Sir Thomas Gresham
Sir Thomas Gresham
by Unknown Netherlandish artist
oil on panel, circa 1565
39 1/2 in. x 28 1/2 in. (1003 mm x 724 mm)
Sitterback to top
- Sir Thomas Gresham (circa 1518-1579), Founder of the Royal Exchange. Sitter associated with 23 portraits.
This portraitback to top
Gresham's clothing in this portrait is an exercise in restrained yet costly elegance. Scientific examination has revealed that the fingers on his right hand were lengthened during painting, perhaps in an attempt to make his grip on his purse appear more relaxed.
Related worksback to top
Linked publicationsback to top
- Smartify image discovery app
- Bolland, Charlotte, Tudor & Jacobean Portraits, 2018, p. 158 Read entry
Sir Thomas Gresham was a financier, diplomat and merchant of luxury goods. He played a vital part in the management of the Crown's finances by arranging loans at favourable rates as the queen's agent in Antwerp. He divided his time between London and Antwerp, and during his years in the Southern Netherlands he regularly supplied Elizabeth's privy council with invaluable information about political affairs, and also exported weapons and artworks to England. The death of his only son in 1564 spurred him to create the grand projects for which he is best remembered; these included the foundation of the Royal Exchange and the creation of Gresham College, both in London.
Gresham's clothing in this portrait is an exercise in restrained yet costly elegance; black cloth was particularly expensive, and the long slashes in his jerkin reveal a gold-and-silver doublet beneath and a glimpse of a heavy gold chain. Gresham commissioned a number of portraits during his time in the Netherlands, following in the tradition of English merchants taking advantage of their access to skills that were not necessarily available in England. Gresham appears to have commissioned at least two identical versions of this portrait (National Portrait Gallery and Mercers' Company). These may have been requested by institutions with which he was associated, such as the Mercers' Company or the Corporation of London, but they may also have been intended for display at his houses, to stand in his stead during the long periods of his absence.
- Cooper, Tarnya, Elizabeth I & Her People, 2013 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 10 October 2013 - 5 January 2014), p. 133
- Lucinda Hawksley, Moustaches, Whiskers and Beards, 2014, p. 28
- Piper, David, The English Face, 1992, p. 44
- Ribeiro, Aileen, The Gallery of Fashion, 2000, p. 39
- Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 264
Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top
- Elizabeth I and Her People (10 October 2013 - 5 January 2014)
- Double Take: versions and Copies of Tudor Portraits (25 June 2012 - 12 September 2012)
Subjects & Themesback to top
Events of 1565back to top
Current affairsMary, Queen of Scots marries her second husband Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley.
Sir Henry Sidney is appointed Lord Deputy of Ireland.
Art and scienceThe Royal College of Physicians receives official permission to carry out human dissections.
The first recorded manufacture of lead pencils.
InternationalThe Knights Hospitaller repel the forces of Suleiman I, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire at the siege of Malta. Ottoman advances into Western Europe are halted and the celebrated admiral Turgut Reis is killed.
A Spanish expedition establishes the city of St Augustine in present-day Florida, the first permanent European settlement in North America.
The first Spanish settlement in Philippines is established at Cebu.
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Links to audio and transcripts of interviews with artists, sitters and historic recordings.