Exploring the London stranger-painters: Hans Eworth and his contemporaries

Hope Walker, PhD Candidate, The Courtauld Institute of Art, London

Making Art in Tudor Britain
Abstract of a paper presented at Tudor and Jacobean Painting: Production, Influences and Patronage
Funded by the British Academy and The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art

The scholarship surrounding the sixteenth-century Tudor painter Hans Eworth often situates him in relation to his place as a portraitist within the English royal courts. That is, with little evidence, Eworth has been previously described as a court portrait painter and it is through such a lens that he and his oeuvre is most often understood. This paper moves beyond the concentration on the English court as the site of his career and, instead, argues in favor of an investigation of his place among the many émigré painters living in London during the third quarter of the sixteenth century.

Using the 1568 and 1571 Returns of London Aliens as a primary source for such painters, this paper focuses upon Eworth - who twice appears in the Returns - as a historical person and first discusses his life in Antwerp and his entrance into Tudor London and, in particular, the borough of Southwark. It is suggested that the Eworth brothers likely arrived in London together, and perhaps with painter and engraver Cornellius Metsys, with whom Hans may have been previously trained. New archival evidence also suggests that Eworth and his brother Nicholas maintained a social and business relationship with Jan Sanders van Hemesen, father of well-known Antwerp painter Catarina van Hemesen, while they lived in Antwerp—a connection which archival evidence suggests was to continue even after their arrival in London.

In order to position Eworth in relation to the nearly forty painters who appear in the Returns, a broad demographic overview, as well as a series of maps that highlight the lives and location of these painters, is also presented. This evidence suggests that many of the foreign painters who arrived in London in the late 1560s were transitory, moving into the city and then just as quickly moving out again. This kind of migration pattern—perhaps evidence of circular migration—is likely a result of pressure from the livery companies, as well as the city’s requirements for foreigners desiring to maintain a livelihood within the city. The paper concludes with a discussion of the understudied artistic center at Bridewell Palace, where Eworth worked toward the end of his career, and his portrait of Lady Mary Grey Keyes, whose patronage Eworth probably gained as a result of his work at the Palace.