre were used. Small particles of red lake are scattered in the top of the grey/blue paint (see Paint sampling). The area to the right of the red marble column is puzzling as it is not clear whether this was originally intended as a column in shadow, or whether it is a later addition. When viewed under the stereo microscope, the paint in this area differs from the column on the left. Although it is painted directly above a red underlayer similar to that of the overall background and the column on the left, only charcoal black and white pigments were identified here.
The background appears to have been painted at a reasonably early stage, before the modelling layers of the costume, hands, cuffs and collar, gloves and column. It was painted in two layers, the upper layer is dark red containing predominantly red ochre and white, with another reddish-brown (see Paint sampling) and the lower layer appears to be a reddish grey and contains white, black and red ochre.
The inscription was painted using lead-tin yellow (see micro 12). The majority of this has been removed.
Order of construction
- White underlayer for head
- Possible underdrawing
- Costume, including hat
- Cuffs and collar
- Beard and hair
Lead white, charcoal black, plant black, lamp black, vermilion, azurite, indigo, smalt, red lake, lead-tin yellow, red ochre, brown and yellow ochre
Changes in composition/pentimenti
The cuffs, hands, gloves and collar were extended over the reserves left when the black costume was painted.
The painting has been much restored. In parts this has been done a little overzealously, particularly in areas such as the eyes, where seemingly intact original paint has been reinforced. In areas such as the Order of the Garter and the right side of column, the level of restoration undertaken is less clear, although it is likely that changes and/or reinforcements have been made.
A method which helps to reveal past restoration and the extent of varnish layers.
In the costume and the dark shadows of the column there are patches of green fluorescence which are residues of a natural resin varnish remaining from a careful clean of the painting. There are small, scattered retouchings across the panel mainly in the face and along the panel joins (see UV 01).