Probably Mary (née Throckmorton), Lady Scudamore
7 of 29 portraits by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger
- Tudor and Jacobean Portraits Database
Probably Mary (née Throckmorton), Lady Scudamore
by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger
oil on panel, 1615
45 in. x 32 1/2 in. (1143 mm x 826 mm)
A striking example of Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger’s later work, the good condition of which demonstrates the artist’s skill in rendering texture and balancing colour.
The painting was first recorded at the Scudamore family seat, Holme Lacy, Herefordshire, in an inventory taken by John Duncumb in 1781. It was listed again in an inventory taken by Joseph Gulston in 1785. The Scudamore line became extinct in 1820 and it is not known at what date the portrait left Holme Lacy. It was acquired by the Gallery from Messrs. Graves & Co in 1859.
The provenance would suggest that the sitter is a member of the Scudamore family, who celebrated the wedding of John, later 1st Viscount Scudamore of Sligo, to Elizabeth Porter, daughter of Sir Arthur Porter of Llanthony, Monmouthshire and Hempsted, Gloucestershire, on 12th March 1615. As the bride would have been no more than fifteen years old the sitter is most likely to be the groom’s mother, Mary Scudamore (née Throckmorton), for whom the inscription ‘No Spring till now’ would have been particularly apposite. Mary had been repudiated by Sir James Scudamore in 1608 and the wedding of her son offered the opportunity for the regeneration of the family. No comparative portrait of Mary Scudamore is known with which to confirm the likeness, and it is therefore possible, although less likely, that the portrait depicts the mother of the bride, Anne Porter (née Danvers).
Notes on attribution
Although there is no documentary record of the commission, this portrait can be confidently attributed to Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger. Gheeraerts did not take a consistent approach to the preparatory layers when working on panel or canvas supports but the draughtsmanship and paint handling technique compares closely to other works attributed to the artist, such as the 1614 portrait of
Catherine Killigrew, Lady Jermyn (Yale Center for British Art). The italic hand in the inscription is also comparable to a number of other works, including the ‘Ditchley’ portrait of Elizabeth I (NPG 2561); for example, the form of the ‘w’ and the comparison of the letter forms in ‘till’ and ‘still’. The attribution of this painting to Gheeraerts was first made by Cust and was supported by palaeographic research by Millar.
Justification for dating
The painting is inscribed with the date 12 March 1614. In Old Style dating, the year changed on March 25 and the inscription therefore dates the painting 12 March 1615; the English calendar year did not begin on 1 January until 1752. The inscription is original to the painting and the techniques and materials in use are appropriate for a work of this date; dendrochronological analysis indicates that the panel support is made from a tree that was felled after 1601.
The paint surface is in very good condition, with only a little restoration along the panel join and over small scattered losses.
The portrait is painted with thin layers, using passages of wet-in-wet blending and fine texturing to delineate detail. The flesh paint layers are laid over the warm coloured priming, which is used for the mid-tone, and the paint is skilfully manipulated to create softness in the flesh. Smalt and azurite are present in the flesh paint mixture. Notable skill is evident in the creation of textures and tones in the textiles, and in the manipulation of red and black pigments. The colours and handling of the flowers in the floral wreath in the background are painted with delicate wet-in-wet blending.
Drawing and transfer technique
There is little evidence of underdrawing during surface examination and using infrared reflectography, but lines beneath the collar seem to mark the position for the folds of the ruff. Infrared reflectography and x-radiography reveal that the panel has been reused or that the sitter was repositioned; a face can be seen beneath the paint layers to the right and below the current face.
Other known versions
There are no known portraits of Lady Scudamore or other versions of this painting.
Herefordshire Record Office, BH100, Extract – Inventory of pictures at Holme Lacy 1781
'List of Pictures at HOLME LACY, co. Hereford, taken by Joseph Gulston, in 1785', The Gentleman’s Magazine, vol. XCV, July to December 1825, pp. 134-135 (as Frances Carr, Countess of Somerset)
Cust, Lionel, ‘Marcus Gheeraerts’, The Walpole Society, III, 1913-1914, p. 39 (as Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke)
Rae, Caroline, ‘Anglo-Netherlandish Workshop Practice in the 1580s and early 1600s with a focus on the works of John de Critz the Elder and Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger’, unpublished PhD thesis, Courtauld Institute of Art, 2015
Strong, Roy, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, London, 1969, pp. 243-245
Strong, Roy, The English Icon, 1969, p. 285
Millar, Oliver, ‘Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger: A Sequel Through Inscriptions’, Burlington Magazine, Vol. 105, No. 729 (December 1963) pp. 533-541
‘Marcus Gheeraerts II: Elizabethan Artist’, Tate Britain, London, 2002-2003
The panel appears to be in stable condition. The paint surface is in stable condition with a few areas of raised craquelure in the dark areas of the costume and in the red curtain. There is a little restoration in the panel joins, some restoration in the old crack down the right side of the face, and a few other scattered restored losses, all with well matched restoration. The surface is in good condition generally and the varnish is clear and even. The restoration appears fairly recent.
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: 4
Last date of tree ring: 1593
The boards were labelled A to D from left to right (from the front) for analysis. There is no sapwood present on the outermost boards, which means that a terminus post quem can be applied to this panel.
Partial sequences of rings were obtained from the upper edges of boards A and D, and a complete sequence was obtained from the upper edge of board B. Board C contained too few rings for analysis. The rings on boards A and D matched strongly and these probably derive from a single tree. The series were combined and the composite sequence found to match against Eastern Baltic reference data. The board B series was separately dated against eastern Baltic data. The last measured heartwood rings on boards A, B, and D are 1584, 1593, and 1585 respectively. Adding the minimum expected number of sapwood rings suggests that these three boards derive from trees felled after 1593 and 1601. Boards A and B are typical widths, which suggests that there is relatively little chance that these boards have been significantly trimmed.
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 cradle on the back of the panel is evident (see x-ray mosaic 01). There appears to be another head painted beneath the portrait: the features are lower and to the right of the face of the sitter; the left eye is beneath the centre of the bridge of the sitter's nose. The right-hand panel join has clearly been problematic in the past, there are paint losses running along the length of the join. The other panel joins are in a good condition with little evidence of movement or paint loss. To the right of the sitter's face there is a vertical line which appears to be a split in the panel with associated paint loss. The careful modelling of the flesh in the sitter's face is clear in x-ray.
A technique used to observe the layers beneath the paint surface which can reveal underdrawing and changes to the initial design.
The features of the face painted beneath the current face can be seen more clearly using infrared reflecotgraphy than in x-ray (see DIRR 01). Broad brushstrokes are visible in the priming layer and these may be thicker in the area covering the face beneath. Little evidence of underdrawing can be seen in infrared but there are some lines beneath the collar which seem to be marking out the position of the folds.
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 February 2012.
The wood panel was prepared with a thick layer of chalk ground, which contains the occasional particle of carbon black. A wash of a pigmented substance was brushed on top of the chalk ground. This could be a pigmented glue size layer that would have helped to make the chalk ground less absorbent during painting. Above this, there is a double layer of warm pale grey priming, containing mainly lead white with some vermilion and carbon black mixed into it. This can be seen in samples 1 and 6.
The paint in the face consists of lead white with a great deal of vermilion and azurite mixed in. Small amounts of smalt were also identified.
The eyes are painted with lead white mixed with some particles that look like smalt. There is also a slightly dull mustard yellow pigment in both the eye and the flesh paint, which is probably yellow ochre.
The mottled appearance of the black paint is probably due to the mass of lead soaps under the surface. Finely ground lead white is mixed with the dark colour of the coat to make the delicate highlight of the silk fabric. The light edge of the black embroidered part of the coat next to the hand on the right is made with a violet coloured paint, containing lead white and red lake with tiny traces of azurite.
Yellow embroidered trim on the edge of the robe
Sample 3: The embroidery contains a variety of yellows and reds. Dispersion shows lead-tin yellow, yellow ochre, a yellow lake and what appears to be either red ochre or vermilion. The layers appear to have been built up with yellow ochre applied first in fairly broad strokes, followed by the mid-tone highlights made with a mixture of lead-tin yellow and the red pigment. The final highlight was dotted in using pure lead-tin yellow. The yellow lake glaze was probably applied on top of the gold detail.
Red skirt and pattern
Sample 1: Cross-section shows the chalk ground and the priming layers. Above these, there is a layer of bright red paint; this predominantly consists of vermilion with some red lake. The final paint layer is the pattern, which is made with a mixture of azurite with yellow lake and little red lake. A varnish layer lies on top. Dispersion shows vermilion and red lake from the red layer.
Sample 2: Dispersion shows the pigments in both the red layer and the brocade pattern on top. The pattern contains a great deal of azurite, some red lake, vermilion and yellow lake.
White buttoned bodice
The decoration on the white sleeve is made with delicate patterns of black paint over tiny dots of golden paint. Underdrawing can be seen along the black embroidered pattern near the buttons; this appears to have been executed in either silverpoint or graphite.
Sample 5: Dispersion identified smalt and carbon black.
Sample 6: Cross-section shows the ground and double priming layers. The paint layer above is a mixture of carbon black, yellow ochre, yellow lake and lead white. Trace of blue, probably azurite, are also present and could be seen with surface examination. Dispersion identified a great deal of yellow ochre, some carbon black and yellow lake with traces of azurite, and red ochre.
The inscription at the top right-hand corner was first painted with a green paint mixture containing azurite. The letters were overlaid with lead-tin yellow. The green underpaint is similar to the dark green brocade on the red dress.
The yellow flowers were painted with lead-tin yellow with a little vermilion. The purple mixture for the honeysuckle is made with lead white, red lake and occasional azurite particles; the red lines are made with vermilion over the top of lead-tin yellow.
Sample 4: Dispersion of the green leaves shows azurite and a little yellow ochre, also some lead white and red ochre.
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 portrait is painted with thin layers and delicate detail, using passages of wet-in-wet blending and fine texturing.
The panel was prepared with a chalk ground. There is a thin pigmented layer, which could be a glue size (see Paint sampling), followed by a double layer of warm coloured priming.
The flesh layers have been laid thinly over the warm, biscuit coloured priming layer, which has been used for the mid-tones. The flesh paint contains a mixture of azurite and smalt, mixed with vermilion, black, lead white and a small proportion of a yellow pigment (see micro 03). The flesh paint in the face has been applied thinly, with very little texture of the brushstrokes visible. The skilful manipulation and texturing of the flesh paint has given softness to the face. The layers have been built up from dark to light (see micro 04). The flesh paint in the hand has been applied in a very brushy and quick manner, with less care than in the face.
The mouth has been beautifully modelled in a vermilion paint mixture, with white blended in to create the fall of light on the lower lip. The biscuit coloured priming has been left to show through for the shadow beneath the lower lip. A thin paint layer containing black pigment has been applied to the corners of the mouth to create shadow. The parting of the lips has then been defined in red lake glaze applied with small blended brushstrokes (see micro 05).
The pupil has been blocked in with a translucent brown paint. The iris has then been added around this in a grey paint containing a high proportion of azurite. The irises have a greater concentration of blue pigment on the right-hand sides, which appears to have been blended into the grey paint mixture (see micro 01). Black paint has been applied to define the pupil but without completely covering the initial brown layer. A highlight has been added, containing lead white, azurite and a small amount of vermilion, which has picked up the lower paint layer that was still wet. A thin layer of white has been laid over the warm priming for the whites of the eyes; this contains small particles of smalt, finely ground vermilion and large black pigment particles. There are large transparent particles also present in this layer, which could be due to the formation of lead soaps. Small strokes of white have been applied around the iris. A translucent brown paint has been used to emphasise the upper eyelid and the shadow on the pupil. On the eye on the left this has been scored into and dragged to create fine eyelashes.
The warm priming has been used as a base rather than applying an underlayer for the hair. In many areas it has been left to show, particularly on the left side where the costume and background have been brushed up over the priming to define the shape of the hair (see micro 06). The priming contains a mixture of lead white, finely ground vermilion and earth pigments. Wet-in-wet blending has been utilised to create the soft curls on the head in paint containing earth colours, an opaque red and a small amount of blue pigment. The final details of the hair have been added once the lace cap was painted, with individual hairs painted in fine brushstrokes in black mixed with vermilion and a soft grey.
The translucent material of the cap has been indicated with a thin scumble of grey paint containing a small amount of blue that has been applied over the hair. The details of the cap have been painted in vermilion, and vermilion mixed with red lake. Other details are painted in a translucent orange paint containing large yellow pigment particles. The lace has been painted in a fluid white paint that has large translucent inclusions. Areas of shadow have been depicted in a grey paint with white highlights added over the top.
A reserve appears to have been left in the initial background layer for the ruff. The shape of the ruff has been blocked in with a grey paint applied thinly over the warm priming and extending onto the background, which forms the darker shadows of the folds of fabric. The ruff has been painted in different shades of warm grey containing lead white, black, vermilion and a small amount of blue pigment. At this stage the red of the costume has been painted around the ruff. The folds of the ruff have then been defined in a lead white paint that has been lightly feathered at the edges before the second background layer has been applied.
A dark grey layer containing lead white, black and red lake has been laid as an for the underlayer for the robe. The pattern has been applied over this in a paint mixture containing lead white, vermilion and earth pigments in varying proportions depending if the pattern is in an area of shadow or light (see micro 08). The highlights of the dark cloth have been applied in a grey paint; this has a blueish appearance but no trace of blue pigment could be identified. The decorative edging and fastenings of the coat are marked out in a dense black paint. The pattern has a brownish red appearance, with highlights in a mixture of lead-tin yellow and red lead systematically applied with small dabs of paint. The coat lining appears a dull brown colour. It has a very brushy appearance and a streaky grey underlayer with a red lake glaze on top. Blue particles are visible, which are likely to be smalt, and may be mixed in with the red lake glaze (see micro 09). It seems that the smalt and red lake have both degraded and that the lining would originally have had a purple appearance. The surface of the lining has a yellow haziness to it in some areas, which may be remnants of a degraded varnish layer.
Bodice and cuffs
A thin layer of pale grey paint has been applied over the biscuit coloured priming giving a warm tone to the fabric of the bodice. A softly blended brown shadow along the bottom of the arm on the right gives the illusion of form to the arm. The shadows in the folds of the fabric are also painted in a thinly applied warm brown paint, with highlights depicted in brushily applied strokes of lead white. The embroidered pattern has then been added over the top. Two types of black have been used for the pattern: a translucent dense black and an an opaque black paint containing a small amount of lead white. Small dots have been marked out in a thin ochre-based paint with highlights of lead-tin yellow and details carefully added in fine brushstrokes (see micro 10). The pattern of the buttons has been painted directly over the grey paint of the bodice, with a brown shadow creating the illusion of shape and form (see micro 11). The strings hanging from the ruff are painted in lead white with dabs of paint twisted to show knotted thread. The transparent material of the cuff is painted in a thin grey paint applied over the priming layer. A lighter white paint has been applied over the top and has an unusual appearance that looks like stippling or blotting with fingertips (see micro 13). The lighter folds of the fabric are painted over the top of the pattern of the bodice. Hints of pattern are also painted further along the cuff in a translucent reddish black paint. The lace is similar to that seen on the cap and is painted in a very fluid lead white based paint (see micro 14).
The pearls have been painted into the wet flesh paint of the hand. The basic shape of the pearls has been created with two quick brushstrokes in a grey paint containing lead white mixed with a small amount of black, vermilion, smalt and yellow pigment. This is very thinly applied where the pearls sit on the flesh and makes more use of the texture of the paint to create the circular shape (see micro 15). The pearls have a highlight of lead white at the centre and a pale yellow paint has been used to define the outline. Shadows have been painted in a thin brown paint applied over the flesh paint.
The gloves were painted before the red of the tablecloth, which has been painted up and around them and covers some of the edges. The dark costume was also painted around and into the gloves; it seems these elements were painted at the same time, as the layer structure overlaps and there is some wet-in-wet blending of the paint. The gloves have been quickly painted with textured brushwork. The gloves are a pale brown but there is also a pinkish paint involved which may be an underlayer. Thin lines of dry paint mark the outline of the fingers. The artist has achieved a sense of the fingers inside the fabric that don't extend to the tip of the gloves, the very ends of which are flat and slightly turned out. The tips of the unworn glove have been thinly painted over the red tablecloth.
The skirt has been painted in a mixture of vermilion, lead white and black that has been applied in a loose and brushy manner. The pattern is marked out in azurite mixed with red lake and black, with details added on top in azurite mixed with lead white, red lake and brown earth pigments (see micro 12). There are also brushstrokes at the edges that appear green and have an opaque yellow haziness on the surface. The pattern has been emphasised with strokes of red lake around the edges.
The chair has been blocked in with a vermilion paint. The details of the chair have been applied in lead-tin yellow mixed with a small amount of red lead, this paint mixture has an unusually lumpy texture. Red lake details have been applied as a final layer (see micro 17). The chair finial is painted in brown earth pigments with lead-tin yellow details.
Tablecloth and curtain
The red elements of the composition have a very marked and slightly raised craquelure pattern; it is unclear what has caused this. The tablecloth and curtain have been painted in the same manner. The red paint layer contains vermilion and black. Red lake has been used to build up the shadows and the darkest areas also contain black pigment. The lightest highlights contain lead white mixed with vermilion. There is some blending between the different paint layers (see micro 18). The decorative edge of the curtain is painted in lead-tin yellow mixed with red lead that has been carefully applied with a small brush.
The double layers used for the background are visible around the lace of the cap. The lower layer was applied at an early stage in the painting process and has a warm grey tone; it consists of earth pigments, finely ground vermilion, lead white and black. The upper paint layer has been applied once the main elements of the composition were completed and can be seen to be painted up and around details such as the lace cap. The upper layer appears very dark but under magnification can be seen to contain blue pigment particles. The blue is probably azurite and appears very bright compared to the surrounding dark paint mixture (see micro 07). The concentration of blue pigment is greatest around the head of the sitter. The background is very similar in composition and use of pigments to that observed in a portrait of Robert Devereux (NPG 4985) that is attributed to the same artist.
The inscription is painted in two layers: the initial layer is azurite with a second layer of lead-tin yellow on top. The lettering is carefully painted and slight blending of the paint suggests that the lower layer was not completely dry when the lead-tin yellow was applied (see micro 19). The wreath around the lettering is beautifully painted with a fine brush and a variety of pigments. Two types of green paint mixture have been used, both of which contain azurite mixed with either lead white and black or lead-tin yellow. The flowers are quickly but delicately painted with wet-in-wet blending. A very pink red lake is visible, blended with lead white for the 'pinks' (see micro 20). The purple of the pansies contains red lake mixed with a little smalt (see micro 21). Some of the flowers have had the wet paint scored into them with a stiff tool to create patterns.
Order of construction
- Chalk ground
- Thin pigmented layer
- Two layers of biscuit coloured priming
- Flesh and features
- Lace cap
- Final details of hair
- Hand and pearl bracelet
- Costume and ruff
- Upper background layer
- Inscription and floral wreath
Smalt, azurite, vermilion, two types of red lake, red lead, lead-tin yellow, earth pigments, lead white, carbon black, yellow ochre, yellow lake, red ochre
Changes in composition/pentimenti
Another face could be seen beneath the current face using infrared reflectography and in x-ray. A slight change was made to the shape of the gloves once the tablecloth was laid in.
There is very little restoration overall but there is some down the right side panel join and in the crack on the right edge of the face, and a few other scattered retouchings; all of these are well matched.
A method which helps to reveal past restoration and the extent of varnish layers.
In ultra violet light thin residues of old varnish, left during careful cleaning, can be seen to fluoresce (see UV 01). Restoration appears dark in ultra violet light and is evident that it is not of great age. There are a few areas of older restoration visible in the red curtain. The red glazes are evident in ultra violet.