Aletheia Talbot, Countess of Arundel

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Aletheia Talbot, Countess of Arundel

by Daniel Mytens
oil on canvas, circa 1618
81 1/2 in. x 50 in. (2070 mm x 1270 mm)
Accepted in lieu of tax by H.M. Government and allocated to the Gallery, 1980
Primary Collection
NPG 5293

On display at Arundel Castle, Arundel

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

  • Daniel Mytens (circa 1590-1647), Portrait painter. Artist or producer associated with 50 portraits, Sitter in 5 portraits.

Related worksback to top

  • NPG 5292: Thomas Howard, 14th Earl of Arundel (companion portrait)
  • NPG D11108: Aletheia Talbot, Countess of Arundel (companion portrait)

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Bolland, Charlotte, Tudor & Jacobean Portraits, 2018, p. 89 Read entry

    Thomas Howard became the premier earl in England when he was restored to the earldoms of Arundel and Surrey by James I in 1604; both his father, Philip Howard, and his grandfather, Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, had been attainted for treason. An art collector and patron, Arundel was the most influential connoisseur of his age and fostered the careers of numerous artists. In 1606 he married Aletheia Talbot, the granddaughter of Bess of Hardwick and one of the richest heiresses in England. They travelled extensively in Italy and were the first English patrons of the Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens. Arundel led the English Royalist campaign against Scotland in 1639 but withdrew to self-imposed exile on the Continent during the English civil wars. These paired portraits of husband and wife show them seated within an idealised version of the sculpture and painting galleries at Arundel House on the Strand overlooking the Thames. The compositions mark a new moment in the history of connoisseurship in Britain as their art collections were considered to contribute to their status. The countess is shown wearing a magnificent diamond 'IHS' brooch as a demonstration of her avowed Catholicism; unlike her husband she never became an Anglican. The Delft-born artist Daniel Mytens arrived in London in 1618, and these are his earliest-known full-length portraits. In 1624, he was granted an annual royal pension and on Charles I's accession was appointed one of the King's official 'picturedrawers of our Chamber in ordinarie' for life.

  • Edited by Lucy Peltz & Louise Stewart, Love Stories: Art, Passion & Tragedy, 2020, p. 113
  • Norfolk, Gwendolen Fitzalan-Howard, Duchess of, Arundel Castle, 1913, p. 12 (opposite)
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 19
  • Simon, Jacob, The Art of the Picture Frame: Artists, Patrons and the Framing of Portraits in Britain, 1997 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 8 November 1996 - 9 February 1997), p. 12, 159 Read entry

    Carved and gilt pine with extensive working in the gesso on the sight edge, back edge and the ground, the corners mitred and keyed, the C-scrolls at the centres and corners water gilt over a dark bole as are the concave sweeps and the inner flat fillet. Reduced in size at the quarter points of the frame at top and bottom (unlike the identical frame on the Portrait of her husband (NPG 5292) which appears intact) 5 3⁄ 4 inches wide.

    This portrait of Alathea Talbot, the wife of the collector Earl of Arundel, is doubly interesting: for its rococo frame, possibly the work of Jean Antoine Cuenot, and for the representation of a Jacobean gallery in the background of the picture, perhaps an idealised vision of the gallery of Arundel House on the Strand in London. Hanging in the gallery can be seen fourteen pictures: four full-lengths and two three-quarter lengths in simple black frames with gilt sight edges, a pair of heads in dark brown circular frames and, in the window embrasures, six small pictures in straight-sided gilt frames.

    This rococo frame is one of many of the pattern found on family portraits in the collection of the Duke of Norfolk at Arundel Castle, Sussex, and appears to belong to one of the two building campaigns of the 9th Duke of Norfolk: from 1753 to 1756 at Norfolk House in St James's Square and after 1762 at Worksop Manor, Nottinghamshire, when damage caused by a fire was made good.1 Many of the pictures were subsequently moved to Arundel Castle. At Norfolk House most of the portraits were on the ground floor. The maker responsible for the frames on the first floor, one of the most resplendent sequence of rooms in London, was Jean Antoine Cuenot, a carver of French origins.2 Cuenot charged, for example, £18.3s.2d for 'carving two picture frames, with heads, shells festoons &c' and another £8.12s for gilding; the frames were for the Red Room, and were apparently larger and richer than the one on this portrait of Lady Arundel.3 No accounts for frames for the ground floor or for Worksop have been published, but an attribution of NPG 5293 to Cuenot's workshop is feasible.

    1 John Martin Robinson, 'Antiquarian Taste at Arundel Castle - III', Country Life, vol.CLXXIII, 1983, p 333.

    2 Desmond Fitz-Gerald, The Nofolk House Music Room, 1973, pp 26-34.

    3 A copy of Cuenot's bill is in the Furniture Archive at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

  • Waterhouse, Ellis Kirkham, The dictionary of 16th & 17th century British painters, 1988, p. 199

Placesback to top

Events of 1618back to top

Current affairs

Francis Bacon, Viscount St Alban, is appointed Lord High Chancellor. He would be impeached for bribery three years later ending his political career.
Lord High Treasurer Thomas Howard, Earl of Suffolk, and his wife, Katherine, are charged with embezzlement and found guilty the following year.

Art and science

Jurist, politician and scholar, John Selden, publishes his History of Tythes, in which he concedes the legal right of the Church of England to collect tithes, but denies divine authority.
The Royal College of Physicians compiles the London Pharmacopoeia, a standard list of medicines and their ingredients.


Sir Walter Ralegh's voyage to Guiana tragically fails. Unable to find treasure, his attack against the Spanish settlement San Thomé, during which his son Walter dies, dangerously jeopardises Anglo-Spanish relations. Ralegh returns home and is executed for treason.
Start of the Thirty Years War, precipitated by the Bohemian Revolt.

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