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King Edward III

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- subject matching 'Jewellery - Crowns and tiaras'

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King Edward III, by Unknown artist, 1597-1618 - NPG 4980(7) - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Tudor and Jacobean Portraits Database

King Edward III

by Unknown artist
oil on panel, 1597-1618
23 in. x 17 5/8 in. (584 mm x 448 mm) uneven
NPG 4980(7)


The portrait set is the product of a number of workshops; within this set, this portrait is linked to the portraits of Henry IV, Edward IV, Edward V and Anne Boleyn.

Purchased in 1974 from the 10th Duke of Leeds Will Trust as part of a set of sixteen portraits of English kings and queens. On long-term loan to the Gallery from 1930 (following the death of the 10th Duke of Leeds in 1927) along with the rest of the set, although not on display. Previously at Hornby Castle near Bedale, the duke’s North Yorkshire seat, where the set was recorded in catalogues of 1898 and 1902 as hanging in a corridor gallery. Previous history unknown but possibly acquired for Hornby Castle by the Darcy family.

Historical context
This is a version of the standard painted portrait type of Edward III, which was probably developed in the 1580s. The design is based on Edward III’s tomb effigy at Westminster Abbey.

Notes on attribution
This portrait is the product of an English workshop. The sixteen portraits in the set appear to have been sourced from several different workshops. Similarities between this painting and the portraits of Henry IV (NPG 4980(9)), Edward IV (NPG 4980(10)), Edward V (NPG 4980(11)) and Anne Boleyn (NPG 4980(15)) indicate that all five portraits came from the same source.

Justification for dating
Some of the portraits in the set appear to be directly based on woodcuts from a series published in London in 1597 (Thomas Talbot, A Booke Containing the True Portraiture of the Kings of England) so it is likely that the set was produced after this date. Unlike the majority of sets of English kings and queens made after 1618, none of the portraits are based on engravings from Henry Holland’s Baziliologia, which was published in that year. It is likely, therefore, that this set was produced before the Baziliologia was published. The materials and techniques used to produce this portrait are entirely consistent with paintings from the period; dendrochronological analysis indicates that the tree used for the panel is likely to have been felled after 1589.

The paint surface has a history of raised unstable paint, which has been consolidated on several occasions. The paint in the tunic is very worn and some pigments have faded. This can be seen along the lower edge, which has been protected by the frame rebate, where there are traces of indigo with a red lake glaze over the top, indicating that the tunic was originally more purple in colour.

Painting technique
The grey streaky priming is similar to that seen in the portraits of Henry IV (NPG 4980 (9)), Edward IV (NPG 4980(10)), Edward V (NPG 4980(11)) and Anne Boleyn (NPG 4980(15)) in the set. The flesh paint in this related group of portraits is built up in the same manner. The eyebrows have been painted in a particularly unusual way; a light brown layer was painted in to mark the position of the eyebrows, and the flesh paint was then painted up and around the reserve, giving the eyebrows a very pronounced and distinctive shape. This technique was used in a more subtle way in this portrait, where a softer eyebrow shape was made by blending the flesh paint into the area. The costume and hair are simply painted but there is fine brushwork in the detail of the hair and fur. The style of the lettering in the inscription is the same as the inscriptions on the other four portraits in this group.

Drawing and transfer technique
The underdrawing in the face is made with a few heavy lines that have been boldly drawn in short strokes. The paint layers in the face closely follow the underdrawing. The outline of the costume is marked out and a few sketchy lines show the position of the bottom of the fur cape, which was then changed at the painting stage.

Other known versions
There are many other versions of this portrait, most of which were made for sets of English kings and queens. From around 1580, English royal sets often began with a portrait of Edward III.

There are other versions in the following collections:
- Longleat (Marquess of Bath) – part of a set
- Syon House (Duke of Northumberland, formerly at Albury) – part of a set
- Royal Collection, RCIN401338
- Trinity College, University of Cambridge, TC Oils P 58
- The Deanery, Ripon – part of a set
- The Queen’s College, University of Oxford, 5
- The Queen’s College, University of Oxford, 4

Cooper, Tarnya, ‘The Enchantment of the Familiar Face: Portraits as Domestic Objects in Elizabethan and Jacobean England’ in Hamling, Tara and Richardson, Catherine (eds.), Everyday Objects: Medieval and Early Modern Material Culture and its Meanings, 2010, pp. 157-177
Daunt, Catherine, ‘Portrait Sets in Tudor and Jacobean England’, unpublished PhD thesis, University of Sussex, 2015
Daunt, Catherine, Heroes and Worthies: Emerging Antiquarianism and the Taste for Portrait Sets in England', in T. Cooper, A. Burnstock, M. Howard and E. Town, eds, Painting in Britain 1500-1630: Production, Influences and Patronage, 2015, pp. 362-75
Gibson, Robin, ‘The National Portrait Gallery’s Set of Kings and Queens at Montacute House’ in The National Trust Yearbook, 1975, pp. 81-87
Gibson, Robin, ‘A Jacobean Gallery of the Kings and Queens of England’, Folio, Spring 1995 (The Folio Society, London), pp. 9-16


Micro 01. Detail of the eye on the left (7.1…
Micro 02. Detail of the eye on the right side…
Micro 03. Detail of the layer structure in th…
Micro 04. Detail of inscription (7.1 x mag).
Micro 05. Detail showing mordant, gilding and…
Micro 06. Detail of hairs in the beard (7.1 x…
Micro 07. Detail of original paint at the low…
UV 01. Front of the panel in ultra violet lig…
Reverse 01. Back of the panel in raking light…

Compare Images (what's this? )

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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.

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The panel appears to be in a stable condition. There is a small old wood loss at the upper-right corner. The paint surface has a history of raised unstable paint, which has been consolidated on several occasions but should be checked regularly as it is most likely to continue to need attention. There is extensive restoration that has become matt. The varnish is semi-matt.


Support type: Eastern Baltic oak

Number of boards: 3

Panel Orientation: Vertical

Panel condition observations

The joins have been repaired and there are strips of glued canvas on the back. Woodworm damage at the upper-right corner has been repaired with filling material. There is a hole at the top - to the left edge of the central point of the crown when seen from the front - which is probably related to an old hanging method. The hole appears to pierce the paint surface, which seems to have been repaired.

Dendrochronology (what's this? )


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: 3

Last date of tree ring: 1581


For analysis the boards were labelled A, B and C from the left (from the front). No sapwood was present, which means that a terminus post quem can be applied to the panel. The ring sequence from boards A and B were found to match and are clearly parts of the same tree. The last measured tree ring on board B dated to 1581. Adding the minimum and maximum expected number of sapwood rings suggests that the board derives from a tree felled after 1589. Board C was not dated. Board B is narrow for an eastern Baltic board (215 mm), which suggests that it has been trimmed.

X-radiography (what's this? )


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 x-rays are a little pale. The straight wood grain is evident and the repairs to damage can be seen, as can the nail hole to the left of the central point of the crown (see x-ray mosaic 01). The simple style of the brushwork is evident, with fine brushes used for individual hairs. The method for painting the face can be compared with other paintings in the group, which includes Anne Boleyn (NPG 4980(15)), Edward IV (NPG 4980(10)), and Edward V (NPG 4980(11)). The eyebrows were painted first and the flesh then painted up to the edges of the eyebrows. Some of the restoration appears dense and was probably carried out with oil paint containing white lead.

Infrared reflectography (what's this? )

Infra-Red Reflectographyclose

A technique used to observe the layers beneath the paint surface which can reveal underdrawing and changes to the initial design.

The underdrawing in the face consists of a few heavy lines that are boldly drawn in short strokes (see DIRR 01). The paint layers of the face closely follow the underdrawing. The outline of the costume has been marked out and there are sketchy lines showing the position of the bottom of the fur cape, which has been changed at the painting stage.

Paint sampling (what's this? )

Paint Samplingclose

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 for analysis in April 2011.

The panel is prepared with a chalk ground and a dark grey priming, which contains lamp black and lead white.

Red costume
Sample 1: Cross-section shows a chalk ground with a dark grey priming layer consisting of very fine lamp black and lead white. There is a red paint layer over the priming, containing vermilion and the occasional particle of red lake, and a possible trace of a glaze over this layer.

Shadow in the tunic
The shadow appears to be purple in colour.
Sample 2: Cross-section shows two layers: first a white layer that may be filling material (and therefore not original), and above this a thin paint, which appears purple and contains fine red ochre and black. Dispersion of Sample 3 shows indigo and red lake with some lead white.

Green background near the crown
Sample 4: Dispersion contains indigo, large charcoal black particles and a lot of chalk, which is probably from the ground. There is also a tiny bit of bright yellow, possibly an organic lake.

Sample 5: Cross-section shows the chalk ground, the priming, and a layer made with fine particles of re, yellow and black. CHECK - 're', ochre?

Surface examination (what's this? )

Surface Examinationclose

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
This painting is linked stylistically with the group that includes Henry IV (NPG 4980(9)), Edward IV (NPG 4980(10)), Edward V (NPG 4980(11)) and Anne Boleyn (NPG 4980(15)) from the same set.

Preparation layers
The panel was prepared with a chalk ground and a grey streaky priming that contains lamp black and lead white. In the face, the underdrawing has been followed closely in the paint layers.

A cool grey underlayer is visible in some areas of the face, although it is not clear to what extent this has been used below the flesh layers (see micro 03). A pale brown layer has been used to mark out the features and the shadows of the face. The modelling of the flesh has been applied over this with a mixture of finely ground vermilion, red lake, black and lead white. The black pigment used is intensely black with rounded pigment particles of varying size, which could be lamp black. The darker areas of flesh have been applied first, with lighter passages and highlights worked into the flesh paint, which can be seen in the crow's feet around the eyes. The texture of the brushstrokes are clearly visible in the flesh paint, but are not as pronounced as in the other paintings to which this painting has been linked stylistically. The paint has been blended and manipulated to create softer contours in the face. The lips are painted with a mixture of vermilion, red lake and black. The parting of the mouth has been defined with a line of red lake that has been blended into the surrounding paint.

Pale brown paint has been used to mark out the position of the iris and upper eyelid and then emphasised using a dark red/brown paint containing black and vermilion. The black pupil and two highlights in lead white have been applied on top of the iris (see micro 01 and micro 02). The tear duct has been painted using a mixture of vermilion and red lake. The whites of the eyes have been painted up and around the iris in a pale grey paint mixture. The eye on the right has a darker stroke of grey at the lower edge, indicating shadow painted wet-in-wet with the whites of the eye. The eyelashes have been indicated by dragging the surrounding flesh paint down into the eye using a stiff brush.

Eyebrows, hair and beard
The eyebrows have been painted in the same particular way as seen in NPG 4980(9), NPG 4980(10), NPG 4980(11) and NPG 4980(15), where pale brown paint containing finely ground vermilion, black and lead-white has been used to mark out the position of the brows and the flesh has then been painted around this. The technique has been used more subtly in this painting, with the flesh paint blended into the area resulting in a softer eyebrow shape. This also applies to the individual hairs that have been applied as the final details in dark red brown and white. Reserves have been left in the flesh layer for the moustache and beard. Broad brushstrokes blending grey and white have been used to block in the hair and beard. The final details of individual hairs have then been applied very carefully once the rest of the costume and background were finished (see micro 06).

Crown and gilded details
A warm orange mordant has been used beneath the gilded areas; it contains large lead white particles mixed with orange and a small amount of black (see micro 05). A translucent black paint has been used for the details on the gilding. The pearls have been painted using two shades of grey with lead white highlights on top. Indigo and a yellow pigment were found in some of the paint samples taken from this area, which indicates that a green mixture was used for the jewels.

The ermine on the cloak has a very pronounced craquelure pattern compared to the rest of the painting, this area is also extensively retouched. The light grey marking out the ermine has been broadly applied with a thick brush. The black details have been painted over this layer once it was dry; due to abrasion the texture of the lower brushstrokes is evident in the black paint above. Further details indicating the texture of the fur have then been applied with lead white paint and fine brushwork. The red of the cloak has been painted using vermilion with a translucent black paint layer blended in to indicate the shadows and folds of the cloth. The paint surface of the tunic is very worn and abraded. Along the lower edge, which has been protected by the frame rebate, there are traces of indigo with a red lake glaze over the top, which indicates that the tunic was originally purple in colour (see micro 07).

Background and inscription
The background is very damaged in many areas and has been extensively retouched. The background appears to have been blocked in at an early stage in a dark black/brown paint, which has been brushed up into the reserve left for the sitter. The inscription is similar in style to NPG 4980(9), NPG 4980(10), NPG 4980(11) and NPG 4980(15). A warm lead-tin yellow has been used for the lettering. There are traces of green on the inscription that appear to be associated with the retouching (see micro 04).

Order of construction
- Ground
- Streaky grey priming
- Underdrawing
- Mordant and gilding
- Eyes and lips
- Pale brown marking out features and shadows on the face
- Flesh modelling
- Lower layer of background
- Costume
- Jewels and decorative border on headdress and neckline
- Inscription
- Upper layer of background

Lead white, red lake, vermilion, lead-tin yellow, indigo, earth pigments, lamp black, possible smalt and yellow lake

Ultra violet examination (what's this? )

Ultra Violetclose

A method which helps to reveal past restoration and the extent of varnish layers.

There is a thick old varnish which fluoresces unevenly in ultra violet light (see UV 01). There is considerable old restoration down the panel joins, and also in numerous areas scattered over the head, costume and background. The darkest restoration is in the background down the joins and appears to be the most recent.


Frame type: Not original.

Frame date: Late 20th century.


Carved and ebonised frame with Egg and Dart motifs.