King James I of England and VI of Scotland
1 of 199 portraits of King James I of England and VI of Scotland
- Tudor and Jacobean Portraits Database
King James I of England and VI of Scotland
by Unknown artist
oil on canvas, late 16th century, based on a work of 1574
46 1/2 in. x 28 3/4 in. (1181 mm x 730 mm)
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New attribution: The attribution to Rowland Lockey can no longer be sustained because the stylistic links are not close enough to the comparative work at Hardwick Hall.
Key findings: Much of the original subtlety has been lost due to significant abrasion and flattening of the paint surface.
Formerly at Holme Lacy, seat of the Scudamore family where it was first recorded in 1785, and again by Harding c. 1804 (Strong, 1969, p. 176). It is not known what happened to the painting after the Scudamore line ended in 1820 and the estate passed to Sir Edwyn Francis Stanhope, father of the 9th Earl of Chesterfield. The portrait was purchased by the Gallery from Messrs. Graves in 1895.
There is an inscription at the top right, which identifies the portrait as King James of Scotland at the age of 8 and gives the date 1574: ‘IACOBVS DEI GRATIA REX / SCOTORVM ALTATIS SVAE 8 / 1574’.
Notes on likely authorship and justification
The painting is a version of a portrait of the young Scottish king, similar to that in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, PG 992 (18-2010(1)). NPG 63 has previously been attributed to Rowland Lockey on the grounds of its compositional similarity to another copy at Hardwick Hall, which is associated with payments to Lockey made between 1608 and 1613 for large batches of portraits (Strong, 1969, p. 176). However, the stylistic links are not close enough for the attribution and so it must be identified as the work of an unknown artist.
Commentary on painting style, technique
The paint was applied in very thin layers and there is some very fine brushwork. There is considerable restoration in parts of the paint surface. Much of the original subtlety has been lost due to significant abrasion, squashing of the paint during past lining treatments, and the fading of pigments. This is particularly evident in the hand on the right, which appears more clearly conceived in ultra violet light, suggesting that there is a lot of restoration in this area. Some fine passages remain, which can be seen with microscopy, with skilful brushwork and some fine wet-in-wet blending for variations in tone and detail. In particular, the execution of details in the falcon’s feet and in the costume can be compared with the portrait of James I, from the SNPG.
Justification for dating
The inscribed date of 1574 relates to the date at which James VI was painted, and has been copied from the original painting. The technique and materials suggest that it was produced in the late sixteenth century, or possibly the early seventeenth century; the canvas is prepared with a chalk ground and lead priming, rather than the double oil ground that is used later in the seventeenth century.
Drawing and transfer technique
No underdrawing was identified using infrared reflectography.
Relevance to other known versions
There is a very similar version of the portrait, attributed to Rowland Lockey, at Hardwick Hall, National Trust, NT 1129115
- an earlier portrait, which was once in the collection of Charles I, and is now in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, PG 992 (18/2010(1)).
- a version was sold from the collection of William Legge, 7th Earl of Dartmouth at Sotheby's 8 July 1964 (lot 1)
- a version was in Overton in 1963 (Salwey family)
- Scottish National Portrait Gallery, PG 992
- Rijksmuseum: two miniature variants of the head only, which were possibly
once in the Royal Collection.
Auerbach, Erna, Nicholas Hilliard, 1961, pp. 269-70
Strong, Roy, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 1969, pp.176-180
The thin paint layers are worn and restored in many parts. The paint is in stable condition. The painting has a clear and even varnish and the restoration is well matched. The original tacking margins and lining canvas edges have been removed and the painting has been strip lined using polyester sailcloth and BEVA film.
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.
Last date of tree ring: n/a
The painting is on a canvas support.
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.
A single test plate x-ray of the head was taken (see x-ray 01). Due to the thin nature of the paint, no significant information was gleaned from the x-ray. It was therefore decided that there was nothing to be gained from an x-ray of the whole painting.
A technique used to observe the layers beneath the paint surface which can reveal underdrawing and changes to the initial design.
The painting was examined using infrared reflectography and no underdrawing was identified. As no interesting features were apparent a decision was made not to capture any images for this painting.
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 to analyse the pigments and layer structure of the painting in February 2010.
The canvas was prepared with a chalk ground, followed by a pale grey priming, made with a mixture of lead white and charcoal black. The priming was identified in all the cross-sections that were taken.
Flesh and hair
The lips contain some vermilion. The eyes contain pure black in the pupils, with finely ground smalt mixed in with black and lead white in the irises. The hair includes a bright yellow which may be yellow ochre, sienna and black.
Background and floor
Samples 1, 2 and 3: The dark grey background and floor are composed of a mixture of charcoal black and lead white. On the floor around the sitter's feet, particles of ultramarine, red lake and vermilion are incorporated into the black and lead white mixture. The layer in which the ultramarine was found may be associated with restoration. There is a significant amount of restoration present at the edges and in parts of the background.
The doublet was painted using a mixture of lead white, black and yellow ochre. The horizontal bands present in the shoulder and sleeve on the right contain vermilion and lead-tin yellow, and in some places an orange glaze, containing red lake, was used. Through a combination of abrasion and pigment fading, these details are not as distinct as they would originally have been. The dark diagonal lines present on the surface of the doublet were found to contain indigo and black, and the horizontal lines are composed of a mixed brown.
The upper hose were first painted with an opaque pale pink underlayer containing lead white and lead-tin yellow in areas of highlight. A copper green glaze was then applied above.
Sample 6: Taken from the hose, shows a scattering of red and brown pigment present above the green glaze. However, this is most likely associated with the background paint nearby, or it is restoration.
At the right edge of the hose, small impasted details were painted in pink, white and lead-tin yellow.
The pink colour of the lower hose was created with a pure red lake glaze, applied above a paler pink opaque paint layer. The glaze has pooled in the interstices of the canvas texture. In areas where the glaze is thick, it has retained a deep colour which provides an indication of the original appearance of the hose prior to fading and abrasion.
Occasional shards of colourless material were identified in the paint mixture here. This is possibly a silicacious bulking agent or very finely ground, pale smalt. Shadows in the ruff contain charcoal black and lead white.
The shoes were executed in a similar manner to the doublet. First a pale cream-coloured layer was applied, consisting of lead white, black and yellow ochre. A medium-rich, glaze-like brown was then used for the details.
Hat and feather plume
The blue feather was originally painted using smalt. Above this another blue layer containing ultramarine was found, which is likely to be a later addition, after the smalt had discoloured. The red feather is heavily restored, although traces of original red lake and lead white were visible under magnification. The pinkish feather is also heavily restored, although it is likely that original red lake pigment has faded considerably.
Jess, sword and sword belt
Sample 4: The red jess around the falcon's feet contains vermilion and red lake, with plant black and some silicacious material.
Sample 5: The sword belt is heavily restored with an opaque paint, containing vermilion, lead white, Prussian blue and red ochre. The sword belt appears to have been painted with an opaque underlayer containing vermilion, followed by a layer of lead white and red lake, and finally a red lake glaze. The restoration containing Prussian blue was identified above this.
Lead-tin yellow was used in the falcon's feet. The bell attached to the falcon's legs contains an orange, which appears to be a mixture of lead-tin yellow and vermilion. The falcon's body consists of a pale brown, composed of lead white, earth pigments and black. This layer is very abraded and has been restored in parts. The falcon's beak contains a mixture of charcoal and lead white, and the eye contains lead-tin yellow.
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 paint was applied in very thin layers using some fine brushwork. There is significant abrasion to the surface; squashing of the paint during past lining treatment and pigment fading have all contributed to the loss of much of the subtlety of the original paint surface. Some fine passages remain when viewed with light microscopy, such as the falcon and costume. In areas where the quality of the original remains visible the brushwork is skilful, with some fine wet-in-wet blending for variations in tone and detail. Much of the paint surface is very abraded, and there is considerable restoration in parts.
The canvas was prepared with a thin chalk ground. A very thin, pale lead-based priming layer has been observed above the chalk ground in some areas. Some black was found in the priming layer. The priming appears to be unevenly applied and lightly fills the canvas weave. In some areas there does not appear to be any priming and the paint appears to rest very close to the canvas itself.
Neither surface microscopy nor infrared reflectography revealed any underdrawing.
The very pale flesh paint is composed of a mixture of lead white with small particles of vermilion and charcoal black. The flesh and features are very smoothly blended wet-in-wet with fine brushstrokes (see micro 01). The flesh is very pale but the mixture probably also contains some faded red lake pigment. The grey shadows along the jawline, brow and lower lip were painted using a thin layer of black, vermilion and red lake pigment above the flesh colour. A higher proportion of red lake and vermilion was used for the warmest flesh tones; this can be seen in the ears and eyebrows. The shadow along the jaw and chin was defined after the collar was laid in, using a mixture of red lake and vermilion, which has been reinforced with restoration.
The whites of the eyes were painted with a mixture of lead white and smalt, with a little charcoal black and vermilion (see micro 03). The same mixture was used for the iris, with a higher proportion of black pigment. The pupil appears to have been painted with black, a little white and perhaps some yellow ochre. Red lake glaze was used to give some warmth, particularly in areas such as the tear duct.
The lips were defined with a thin application of red lake, black and vermilion over the flesh colour. The lake has a strong purplish tone, which is enhanced by the addition of a higher proportion of black in the deepest shadow and the corners of the lips.
The hands were smoothly blended using a similar pigment mixture to the face. A medium-rich brown was then used to define the fingers and shadows above the flesh paint (see micro 13). With microscopy translucent inclusions can be seen in the paint mixture.
The hair was very thinly applied above the flesh paint. This area has been heavily restored, making the original pigment mixture difficult to assess. Despite this, it appears that it was painted using a simple, medium-rich mixture of black, sienna, yellow ochre and perhaps some red lake.
The feathers on the hat are heavily restored. Areas of original paint contain lead white and red lake, and the blue plume appears to be composed of lead white, black and smalt (see micro 20). Particles of ultramarine can also be seen, which appear to belong to areas of restoration. The red jewels on the hat are painted with vermilion, black and some red lake. Despite the level of abrasion and restoration visible in this area, the canvas shows through at surface level, giving an indication of the thin nature of the paint as a whole.
Collar ruff and cuffs
The collar ruff and cuffs were thinly laid in using a mid-tone grey composed of charcoal black and lead white directly above the priming layer. The lead white highlights and detail were added later, after the background and costume were applied (see micro 05 and micro 08).
Doublet and sleeves
The costume appears to have been laid in using a simple mixture of lead white, black and yellow ochre. Whilst this layer was still wet, a fine brush loaded with a medium-rich brown was used to create the small brown slashes in the doublet. Microscopy suggests this brown mixture is composed of black, red lake and vermilion (see micro 07). Slight indentations were created in the costume paint as this was done when it was still wet, giving a subtle texture to the paint surface. The same technique was used in the sleeves, where red lake was used to create the slashes (see micro 12). Further details such as the buttons and embroidered edging were then applied using black, vermilion, red lake and lead tin yellow pigments. Many of these details have been reinforced with restoration. Areas of extreme highlight, particularly on the sleeves, were achieved with the use of lead-tin yellow (see micro 12).
The upper hose were first underpainted using lead white, with the addition of a little lead-tin yellow in areas of highlight. A copper green glaze was applied above. Surface examination suggests that black pigment was added to the green glaze for areas of shadow. The glaze layer appears to have been applied to the surface by the process of blotting, probably with a cloth, to pull away some of the glaze after it was brushed on to the surface (see micro 18). Highlights and details were then created with the use of lead-tin yellow, black, red lake and vermilion. A reserve was left for the sword belt after the pale laying-in layer was applied.
A reserve was left for the lower hose at the point when the background was applied. In a similar manner to the upper hose, the lower hose were first underpainted in a paint primarily composed of lead white. Red lake glaze, with the addition of a little black pigment, was then applied above with a brush, in varying thickness, to achieve tonal variation, highlight and shadow (see micro 19). This layer has been abraded and may have faded considerably.
Sword belt and hilt
The sword belt appears to have been painted with an opaque underlayer containing vermilion, followed by a layer of lead white and red lake, and finally a red lake glaze. Restoration containing prussian blue was identified above this (see Paint sampling). Lead-tin yellow was then used to achieve areas of detail and highlight (see micro 09). The sword hilt was thinly painted above the background, using softly blended brushstrokes and a mixture of lead-tin yellow and vermilion. Red lake glaze was also used above the dark background paint to alter the tone of the very dark grey and create the deepest shadows, and highlights were achieved by the use of pure lead-tin yellow (see micro 17).
The shoes were painted using a similar technique to the doublet. They were first laid in using a simple mixture of lead white, black and yellow ochre. Whilst this layer was still wet, a fine brush loaded with a medium-rich brown was used to create the small brown slashes and surface texture.
Falcon and glove
The glove and falcon were painted using a similar technique to that used in the SNPG portraits of James Douglas and James I (18/2010(2) and 18/2010(1). The glove and falcon appear to have been underpainted in a mixture of lead white, earth pigments, black and a little vermilion. Above this, the glove and falcon were delicately modelled using a thin application of brown paint, containing black, red lake, vermilion and perhaps some earth pigment (see detail 03 and micro 16). The talons and claws are finely depicted using small, soft brushstrokes of lead-tin yellow (see micro 14). The claws are painted with a mixture of black, white and vermilion, with highlights containing black, white, smalt and vermilion. The falcon's beak also contains a high proportion of smalt, black and lead white and the eye contains lead-tin yellow (see micro 10 and micro 11).
The grey background appears to have been applied over the pale priming, using a mixture of charcoal black, lead white and earth pigments. In areas of highlight there appears to be some good quality smalt added to the paint mixture. The paint layer is very thinly applied and in parts it appears to lie directly on top of the canvas.
The inscription is thinly painted above the background using lead-tin yellow, lead white, black and some vermilion. The inscription is loosely incised into the background paint along the upper and lower edges.
Order of construction
- Chalk ground
- Pale grey priming
- Face and hands
- Collar ruff and cuff laid in
- Red glaze over flesh
- Costume and underpainting for hose
- Falcon and glove
- Detail and highlight on collar and cuff
- Copper green glaze on upper hose and detail/highlights
- Red lake glaze on lower hose
- Sword belt and hilt
Lead white, charcoal black, plant black, yellow ochre, lead-tin yellow, earth pigments, vermilion, red lake, smalt, indigo, copper green glaze
There is considerable restoration in parts. This is particularly evident in the feather plume in the hat, hair and sword belt. There are small isolated retouchings in the flesh, hose and shoes and in large areas of the background (see UV 01 and Ultra violet).
A method which helps to reveal past restoration and the extent of varnish layers.
In ultra violet light large areas of overpaint are visible throughout. There is heavy retouching around the edges and especially along the bottom edge. The face has small, scattered retouchings (see UV 01). The degraded green of the trousers has one large area of retouching on the left side as well as smaller, scattered areas of overpaint. The most recent restoration appears the most dark but there are lighter dark areas which suggest the presence of older restoration beneath old varnish residues. The light fluorescence on the hose and on the background indicates the presence of old varnish layers. The red stockings fluoresce pink in ultra violet light, indicating the presence of madder lake pigment. The white coat shows areas of dark purple, which seems to be an underlayer showing through the abraded upper paint layers.
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