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Sir Edward Hoby

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- subject matching 'Montacute House'

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Sir Edward Hoby, by Unknown Anglo-Netherlandish artist, 1583 - NPG 1974 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Tudor and Jacobean Portraits Database

Sir Edward Hoby

by Unknown Anglo-Netherlandish artist
oil on panel, 1583
37 1/2 in. x 29 3/4 in. (953 mm x 756 mm)
NPG 1974


New attribution: Unknown Anglo-Netherlandish artist

Key findings: Although the paint surface is considerably worn, areas of skilful paint handling and soft blending can still be seen.

Historical summary
Purchased by the Gallery in 1923 after it was sold by the 2nd Viscount Wimborne at Christie’s on 9 March (lot 41) as ‘Portrait of a nobleman by Holbein’. In the Wimborne collection at Canford Manor in 1872, where it was identified as Sir Edward Hoby.

Sir Edward Hoby is identified by his coat of arms and crest in the upper left; they are a slightly incorrect version of the arms that were conferred upon him in 1580. On the table to the left stands a black helmet with gilt bands and a baton inscribed in black: ‘VANA SINE VIRIBUS IRA’ (Anger without strength is in vain). In the top right-hand corner there is an inset scene in which a woman stands in front of a castle carrying a fan and a scroll bearing the legend: ‘RECONDVTVR NO REDVDVTVR’ (Laid aside, but not blunted), which is a comment on the trophy of martial implements that lies in the grass in front of her with a veil cast over them. The figure may be read as an allegory of Peace, or it may represent the queen herself (see detail 03).

Notes on likely authorship and justification
The handling and composition would suggest an Anglo-Netherlandish artist. The format of this portrait, with a narrative scene appearing as if in a window behind the sitter, is similar to numerous other portraits produced around this date depicting gentleman-at-arms (Edward, 3rd Baron Windsor, Earl of Plymouth; Peregrine Bertie, Lord Willoughby d’ Eresby; unknown knight called ‘Sir Philip Sidney’, see Strong, 1969, p. 168). However, this portrait may not be by the same workshop.

Commentary on painting style, technique
The painting method is relatively straightforward but there is some skilful paint handling, often with soft blending. Many parts of the paint surface are considerably worn, particularly the flesh and hair, collar and cuffs, black of the armour, the background and the landscape, and there is a great deal of restoration. Detail on the lace collar has been strengthened, some of this is old and some more recent. However, the parts which remain in good condition are skilfully painted, such as the helmet over the coat of arms.

Justification for dating
The technique and materials in use are entirely consistent with a work from this period. The date and age of the sitter is inscribed in the top left-hand corner: ‘An0 dni 1583 / AEtatis Suae 23’. Dendrochronological analysis confirmed that the tree used for the panel was felled after 1579.

Drawing and transfer technique
There is underdrawing in the coat of arms, some of which does not correspond to the finished painting. There is fine freehand drawing in the hands and the edge of the sword hilt. Drawn lines on the hand appear to be outlines to position the helmet behind the hand, as they do not correspond to the outlines of the hand.

Relevance to other known versions
There are no other known versions of this work.

Strong, Roy, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 1969, pp.168-70
Christies, Pictures & Drawings by Old Masters, 9 March 1923 (lot 41)


X-ray mosaic 01. X-ray image of the whole pai…
IRR mosaic 04. Infrared reflectogram mosaic d…
Micro 01. Detail of the eye on the left (7.1x…
Micro 03. Detail of the lips (7.1 x mag).
Micro 04. Detail of the hair (7.1 x mag).
Micro 05. Detail of the edge of the ear and c…
Micro 06. Detail of the lace collar (7.1 x ma…
Micro 07. Detail of the figure of Peace (7.1…
Micro 08. Detail of instrument in the landsca…
Micro 09. Detail of the pomegranate in the co…
Micro 10. Detail of the sword hilt (7.1 x mag…
Micro 11. Detail of the hose (7.1 x mag).
Micro 12. Detail of the cuff on the right (7.…
Micro 13. Detail of the armour (7.1 x mag).
Micro 14. Detail of the fingers on the hand o…
Micro 17. Edge of the wrist and cuff on the l…
Micro 18. Detail of the crest (7.1 x mag).
Micro 19. Detail of blue pigment in the helme…
Micro 20. Detail of the crest, showing underd…
UV 01. Front of the panel in ultra violet lig…

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The painting is considerably worn and has numerous paint losses due to past overcleaning and susceptibility to movement in the panel with fluctuations in temperature and relative humidity. A large split in the wooden support can be seen in the left-hand board (from the back). This extends vertically from the lower edge by approximately 43 cm. The face is particularly worn and paint down the joins has been damaged. The panel is attached to a balsa backing adhered with wax resin.


Support type: Eastern Baltic oak

Number of boards: 3

Panel Orientation: Vertical

Panel condition observations

The panel has been thinned and backed with a balsa wood and wax support. Oak veneer was then put on the back of this. A small loss in the wood at the lower-right corner has been filled with an oak fillet. At the lower left there is a long, old, repaired split running up from the bottom edge. The conservation record notes the panel's tendency to warp across the grain with fluctuations in temperature and relative humidity.

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: 1571


For the purposes of the analysis, the three boards were labelled A to C from the left (from the front). None of the boards contained sapwood, meaning that a terminus post quem date can be applied to the panel. The wax and balsa backing made access to the end grain of the boards awkward. Comparison between the boards showed that the three ring sequences matched strongly, and the boards undoubtedly derive from the same tree. The last ring in the lower edge of the panel was found on board C and was dated to 1571. Adding the minimum number of expected sapwood rings to this suggests the tree used for the panel cannot have been felled before 1579.

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 wood grain, which is unusually wide for Baltic oak, can be seen in x-ray. Density in the wood grain on each side of the joins is probably due to residues of glue left when canvas strips were removed from the back of the joins before the balsa blocks were applied. The joins between the balsa wood blocks on the back are evident.

The paint surface has a soft blended appearance and the broadly applied priming is evident. An incised line marking the edge of the lace cuff can be seen at the edge of the wrist on the hand on the left. A similar, although less obvious, line can be seen in the paint surface on the other wrist. All the details painted with lead based paint are evident (see x-ray mosaic 01).

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.

Infrared reflectography shows extensive carbon based underdrawing in the coat of arms. The fine lines, which do not entirely relate to the painted design appear to be drawn freehand in a liquid medium (see IRR mosaic 04). The face has sustained too much wear and restoration to accurately judge whether there is underdrawing present (see IRR mosaic 01). Across the hand there are fine lines which may be drawing for the helmet. The hands and the edge of the sword hilt were loosely underdrawn with fine freehand marks. In the hand on the left a number of fine lines were observed, which do not appear to correspond to the hand itself. Given their position, it is likely that they relate to the positioning of the helmet behind the hand, suggesting that this was also underdrawn. In the top right-hand corner of the painting, infrared reflectography shows how the pathway to the castle was painted in before the figure was applied. In addition, a pale shape is visible above the figure, which may be an initial reserve for the head, which was then lowered.

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.

Preparation layers
In 1999 paint was sampled during conservation treatment to determine the extent of overpaint. The sample showed a chalk ground and a priming based on lead white, with particles of red ochre and black.

Paint samples were taken to analyse the pigments and layer structure of the painting in December 2009.

Sample 1: The yellow metal detail on the helmet, painted with yellow containing some vermilion and white, over the dark grey of the helmet.

Sample 2: The background lower edge, painted with a complex brown mixture containing lead white, black and opaque red (possibly ochre), and occasional red lake.

Black armour
Sample 5: Dispersion from the cooler black of the armour contains carbon black with a little lead white.

Red hose
Sample 6: Cross-section from the lower hose shows an underlayer containing vermilion with white, a red glaze over it, and a brown glaze over the red glaze, which may be old restoration.
Sample 7: Dispersion from the upper hose shows vermilion and white with some black and brown.

The gold appears to contain two types of lead-tin yellow.

Sample 8: Dispersion of green at the right edge contains a mixture of azurite and lead-tin yellow.
Sample 10: Cross-section of the sky shows two layers of smalt and lead white, the upper containing very little lead white and the smalt has discoloured, but the blue in the lower layer is well preserved.

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
The painting method is relatively straightforward but there is some skilful handling of the oil paint. Many parts of the paint surface are considerably worn: particularly in the flesh and hair, the collar and cuffs, the black of the armour, the background and the landscape. There is a great deal of restoration. Some passages are in good condition, such as the helmet above the coat of arms, and are skilfully painted. The movement in the red edge of the lining of the armour is well described. Creamy paint was used with textured brushstrokes, such as in the landscape and pomegranate on the coat of arms.

Preparation layers
There is a chalk ground (see Paint sampling) followed by a priming containing lead white with red ochre and black.
The composition appears to have been underdrawn above the priming in a number of areas, such as the coat of arms, the hands and the helmet in the lower left.

There is wrinkling in the flesh paint, due to the high proportion of oil medium in the paint (see micro 01 and micro 05). The flesh paint is very worn and there is considerable restoration, some of which was applied quite early in the painting's history (see Paint sampling). The features have lost some definition. The warm tones in the paint contain red lake and vermilion and lead white, applied over a lighter underlayer. The line between the lips is painted with a red lake glaze (see micro 03).

The blue pigment in the whites of the eyes is azurite, with some large particles and some more finely ground. There is also a great deal of restoration (see micro 01).

Hair and moustache
There is wrinkling in the paint surface in the lighter underlayer which evidently contains a lot of oil medium (see micro 04). The hair and moustache are finely painted over this layer.

The hands are painted with a warm underlayer, which is darker at the fingertips where it contains red (possibly red ochre), in very small particles (see micro 14). The lighter modelling of the flesh is painted over this layer.

The red hose are painted with an opaque red layer containing vermilion and lead white, with a red lake glaze applied over it (see micro 11).

Collar and cuffs
The detail on the lace collar has been strengthened, some of this is old and some more recent. Much of the original paint is very worn. The original appears to have been painted first with a thin grey layer followed by the white highlights (see micro 06 and micro 12). The black costume beneath the cuff on the right is very worn. The white lace cuff is worn also, particularly at the edge of the hand where the white edging has almost disappeared. The cuff on the left and the black beneath are less worn. On both wrists there is an incised line to mark the position for the edge of the white cuff (see micro 17).

The gold is painted with a brown underlayer with a reddish rope pattern applied in single brushstrokes over it. The gold detail on the armour is painted with lead-tin yellow mixed with some vermilion (see micro 13). The red lining of the armour is painted with an opaque underlayer, which appears to be red lead, with red lake glaze over it. The fine craquelure and wrinkling found in several areas is particularly noticeable in the black armour. This seems to be caused by some instability and eruption in the priming layer.

The paint surface on the helmet has a fine craquelure and a blanched appearance.

The hilt and hand guard are painted with a warm underlayer, containing earth pigments, red lead, red lake and black (which appears to be charcoal black). The gold detail is painted with lead-tin yellow, white, and possibly some ochre and with pure lead-tin yellow (see micro 10). The silver decoration on the sword is painted grey with white highlights.

In parts the surface of the red tablecloth is uneven. This is due to the presence of metal soap protrusions, which have pushed through the lower layers to the paint surface.

The background was applied at the end of the painting process. It is considerably abraded and there is extensive restoration.

Coat of arms
A reserve was left for the crest after the background was painted and the white parts of the coat of arms were painted in. The red parts of the cloth hanging down from the crest were applied over the background paint. The red used on the cloth hanging from the crest, and on the crest itself, appears to be red lead (small inclusions can be seen with magnification) with a little red lake added to the paint mixture. Some underdrawing can be seen through the upper paint layer in this area (see micro 20). The white wolf on the crest was painted over the background (see micro 18). It is painted with white and outlined in black. Details such as the claws on the back feet of the wolf and the outline of the halberds on the coat of arms, were painted with black, which is now considerably worn. The red claws on the front feet and the tongue are painted with red lead (inclusions can be seen with magnification). The paint mixture on the helmet contains a considerable amount of finely ground azurite (see micro 19). The helmet is skilfully painted and the paint is in good condition. The highlight detail is painted with lead-tin yellow. The pomegranate is described with textured brushwork in the creamy paint (see micro 09), and appears to contain dull lead-tin yellow.

Background landscape
The frame of the background landscape is painted as a stonework opening with two painted chips in the sill and a painted chip on the left edge. The paint in the sky contains smalt and the paint in the landscape contains numerous tiny particles of azurite. The pale blue banner held by the figure also contains many azurite particles. The paint in the landscape was applied with small twists and dabs of the brush, especially in the green grass where the brushwork has textured the creamy paint to describe grass. The pile of battle equipment is skilfully painted with a finer brush, but has suffered considerable abrasion (see micro 07 and micro 08). The pile of armour contains plant black mixed with red lake and white to make purple. The same paint mixture is used in the dress of the figure of Peace, where red lake was applied over white lead, and red lake was also used in the shadows. The handle of the fan in the lady's hand is painted with translucent orange. The hair is painted with a similar dull lead-tin yellow to the gold on the ring, with a translucent yellow/brown glaze on top.

Order of construction
- Ground
- Priming
- Underdrawing
- First layers of flesh paint, and for the sword hilt, and probably also for other areas
- Further modelling layers on the flesh
- Red edge of armour lining and red hose
- Black of the armour
- Gold decorative details on the armour
- The lace collar and cuffs
- Some lead-tin yellow highlights for the armour were applied after the lace collar
- The sword belt and strap were applied over the red hose
- The white parts of the coat of arms and the cloth painted into the reserve; the red parts were applied after the background
- The background appears to have been finished fairly early in the painting process; details in the hair were applied over it and the white wolf on the crest is painted over it
- The landscape in the background
- The female figure standing in front of the castle was painted after the castle was painted
- The stone framework for the landscape was painted over it

Lead white, plant black, charcoal black, smalt, azurite, vermilion, red lake, earth pigments, lead-tin yellow, yellow ochre, red lead, red ochre

Changes to composition/pentimenti
No changes were apparent.

Restoration observations
Numerous isolated retouchings are visible throughout, particularly above areas of heavily abraded flesh paint.

Ultra violet examination (what's this? )

Ultra Violetclose

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

There are very thin residues of natural resin varnish over all of the surface, left after careful cleaning (see UV 01). However, along part of the red hose there are dense opaque layers of thicker natural resin varnish which were not removed during cleaning. There is scattered restoration on the paint surface, with a larger area of restoration on abrasion in the background on either side of the neck. The face is considerably abraded and there is evidence of several restoration campaigns. There is a dark grey area on the forehead which appears to be old overpaint and also other uneven dark areas elsewhere on the face. The red on the cloth over the helm and coat of arms fluoresces pinkish orange, indicating the presence of madder lake. The dark red on the costume and armour also fluoresces a little.


Frame type: Not original. Sansovino style frame.

Frame date: Possibly early 17th century.


Details taken from frame examination report dated 12/02/2010.

Carved, pierced and parcel gilt 'Sansovino' style frame. There is evidence of attack by woodworm and the frame was previously treated for woodworm. There are numerous areas of loss to both the ebonized and gilt finish and small areas of loss to the carving. The losses are coloured in with watercolour.