King Edward I

1 portrait matching 'NPG4980(6)'

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King Edward I

by Unknown artist
oil on panel, 1597-1618
22 7/8 in. x 17 3/4 in. (580 mm x 450 mm) uneven
NPG 4980(6)


The portrait set is the product of a number of workshops; within this set, this portrait is linked to the portraits of Henry I, Stephen and John.

This portrait is part of a set of sixteen portraits of English kings and queens. The set was previously at Hornby Castle near Bedale, the North Yorkshire seat of the Duke of Leeds, where it was recorded hanging in a corridor gallery in catalogues of 1898 and 1902. Its previous history is unknown but it was possibly acquired for Hornby Castle by the Darcy family. The set was on loan to the Gallery from 1930, following the death of the 10th Duke of Leeds in 1927, and was purchased in 1974 from the 10th Duke of Leeds Will Trust.

Historical context
This portrait is inscribed with the name ‘EDVARDVS I’ but was identified as Edward II when it was acquired by the Gallery. The likeness relates closely to the woodcut portrait of Henry III in Thomas Talbot’s A Booke Containing the True Portraiture of the Kings of England (London, 1597) and appears to be derived directly from this source. The inscription, which appears to be contemporary with the painting, was probably applied erroneously. The 1597 woodcut appears to be based in part on Henry 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 I (NPG 4980(2)), Stephen (NPG 4980(3)) and John (NPG 4980(5)) indicate that all four portraits came from the same source. In addition, the wooden panels used for the portraits of Stephen, John and Edward I all contain wood from the same tree.

Justification for dating
Dendrochronology indicates that the tree used for the panel is likely to have been felled between 1589 and 1603. The materials and methods used to produce this portrait are entirely consistent with paintings from the period. The likeness, along with the portraits of Henry I, Stephen and John, appear to be derived directly from Talbot’s 1597 publication 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.

There is extensive filling and restoration in the paint layer, which makes the surface in these areas uneven and lumpy.

Painting technique
Stylistically the portrait is very similar to the portraits of Stephen and John. There is a cool grey underlayer beneath the figure, which can be seen beneath the flesh paint. The paint mixture for the flesh tones is very similar to the flesh in the portrait of John; the parting of the lips is also defined with dark brown paint in the same way, unlike many of the other portraits in the set where the parting is painted with red lake. The eyebrows and eyelashes are defined with fine painting wet-in-wet. The costume is simply painted. The style of the lettering is closely comparable with the portraits of Stephen, John and Henry I.

Drawing and transfer technique
The underdrawing in the face is applied in a free and loose manner, which can be stylistically linked to the portraits of Stephen and John. The eyes were first drawn slightly higher up the face, looking ahead, but were then drawn slightly lower and looking to the left, which is the position the final paint layers have followed. The position of the nose was slightly changed. Furrows in the brow and hatching for areas of shadow are indicated by numerous marks. The costume is drawn confidently and boldly with just a few lines. These were closely followed in the paint layers.

Other known versions
There are no other known versions of this portrait type.

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 (7.1…
Micro 03. Detail of inscription (7.1 x mag).
Micro 04. Detail of flesh, showing blending o…
Micro 05. Detail of mordant (20 x mag).
Micro 06. Detail showing layer structure (7.1…
Micro 07. Detail showing layer structure in c…
UV 01. Front of the panel in ultra violet lig…
Reverse 01. Back of the panel in raking light…

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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 excess glue that stands proud down the joins at the back. There is extensive filling and restoration in the paint layer, and the surface in these areas is uneven and lumpy. The fillings have a gritty texture and the restoration is darkening and matt. The varnish is a little hazy.


Support type: Eastern Baltic oak

Number of boards: 3

Panel Orientation: Vertical

Panel condition observations

The panel joins have been repaired and there are excess glue residues on the back. There is woodworm damage in the centre board and the left board (seen from the back). The head of an old nail can be seen at the top, with some fibres attached to it; the remains of another nail can be seen below this. These are probably related to an old hanging method. The upper nail has pierced the paint surface just above the centre of the crown, and this has 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: 1586


For analysis the boards were labelled A, B and C from the left (from the front). There is sapwood along the lower edges of boards A and B. The tree-ring series matched board B on Stephen (NPG 4980(3)) and both derive from the same tree. The date for the last measured ring on board A is 1586 (the latest heartwood ring is 1579), and for Board B the last measured ring is 1585 (latest heartwood ring is 1584). Adding the minimum and maximum expected number of sapwood rings to these suggests that this panel derived from trees felled between 1592 and 1603. All three boards are well below the typical width for eastern Baltic boards.

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 woodworm damage and the major repairs to paint losses can be seen in x-ray (see x-ray mosaic 01). The nails in the centre at the top can also be seen. The soft blended brushwork in the face can be compared with the other paintings in this group: Henry I (NPG 4980(2)), Stephen (NPG 4980(3)) and John (NPG 4980(5)). The broadly applied highlights on the costume are all evident in x-ray.

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 is applied in a free and loose manner with a variety of marks (see DIRR 01). The eyes were originally drawn slightly higher up the face, with the eyes looking out toward the viewer. The eyes have then been drawn slightly lower down and looking to the left, which is the position the final paint layers have followed. The position of the nose has also been slightly changed. There are many marks indicating furrows in the brow and hatching for areas of shadow. The costume has been drawn confidently and boldly with just a few lines, which have been closely followed in the paint layers. The infrared image also shows the damage to the paint layers in the upper-right corner.

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 in one sample there appears to be a pale grey priming over the ground. It appears that the priming was not applied right up to the edges of the panel.

Bright red costume
Sample 1: Cross-section shows a chalk ground with a possible priming layer containing lead white and traces of black. Over the priming there is a thick layer of bright red paint, which contains mainly vermilion with possibly a little red lake and traces of red lead. A thin glaze of deep red lake lies over the bright red layer.

Large red particles of red lead can be seen in the brown background with surface examination.
Sample 2: Cross-section shows a chalk ground; the upper part appears translucent, which is possibly an oil size applied to the chalk. There is a grey-brown upper paint layer containing lead white, carbon black, and a large pocket of red lead, and possibly some earth pigments also.

Letter R
Sample 3: Dispersion shows that the yellow/green letter R contains a lead based yellow, probably lead-tin yellow, with some particles that appear to be indigo. There are little spike rods as seen in the letter C on Henry II (NPG 4980(4)), dispersion 2.

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
Dendrochronology has linked this painting with the portrait of Stephen (NPG 4980(3)) from the same set, and stylistically they are very similar.

Preparation layers
The panel was prepared with a chalk ground and in cross-section there appears to be an oil size on this ground layer. Possible evidence of a thin priming was found on one sample. The thick underdrawing is visible beneath the paint layers in certain areas.

A cool grey underlayer is present beneath the flesh tones. The flesh paint contains black, vermilion and earth pigments, similar to the mixture seen on John (NPG 4980(5)) (see micro 04). The modelling has been applied over this layer in paint mixtures containing varying proportions of vermilion, white and black, with earth pigments used to emphasise the shadows. The painting has suffered from extensive flaking and abrasion, and as a result the underdrawing is likely to be more visible than was originally intended. The lips have been loosely painted over the grey layer in textured brushstrokes. As with John (NPG 4980(5)), the parting of the lips has been defined using a dark brown paint rather than the red lake seen on many of the other portraits in this set.

The thick underdrawing is clearly visible beneath the upper paint layers (see micro 01 and micro 02). The iris has been quickly painted in with a mixture of earth pigments including yellow. The black pupil and whites of the eyes have been painted after the iris. The highlights have been depicted with a lead white paint mix incorporating traces of red lake. The eyelid has been defined using the same dark brown mixture used for the parting of the lips and nose. The eyelashes have been created by dragging the surrounding flesh paint through this brown line while it was still wet. The highlights on the eyelids are also similar to those seen on NPG 4980(5) and have been loosely applied with a fine brush to create texture and the effect of light.

Beard, eyebrows and hair
The hair has been blocked in with a thin brown paint layer over the top of the grey underlayer seen in the flesh paint. Individual strands of hair have then been painted over the top of this layer in a thicker paint blending browns, black and white to create definition and texture, with fine white highlights as the final touches. The texture of the eyebrows has been created by brushstrokes in the flesh paint around the eye; individual hairs and highlights have then been added on top.

The crown has suffered from a lot of damage and abrasion and large areas have been retouched. The gilding has been applied over a light brown mordant layer containing a large proportion of lead white mixed with black and orange (see micro 05). The detail on the crown has been painted with a translucent brown paint and the jewels have been depicted using red lake and copper green glazes with lead white highlights.

The red cloak has been painted with vermilion mixed with red lake and red lead. Brown paint has been used for the shadows and thin white brushstrokes for the highlights. A red lake glaze has been applied as a final layer. The pink trim of the cloak contains red lake mixed with white and varying quantities of black for areas of shadow. A thin red layer of paint is visible between the junction of the red cloak and the green tunic; it appears to extend beneath the green paint but its function in the layer structure is unclear (see micro 07). The green tunic appears to contain blue and white mixed with black for the shadows. A thin red lake glaze has been applied as a final layer. The gilded areas of the costume have been applied before the final glaze layers.

Background and inscription
The background appears to have been applied in two layers. The first layer seems to have been applied when the underlayers of the central figure were blocked in. The second layer, which is a darker brown, was applied once the figure was completed. Both brown layers contain black, white, red lead and earth pigments (see micro 06). The inscription on the left-hand side is in good condition and remains largely intact (see micro 03). The right side of the background has a lot of retouching and no evidence could be found for further lettering identifying this king. The inscription has been painted using lead-tin yellow with a few scattered particles of black and orange. There are also traces of green that were identified as indigo. Pencil lines can be seen over the background paint marking out the position of the lettering.

Order of construction
- Ground
- Priming
- Underdrawing
- Grey underlayer beneath figure
- Lower background paint layer
- Mordant for gilding
- Gilding applied
- Brown detail and jewels on gilding
- Flesh modelling
- Details of beard, eyebrows and hair
- Red, green and pink of cloak
- Brown fur
- Red lake glaze applied to green tunic and red cloak
- Upper background layer
- Inscription

Lead white, carbon black, red lake, vermilion, red lead, lead-tin yellow, indigo, earth pigments, copper green glaze

Changes in composition/pentimenti
The right-hand side of the red cloak was originally meant to finish beneath the gilded collar of the tunic. The cloak has been painted over the gilding in this area to bring it higher up the sitter's neck. Infrared reflectography has revealed that the sitter's eyes were originally slightly higher in the face, looking out toward the viewer; this was changed at the underdrawing stage with a second set of eyes drawn in the final position.

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, with variations in tone from greenish to whitish (see UV 01). There are numerous areas of old restoration down the joins and on the head and costume. There are larger areas of restoration in the upper right background. The most recent restoration is the darkest.


Frame type: Not original.

Frame date: Late 20th century.


Carved and ebonised frame with Egg and Dart motifs.