King Richard II

1 portrait matching 'NPG4980(8)'

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King Richard II

by Unknown artist
oil on panel, 1597-1618
22 3/4 in. x 17 5/8 in. (578 mm x 449 mm) uneven
NPG 4980(8)


The portrait set is the product of a number of workshops; within this set, this portrait is linked to the portrait of Richard III.

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 is a version of the standard painted portrait type of Richard II that was probably developed in around 1580 and was consistently used thereafter for sets of English kings and queens. It is derived from the full-length painting at Westminster Abbey dating from the 1390s and the king’s tomb effigy, also 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. There are some similarities in the way the jewels have been painted on this portrait and the portrait of Richard III (NPG 4980(12)). In addition, the panels used for these portraits contain wood from a common tree; it is likely, therefore, that these paintings 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 methods 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 between 1588 and 1603.

The panel on the right has suffered considerable woodworm damage in the past and this has caused extensive flaking and paint loss on the paint surface.

Painting technique
The paint handling can be compared in some areas to the portrait of Henry VIII (NPG 4980(14)). There is subtle tonal blending in the flesh and in the shadows in the fur cape. The handling of the jewels is of a higher quality than seen on other portraits in this set and is similar in handling to the jewellery on the portrait of Richard III (NPG 4980(12)), with rich glazes and subtle blending of tone and shadow.

Drawing and transfer technique
The underdrawing on this painting is similar to that seen in the portrait of Henry VIII (NPG 4980(14)). The eyes, bottom of the nose and shape of the lips have been drawn in lightly, while areas of shadow around the eye sockets have been indicated with short vertical lines. Short lines in varying directions have also been used around the nose. The outline of the face was initially drawn slightly wider and then made a little narrower down the right-hand side.

Other known versions
There are many other versions of this portrait, most of which were made for sets of English kings and queens.

There are other versions in the following collections:
- National Portrait Gallery (NPG 565)
- Royal Collection, RCIN 404748
- The Deanery, Ripon – two versions, one of which is part of a set
- Anglesey Abbey, National Trust, NT 515576
- Longleat (Marquess of Bath) – part of a set
- Syon House (Duke of Northumberland, formerly at Albury) – part of a set
- Westwood Manor, National Trust, NT 222826

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
Strong, Roy, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 1969, I, pp. 260-61


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 flesh, showing pigment mi…
Micro 04. Detail of mordant and gilding (30 x…
Micro 05. Detail of inscription (10 x mag).
Micro 06. Detail showing wet-in-wet blending…
Micro 07. Detail showing blending on cloak (7…
UV 01. Front of the panel in ultra violet lig…
Reverse 01. Back of the panel in raking light…

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The panel on the right has suffered considerable woodworm damage in the past and this has caused extensive flaking and paint loss on the paint surface. The panel appears stable at present. The right-hand side of the panel has been extensively restored and undergone several consolidation campaigns. There is lumpy filling and extensive restoration which appears well matched. The varnish is semi-matt.


Support type: Eastern Baltic oak

Number of boards: 2

Panel Orientation: Vertical

Panel condition observations

There is a repaired split at the top left and the back has been sanded. It is evident that two horizontal members had been inset as repairs in the upper and lower parts of the panel. These have been removed and the cuts made into the wood for the insets have been filled with wood filler. There are horizontal rectangular marks (at least 5) across the joins, where shorter wood battens had been attached across the join as a repair, but which have also been removed subsequently. The top one has been filled with wood filler. The left panel member (seen from the back) has been damaged by woodworm and this has been filled with wood filler. Woodworm damage is likely to be a cause of the serious paint losses on the front of the panel. In x-ray there appears to be a small hole in the centre of the central crown point (see x-ray mosaic 01). This is not visible on the back of the panel because it is covered with the wood filler, but there appears to be a repaired hole in the paint surface; this may relate to an old hanging method. Two repaired holes can be seen at the top edge. There is an National Portrait Gallery paper label on the reverse.

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: 2

Last date of tree ring: 1581


For analysis the boards were labelled A and B from the left (from the front). Board B retains some sapwood along the lower edge, which means that a felling date range can be applied to the panel. The ring series from board A matches strongly with the series from board A on Richard III (NPG 4980(12)), indicating that they are from the same tree. Adding the minimum and maximum expected number of sapwood rings to the combined ring sequence from the two boards suggests a felling date range of 1587-1603. The last ring on Board B is dated 1581 and includes 2 sapwood rings. One of the boards on the linked Richard III retains heartwood up to 1580. Combining the results suggests a felling date range of 1588-1603 for the two panels. It is unlikely that Board A has been trimmed significantly as it is a typical width (276 mm) for an eastern Baltic board.

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.

X-ray shows the considerable damage and old paint losses in the right side of the painting (see x-ray mosaic 01). The two areas where horizontal wood battens were once inset can also be seen, and the holes at the top of the panel may relate to old hanging methods. The brushwork and painting technique is evident.

Infrared reflectography (what's this? )

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

The underdrawing on this painting is very characteristic and has similarities to the underdrawing seen on the portrait of Henry VIII (NPG 4980(14)). The eyes, bottom of the nose and shape of the lips have been drawn in with lightly applied lines (see DIRR 01). Areas of shadow around the eye sockets have been indicated with short vertical lines. Short lines in varying directions have also been used around the nose. The face was originally slightly wider but has been narrowed slightly along the right-hand side during the planning stage.

Paint sampling (what's this? )

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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 was prepared with a chalk ground and in one sample there appears to be a white priming.

White ermine cape
Sample 1: Cross-section shows a chalk ground with traces of carbon black, with the paint layer for the white ermine over it, which contains lead white and a little carbon black.

Black background
Sample 2: Cross-section shows the chalk ground with a little carbon black, a thin white layer which is probably the priming, and a black upper layer containing carbon black with traces of lead white and possibly brown earth pigment.

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 Richard III (NPG 4980(12) from the same set, and the handling of the paint in some areas has been found to be similar.

Preparation layers
The panel was prepared with a chalk ground. There is evidence of a thinly applied white priming layer, although this was only found in one sample. The underdrawing is visible beneath the paint layers in certain areas.

The flesh paint has been very smoothly painted, with little brushstroke texture or blending visible. There is no evidence of an underlayer beneath the flesh and it appears to have been painted directly onto the priming layer (see micro 03). The flesh paint contains a mix of finely ground vermilion, white and black, with a small amount of red lake. A higher proportion of black pigment has been used in areas of shadow. Thin brown paint marks out the features and areas of shadow at the edges of the face. The lips are thinly painted and the underdrawing and priming are visible in some areas. The parting of the lips has been painted using a brownish glaze.

The irises contain black mixed with earth pigments, with white blended in for variation in tone. Over this the pupil has been painted in black. A highlight has been been applied with a single stroke of lead white paint, and at a later stage a daub of pink flesh paint has been applied over this. The whites of the eyes are quite dark and contain lead white, vermilion and a large proportion of black pigment. Over this a highlight has been applied by painting a single stroke of lead white paint through which a stiff point has been dragged while the paint is still wet. Bright vermilion has been used in the corners of the eyes. A stroke of brown paint defines the upper eyelid on both eyes, on the eye on the left this has been dragged through while still wet to create eyelashes. The eyelashes on the eye on the right have been painted with thin strokes of brown/black paint, which has also been used as a darker line over the brown paint on the upper lid of both eyes (see micro 01 and micro 02).

Eyebrows, moustache, beard and hair
The moustache and beard have been painted with fine brushstrokes depicting individual hairs. The paint mixture contains vermilion and earth pigments. The eyebrows have been painted in the same way with a few darker strokes. A reserve has been left for the hair and the background paint has been brushed into the edges of the reserve. The hair has been blocked in with a thin brown layer of paint. At a later stage individual strands of hair that extend over the background have been added. Brown earth pigments have been used mixed with lead white for highlights.

Crown and collar
The gilding has been applied over a pale mordant, which contains a high proportion of lead white mixed with large particles of charcoal black and small amounts of orange and red pigment (see micro 04). Details have been outlined with a translucent orange/brown paint. The handling of the jewels is of a higher quality than seen on other portraits in this set and is similar to Richard III (NPG 4980(12)). Rich red lake and copper green glazes have been applied for the jewels, over which fine lead white highlights have been loosely blended. The pearls have been painted using two tones of grey painted loosely over the gilding with two white highlights. Black outlines have been applied over the translucent orange/brown outlines.

Fur cape and red costume
The painting has suffered from extensive damage and loss in the costume on the right-hand side. The fur cloak has been directly painted onto the pale priming layer. The white of the fur is painted with lead white mixed with black and a small amount of orange earth pigment. The proportion of black in the paint mix has been increased for areas of shadow. The ermine details have been painted while the white paint was still wet. Two tones of grey have been used to create the shape, and the white paint has then been dragged through the grey paint creating wet-in-wet blending imitating the texture of fur (see micro 06). At the bottom edge of the fur cape a line of darker grey has been painted as a shadow. Beneath this there is a dark red paint layer containing vermilion for the cloak. A stiff brush has been used to drag the paint of the white fur into the grey shadow, and the grey shadow into the red of the cloak. Finally, a brighter layer of red has been applied over the darker red of the cloak and once again a stiff brush has been used to drag the wet paint over the lower layer (see micro 07).

Background and inscription
The background is very dark and contains black mixed with earth pigments. The inscription is painted with lead-tin yellow mixed with a small amount of orange (see micro 05).

Order of construction
- Ground
- Priming
- Underdrawing
- Mordant and gilding
- Jewels and details on gilded areas
- Flesh modelling
- Red costume
- Fur cape
- Background
- Hair
- Inscription

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

Restoration observations
The right-hand panel has suffered from extensive damage due to woodworm infestation. This has caused significant loss to the paint layers which have been filled and retouched.

Ultra violet examination (what's this? )

Ultra Violetclose

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

The varnish layer appears opaque in ultra violet light (see UV 01). There is considerable restoration on the right-hand side. The most recent restoration appears dark in ultra violet light, whilst older restoration that appears less dark, can be seen in the right background beneath the most recent campaign. There is another less dark area on the left side above the shoulder.


Frame type: Not original.

Frame date: Late 20th century.


Carved and ebonised frame with Egg and Dart motifs.