Gerlach Flicke; Henry Strangwish (Strangways)
© National Portrait Gallery, London
Gerlach Flicke; Henry Strangwish (Strangways)
by Gerlach Flicke
diptych, oil on paper or vellum laid on panel, 1554
3 1/2 in. x 4 3/4 in. (88 mm x 119 mm)
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This is the earliest known oil self-portrait produced in England. It was produced when both men were in prison, probably the Tower of London. Strangwish was imprisoned for his piracy, but the nature of Flicke's crime is not known. The English inscription above Strangwish, shown holding a lute, reads: 'Strangwish, thus strangely depicted is One prisoner, for thother, hath done this/ Gerlin, hath garnisht, for his delight This woorck whiche you se, before youre sight'. The Latin inscription above Flicke, who is shown holding his palette, can be translated: 'Such was the face of Gerlach Flicke when he was a painter in the City of London. This he himself painted from a looking-glass for his dear friends. That they might have something by which to remember him after his death.'
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- Tudor Portraits Resource Pack, p. 15
- Smartify image discovery app
- Bolland, Charlotte, Tudor & Jacobean Portraits, 2018, p. 128 Read entry
Gerlach Flicke was a painter from Osnabrück in north-west Germany who was working in England by about 1545. It is not known where he trained as an artist, but he was in Antwerp in 1531. He described himself as a 'painter in the City of London' in this selfportrait and was resident in the parish of St Giles Cripplegate at the time of his death in 1558. Henry Strangwish, or Strangways, was a pirate from Dorset, who was repeatedly imprisoned and then released over the course of his career, suggesting that his activity was partly sanctioned as a form of privateering. The inscriptions in English and Latin on this double portrait explain that it was made when both men were prisoners in the Tower of London in 1554, and that Flicke had painted his self-portrait for his friends using a mirror, 'that they might have something by which to remember him after his death'. It is not known why Flicke was imprisoned, and it is notable that the image presents both sitters as gentlemen: Flicke holding a palette and Strangwish a lute. The composition and scale are very unusual, and it is possible that the double portrait originally formed part of a larger sheet within a book, as the paper support may have been attached to the panel at a later date.
- Bolland, Charlotte, The Tudors Passion, Power and Politics, 2022, p. 98
- Bond; Anthony; Woodall, Joanna, Self Portrait: Renaissance to Contemporary, 2005 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 20 October - 29 January 2006), p. 86
- Cooper, Tarnya; Fraser, Antonia (foreword), A Guide to Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 2012, p. 42
- MacLeod, Catharine, Tudor Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery Collection, 1996, p. 15
- Rideal, Liz, Insights: Self-portraits, 2005, p. 46 Read entry
The Latin inscription that Flicke painted above his head translates as: ‘Such was the face of Gerlach Flicke when he was a painter in the City of London. This he himself painted from a looking glass for his dear friends. That they might have something by which to remember him after his death’. Little is known about Flicke: he was German, from Osnabrück, and came to work as a portrait maker in England. Strangwish was a privateer from a distinguished West Country family. After having survived a death sentence in 1559 (the execution was stayed), he died from injuries sustained in the English attack on Rouen in October 1562.
- Saumarez Smith, Charles, The National Portrait Gallery: An Illustrated Guide, 2000, p. 37
- Saumarez Smith, Charles, The National Portrait Gallery, 1997, p. 37 Read entry
This is the earliest self-portrait in the Gallery's collection. As the Latin inscription records, 'Such was the face of Gerlach Flicke when he was a painter in the City of London. This he himself painted from a looking-glass for his dear friends. That they might have something by which to remember him after his death.' It shows him bearded, lugubrious and holding the palette that was the mark of his profession. He was to die four years later, in 1558. His companion, described in the inscription as 'Strangwish', is thought to be Henry Strangways (d.1562), a gentleman pirate, who was imprisoned in the Tower for privateering.
- Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 222
- Schama, Simon, The Face of Britain: The Nation Through its Portraits, 2015-09-15, p. 351
- Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 42 Read entry
This tiny and highly unusual double portrait incorporates the earliest self-portrait in the Gallery’s Collection. Gerlach Flicke was a German portrait painter, resident in England from around 1545. Little is known of his work, and this is one of the few surviving paintings by him. It appears to have been made as a private memento and it shows Flicke with his companion Henry Strangwish (or Strangeways), a pirate from Dorset.
The beautifully painted inscription, in Latin and English, records that the work was painted for Strangwish, who is shown with a lute, while both men were imprisoned in the Tower of London for an unknown crime. Flicke depicts himself with a palette, showing a range of pigments suitable for painting portraits. The inscription also records that he was a painter in the City of London and that he represented himself in this portrait with the aid of a mirror, that his friend might ‘have something by which to remember him after his death’.
This double portrait may have originally been presented in a different format, perhaps within a manuscript or a book, or in a frame with a cover.
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Events of 1554back to top
Current affairsSir Thomas Wyatt the Younger leads a rebellion against the Catholic Queen Mary. 4,000 men march from Kent to London, where the rebellion is crushed and Wyatt executed. Princess Elizabeth is imprisoned in the Tower of London, but found innocent of treason.
Lady Jane Grey is executed.
Queen Mary I marries Philip of Spain at Winchester. Parliament passes the Second Act of Repeal reuniting the English and Roman Catholic Churches.
Art and scienceGerlach Flicke paints the earliest surviving self-portrait in oils produced in England.
The Italian architect Andrea Palladio published L'Antichita di Roma (The Antiquities of Rome), which remains the standard text on the subject for 300 years.
InternationalBattle of Marciano - Sienese-French forces defeated by a Florentine-Imperial army. The defeat leads to the end of Siena's independence from Florence.
The Portuguese Jesuit Manoel de Nobrega founds São Paulo, the first European settlement in inland Brazil.