William Paget, 1st Baron Paget
- Tudor and Jacobean Portraits Database
William Paget, 1st Baron Paget
by Unknown Flemish artist
oil on panel, 1549
17 3/4 in. x 14 1/4 in. (451 mm x 362 mm)
New Date: c.1549-1552
New attribution: Unknown Flemish artist
Key findings: Dating confirmed. Re-identified as a Flemish artist on the basis of stylistic analysis.
Purchased in 1898. The portrait has previously been identified on the grounds of facial likeness to an identified three-quarter length portrait of William Paget (Plas Newydd, Marquess of Anglesey) and the identity remains compelling. This picture was previously dated to c.1549 when Paget was created 1st Baron of Beaudesert. The sitter wears the Garter Badge and Paget became a knight of the Order of the Garter in 1547. However, he was degraded in 1552 and restored to the Garter early in the reign of Mary I (probably 1553-4). On the basis of costume this portrait appears to date from the late 1540s to mid 1550s and it is likely the picture was painted between 1549 and 1552 when Paget was in his mid-forties. Throughout his diplomatic career, he was a regular traveller to Northern France, Germany and the Low Counties. It is therefore possible that the portrait was painted in Flanders, or by a Flemish artist based in Northern Europe.
Notes on likely authorship
The existing attribution to the Master of the Statthalterin Madonna (Dr. Grete Ring, 1951) cannot be sustained. The group of paintings previously linked to this artist is not a homogenous group and on the basis of photographic evidence the painting style is not similar to the two portraits of the Regent of the Netherlands (both recorded at the Witt Library, London as held in private collections). The painting is certainly by a Flemish artist and is painted in a style characteristic of artists working in Brussels or Antwerp.
Commentary on painting style, technique
The portrait is technically accomplished and is carefully planned out in an apparently methodical process of construction. The painting is very thinly painted and is built up with very fine brushstrokes to create highly detailed areas (see micro 08). In certain passages (such as the eyes - see micro 02 and micro 03), the painting style has the characteristics of draughtsmanship, evident under low magnification as finely painted hatched lines, which merge together when viewed with the naked eye. In some places the artist utilises the ground in the construction of the image.
The lower hairs of the beard were defined first by drawing up the tunic brush strokes in spiky edges into the reserve left for the beard (see micro 16). The flesh and beard are painted with skilful management of transparent and opaque paint. The chalk ground beneath the pale grey priming can be seen under the detail in the beard where it gives depth and luminosity to the finely painted hairs.
Evidence from the edge of the panel indicates that the portrait was originally painted with an engaged frame (no longer extant). In this instance, the patron would have purchased the portrait and frame as a single item. The condition of this picture is reasonable. While the background and panel joins are damaged and overpainted and a radiating crack mars part of the face, these features do not obscure our ability to judge the original handling or painting style.
Justification for dating
See discussion under historical summary above. All materials are consistent with a mid-sixteenth-century date. Analysis by dendrochronology has estimated that the oak boards used for this panel cannot have been felled before 1526. This would indicate that there was approximately a twenty-five-year gap between possible felling and usage.
Drawing and transfer technique
A limited amount of underdrawing is in evidence (for example, at the cuff (left side) - see IRR detail 01). It is possible, and perhaps likely, that more extensive underdrawing exists underneath dark painted areas.
Relevance to other known versions
There are no other exact known versions of this portrait. However, other similar portraits of Paget exist including:
1. Three-quarter length portrait at Plas Newydd, owned by the Marquess of Anglesey, Lord Paget's direct descendant. This portrait depicts Paget with the Garter so must have been painted after 1547.
- Plas Newydd, National Trust, NT 1175951, inscribed 1549
- Plas Newydd, National Trust, NT 1175924, thought to be the original of three ¾ length versions at Plas Newydd
- Plas Newydd, National Trust, NT 1175925
- Plas Newydd, 18th century, National Trust, NT 1175926
Other versions of this portrait are listed below:
- sold from the collection of the late A. L. Nicholson, Christie's, 23 March 1956 (lot 16)
- in the collection of Hugh Paget (ex Lord Queenborough)
- at the Weiss Gallery in 2002 (ex Dukes of Newcastle)
- in the saleroom at Phillips on 20 June 1995 (lot 23)
- in the saleroom at Phillips on 8 October 1996
2. Half-length portrait also at Plas Newydd incorrectly dated 1549. This work is similar in composition to the three-quarter length listed above, and shows the sitter wearing the same large ring, although it is not by the same artist.
Strong, Roy, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 1969, pp.241-242
Tudor Exhibition Catalogue, The New Gallery, 1890, p.37, (No. 96)
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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.
There is much restored wear in the green background, particularly in the upper-right quadrant. This area has been the most heavily restored, although much original glazing can be seen beneath opaque and broadly applied restoration (see micro 01). The right-hand edge (from front) has been lost due to woodworm damage.
Blistering and raised paint in the area surrounding the sitter's head appears to be associated with an old hole in the centre of the top edge of the panel. There is a fine split in the wood in this area. Previous attempts to lay raised paint and blisters have failed due to the presence of varnish within cracks. Despite the blistering and cracks, the general condition of the paint is good. There is minor paint loss - some associated with the rejoining of the two panels during a past campaign of restoration.
Diagonal cracking is present in the hand on the left, and in raking light there are long cracks running through the face. Minor restoration is evident in areas of flesh paint, over areas of cracking. There is broadly applied restoration along the panel join and in much of the green background (see micro 01). Further restoration can be seen in areas of damage and along the right-hand edge, in the sitter's dark drapery.
Previous treatment in 1973 noted that there had been considerable paint loss on either side of the split in the original join and the original paint had been mechanically scraped away.
Number of boards: 2
Panel Orientation: Vertical
Panel condition observations
The panel has a slight convex warp. Nail holes are visible at approximately 50 mm intervals around the edges, except the right-hand edge, where they were removed when this edge was cut down because of woodworm damage. Additional worm damage can be seen on the top left- and right-hand edges of the verso. It is clear that at some stage the original panel join has failed and been rejoined. A split is visible in the panel from the top edge down to the left of the sitter's nose (approximately 120 mm). This has caused cracking in the paint down to the centre of the sitter's beard and there is some blind tenting in the paint surface along the cracks (see raking 01). In the x-ray, a filled hole to the right of this split can be seen clearly (see X-ray).
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: 2
Last date of tree ring: 1518
For analysis the boards were labelled A and B from the left (from the front). Only the ring sequence in board A was datable, and the last heartwood ring dated to 1518. No sapwood was present at the outermost edge of this board and so a terminus post quem date can be applied to the panel. Adding the minimum expected number of sapwood rings indicates that the panel cannot have been felled before 1526. This board is 256 mm wide, which is similar to the majority of full width boards seen in panel paintings. As this picture is undated and the board does not seem to have been significantly trimmed prior to use, it is suitable to apply an Eastern Baltic 8-40 year LEHR- usage range to this panel; this provides a conjectural usage date of 1526-1558.
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 vertical grain of the panel is clear in the x-ray image.
The x-ray shows holes around the edges (probably connected to past framing), including one in the centre of the top edge which has been filled from the front (see Support). Areas of damage, loss and filling material are also visible at the lower right-hand edge and along the panel join. Broad brushstrokes are visible in the lower layer, from the application of the priming. The density of the image in the hand indicates that there is probably more lead white present in that area than in the face (see x-ray 01).
A technique used to observe the layers beneath the paint surface which can reveal underdrawing and changes to the initial design.
Infrared reflectography showed a reserve around the edge of the head, which is not visible in x-ray, but is slightly visible in raking light (see Surface examination). In this area of reserve, broad brushstrokes, probably from the greyish priming (see Surface examination) can be seen beneath the upper paint layers.
A number of lines are visible using infrared reflectography. The most convincing marks can be seen along the back of the hand/wrist on the left (see micro 15), where there appears to have been a change in the shadow and edge of the lace cuff. It is possible that there is further underdrawing in the features, but that the paint covers it precisely. There is also a possible change in the position of the wooden stick held by the sitter.
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.
The ground consists of a thick layer of natural chalk. Over the ground lies a thin layer acting both as a sealant and priming. This layer is mostly lead white, but with a few particles of black and a little red lead, suggesting that it has a slightly warm grey tint (sample 8).
The sample of flesh paint taken appears to be from an area of retouching and not original paint.
A sample was taken from the triangle of decoration on the costume at the right-hand edge - one of the few areas of colour on the otherwise black costume. The cross-section does not appear to show the yellow paint, and the red is disturbed by the ructions of the paint surface, perhaps from a frame edge. In polarised light, the red is characteristic of a dark red pigment. The priming layer mentioned above and ground are present beneath the upper paint layers of the drapery.
A sample was taken from the cuff on the sleeve on the left, at the lower edge. This shows a trace of the chalk ground beneath the priming noted above. An intense black has been applied over the priming in a thin even line, and over this is a very pale grey, consisting of lead white with traces of black mixed in to it at the surface, forming a shadowed area of the cuff. Later coatings lie over the grey.
Although the background is retouched in many places, in cross-section, an original intense grey could be seen in sample 2, taken from the edge. A second sampling of the background (sample 8) found that a very dark greenish layer - seemingly a single layer of dark green glaze - remained over the grey. Under the polarising light microscope, the substance has the appearance of discoloured copper green glaze. This was confirmed by energy dispersive x-ray analysis, which showed a significant peak for copper. This indicates that this glaze was once a bottle green, copper green glaze. The first sample from the background had some traces of a glaze over the black, but this had been disrupted by disturbance of the paint. There are multiple layers of varnish in all samples.
Summary of pigments
Pigments found in the sampled paint were
- lead white
- plant black
- carbon black
- iron oxide red
- red lead
- lead-tin yellow (identified from visual observation)
- verdigris (in the medallion)
- copper green glaze
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 picture is very finely and smoothly painted throughout and the technique is methodical and well-organised: for example, planning can be seen with the presence of reserves left for the hat (see micro 06), the medal, the rod of office, the pin on the arm on the right and ring.
Thin paint application and very fine brushstrokes are visible, particularly in areas of flesh and hair paint (see micro 09, micro 10, micro 11 and micro 13). Thicker paint can be seen in the white lace cuffs, where less dilute paint was 'dabbed' on to create texture (see micro 14). The painter has used a wet-in-wet technique in the flesh and hair paint (see micro 04).
The method of painting the beard uses the paint of the tunic. The black tunic was laid in with crisp, firm brushstrokes (using a firm bristled brush such as hog's hair) around the area where the edge of the beard would be, drawing-up the 'spiky' edges of the brushstrokes to form the edges of the light hairs (i.e. the beard hair is defined by the gaps between the black paint strokes). Further hair paint was then applied with very fine, smooth brushstrokes over the black tunic paint to achieve the full tonal variation and detail seen in the finished beard (see micro 16).
Order of construction
- Chalk ground - light ground can be seen beneath thin oil paint in many areas such as green glazes, flesh and hair.
- Warm grey priming layer (see Paint Sampling Observations and micro 05 for layer structure at edge of 'barbe') / Underdrawing is visible beneath thinly applied paint in the white rod of office and the wrist on the left (see micro 12 and micro 15 and Infrared reflectography. It was not possible to determine whether the underdrawing lies above or below the priming layer).
- Very thin semi-opaque brown and/or dark grey laying-in layer with reserves left for hat, medal, stick, jewel on the arm on the right and ring (see micro 06).
- Fur collar.
- Green background (see Paint sampling and micro 05).
- Features (see micro 02 and micro 03, showing very thin application of paint).
- Flesh paint (see micro 09, micro 13 and micro 18).
- Outlines of medal, rod of office, jewel on the arm on the right and ring (see micro 10 and micro 17).
- Black tunic.
- Hat (see micro 06).
- Beard: wet-in-wet into hat paint (see micro 04 and micro 16).
- Chain: ochre then lead-tin yellow details (see micro 11).
- Dark grey details in black tunic.
- Very fine hair/fur brushstrokes (see micro 09 and micro 19).
- Details on medal, jewel on arm on the right and ring (see micro 10, micro 17 and micro 08).
- White cuffs (see micro 14).
Black, vermilion, red lake, lead-tin yellow, lead white, copper green glaze, earth pigments
Some gold specks, visible in the varnish around the edges, may be associated with the frame.
With optical microscopy, a small shell (approx. 0.5 mm diameter) can be seen stuck into the surface of the paint at the central right-hand edge. It is possible this is related to the use of calcium carbonate in the chalk ground for the engaged frame. It seems unlikely that the shell could have come up from the ground layer of the panel itself, as it is sitting firmly on the surface (see micro 20).
A method which helps to reveal past restoration and the extent of varnish layers.
Varnish is present to the edge of the panel, and is patchy and very thick in areas.
Ultra violet light showed the restoration noted in Conservation history, especially in the green background, down the length of the panel join, and in the lower part of the right-hand edge. It also showed isolated restored losses in the face, associated with vertical/diagonal cracking in this area.