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King Stephen

22 of 3329 portraits matching these criteria:

- subject matching 'Jewellery - Crowns and tiaras'

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King Stephen, by Unknown artist, 1597-1618 - NPG 4980(3) - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Tudor and Jacobean Portraits Database

King Stephen

by Unknown artist
oil on panel, 1597-1618
22 3/4 in. x 17 5/8 in. (578 mm x 447 mm)
NPG 4980(3)


The portrait set is the product of a number of workshops; within this set, this portrait is linked to the portraits of Henry I, John and Edward I.

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 portrait relates closely to the woodcut of Henry I in Thomas Talbot’s A Booke Containing the True Portraiture of the Kings of England (London, 1597) and may be derived directly from this source. It is probable that the woodcut is based on medieval manuscript illustrations that depict the king.

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. Similarities between this painting and the portraits of Henry I (NPG 4980(2)), John (NPG 4980(5)) and Edward I (NPG 4980(6)) indicate that all four portraits came from the same source. In addition, the wooden panels used for the portraits of Stephen, John and Edward I all contain wood from the same tree.

Justification for dating
This likeness, along with the portraits of Henry I, John and Edward I, appears to be derived directly from Talbot’s 1597 publication, 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 techniques 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 1592 and 1603.

There is extensive restoration in the background and filling and restoration down the panel joins.

Painting technique
Stylistically the portrait is very similar to the portraits of John and Edward I, and also in many ways to the portrait of Henry I, with subtle modelling in the flesh paint and comparable lettering in the inscriptions. The costume is very simply painted and the pattern of leaves on the green glaze on the tunic is made with lines incised into the wet paint.

Drawing and transfer technique
Black underdrawing marking out the facial features is clearly visible beneath the paint layers and it can be stylistically linked to the portraits of John and Edward I. Changes were made during the painting process in some areas; for example, in the fur collar and the cloak. In some places the underdrawing can be seen lying on top of the paint layers, which could indicate that decisions about the costume were being made during the painting process.

Relevance to other known versions
The only known portrait of Stephen that relates to this painting is in the collection at Arundel Castle. It was probably produced in the late sixteenth century.

Catalogue of Autumn Arts Festival, Stoke Prior Brushworks, Bromsgrove, Worcs, 8-16 October 1966, no. 6
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


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 lips (7.1 x mag).
Micro 04. Detail of inscription (7.1 x mag).
Micro 05. Detail showing blending of paint in…
Micro 06. Detail showing mordant and gilding…
Micro 07. Detail of pattern on tunic (7.1 x m…
UV 01. Front of the panel in ultra violet lig…
Reverse 01. Back of the panel in raking light…

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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.

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The panel joins appear stable. The filling and restoration down the right join is a little open. The paint is slightly raised at the upper-left corner but appears stable; there is some wood loss at this corner. There is a small nail present in the verso of the panel, above the crown, and this has forced the paint forwards slightly. There is part of another nail at the back behind the centre of the crown. There is extensive restoration in the background and filling and restoration down the panel joins. The restoration is reasonably matched. The varnish is semi-glossy.


Support type: Oak

Number of boards: 3

Panel Orientation: Vertical

Panel condition observations

The joins have been repaired and there are strips of canvas glued to the joins at the back. X-ray shows evidence of wood worm damage in the areas with major repairs (see X-radiography). Wooden buttons have been glued at the upper and the lower edges of the right-hand join (from the back). The panel is roughly cut at the edges. There are two small nails with some fibres attached, which might be cord, on the reverse at the top that may relate to an old hanging method. A nail has pierced the paint surface very slightly above the centre of the crown. There is another nail at the top right.

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). There is no sapwood. The partial board A sequence of rings was found to match strongly with the complete sequence found on Board A of John (NPG 4980(5)). The board B series matches board B from Edward I NPG 4980(6). These pairs represent separate single trees in common between these three panels. The two pairs were combined to form two single composite series. The last measured ring on board A is dated 1571 and the last on board B is 1581, but as the same tree links with NPG 4980(5) and NPG 4980(6) these results can be interpreted using the results from the boards used in NPG 4980(6). These both contain sapwood with their latest heartwood rings dated to 1579 and 1584. Adding the minimum and maximum expected number of sapwood rings to these suggests that these three panels derive from trees felled between 1592 and 1603. Board A has a typical width (309 mm) for an eastern Baltic board, which suggests that it has not been significantly trimmed.

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 x-ray shows the straight grain of the boards used to make the panel (see x-ray mosaic 01). The damage suffered is also clear, with filling along the joins of the panel and evidence of woodworm infestation. The major repairs to the joins and the attached strips of canvas can be seen. The two nails above the crown and another at the top right can all be seen in x-ray. The mordant layer has been applied in a very loose and brushy manner very similar to Henry I (NPG 4980(2)). There is a pentiment on the left side of the collar, where it has been altered to make it more symmetrical with the right side. There also appears to be a pentiment in the crown, to the left of the central point.

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.

Black underdrawing can be clearly seen in the face of the sitter using infrared reflectography (see DIRR 01). The features are strongly outlined in a dry medium, which appears glittery under magnification; these outlines have been closely followed by the paint layers above. On the left cheek, a freely drawn zig-zag line indicates where the shadow should go. The outline of the fur cloak and collar is less confidently drawn and several lines have been used to mark out the final length of the cloak. Changes to the fur collar were also made at the painting stage. Other changes in composition can be seen in the black cloak strings, which are drawn in much lower than they were finally painted, and the size and shape of the object at the bottom of the painting has also altered between the drawing and painting stages. Infrared reflectography also reveals that the sitter's hair was originally painted as a neater cut and the fluid brushstrokes indicating the hair were added over the top of this layer.

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.

Paint samples were taken for Analysis in April 2011.

The panel is prepared with a chalk ground. A priming layer lies over the ground, which contains white, black and earth pigments, and some red lead.

Red costume
Sample 1: In cross-section the lowest layer is the wood with no chalk ground apparent over it, but at the left there are traces of a possible priming consisting of white, black and earth pigments. It seems clear that the ground was not applied up to the edges of the wood panel but that the priming extended to the edges and covered the wood. The main paint layer is a mixture of vermilion and large particles of red lake.

Green detail on tunic
Sample 2: Dispersion contains discoloured copper green (which appears brownish) and small particles, which are probably lead white and a small amount of what appear to be barytes (used as a filler).

Sample 3: In cross-section there is a chalk ground with traces of red lead, which suggest the presence of the priming. The main paint layer is a brown that contains mixed earth pigments, white, carbon black and red ochre.

Letter H
Sample 4: Dispersion shows a slightly dark lead-based yellow, compared with the classic lead-tin yellow found on Henry II (NPG 4980(4)).

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 portraits of John (NPG 4980(5)) and Edward I (NPG 4980(6)) from the same set and stylistically they are very similar.

Preparation layers
The panel was prepared with a chalk ground and a white priming containing black, earth pigments and a small amount of red lead. The underdrawing is clearly visible beneath the paint layers and has a glittery appearance under magnification. In some areas the underdrawing can be seen lying on top of paint layers, which could indicate that decisions about the costume were being made during the painting process.

A thin layer of paint has been applied to mark out the area of the face and has been used as the mid-tone for the flesh; it contains vermilion, lead white and black. The red of the cheeks has been blended into this layer. The features have been marked in with a pale brown paint. The highlights have been applied over the mid-tone in a thicker and more brushy manner, emphasising the creases around the sitter's eye (see micro 01). The underdrawing marking the outline of the lips is clearly visible.

The eyes closely follow the underdrawing beneath (see micro 01 and micro 02). The irises have been painted in pale grey blended wet-in-wet with white. The highlight in the pupil has a few particles of red lake and vermilion. The upper eyelid has been emphasised with a stroke of brown paint into which the eyelashes have been quickly painted wet-in-wet. The right side eye has suffered damage in the past which has been retouched.

Hair and eyebrows
The line of the eyebrows has been marked out in pale brown paint before brushstrokes of grey have been quickly applied in a thick paint to create texture. Broad brushstrokes have been used to depict the hair with dark and pale grey loaded onto the brush simultaneously, which have then blended when applied to the panel. The final touches of a thicker bodied lead white paint have been used to create highlights.

Costume and crown
The cloak has been very simply painted and contains vermilion mixed with red lake. The shadows of the red fabric have been painted in the same brown paint mix used for the fur collar above. The paint used for the collar has been loosely brushed out at the edges while still wet to create the illusion of individual hairs in the fur. The tunic has been blocked in with a grey paint. The pattern of the tunic has been painted in a copper green glaze mixed with lead white, which has then been incised to form the details of the leaves while the paint was still wet (micro 07). Where the paint has been scraped away, the medium-rich oil remains as a translucent brown layer through which the glittery underdrawing can be seen beneath. The crown has a bright orange mordant layer beneath the gold leaf (see micro 06). The diamonds on the crown have been painted in black with white highlights, and the emeralds are depicted with copper green glaze. Traces of a red lake are visible on the jewel at the centre of the band of the crown. The crown was completed with the same medium-rich brown paint used for the details around the jewels, which in some areas has fingerprints visible in the texture of the paint.

Background and inscription
The background is a brown paint layer containing earth pigments mixed with black and white. The paint has been applied in a very brushy manner and painted up and around the contours of the sitter. The inscription is painted in lead-based yellow. Two lines mark out the the position of the lettering on the left side (see {micro 04|img/4980(3)_2011_micro04.jpg). The lines are in a grey drawing medium that has been applied on top of the background paint.

Order of construction
- Ground
- Priming
- Underdrawing
- Mordant
- Gilding
- Flesh
- Hair
- Fur of cloak collar
- Red of cloak
- Tunic
- Black cloak strings
- Brown details and jewels on gilding
- Inscription

Lead white, black, vermilion, red lake, lead based yellow, earth pigments, copper green glaze, gold leaf

Changes in composition/pentimenti
In the underdrawing it is clear that the strings of the cloak were originally intended to hang lower down and the shape at the centre of the lower edge had a more flat, squat shape. These changes have been made at the painting stage.

Ultra violet examination (what's this? )

Ultra Violetclose

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

In ultra violet light, the extent of retouching in the background is clearly visible where the painting has suffered from blistering and loss in the past (see UV 01). Retouching is also visible along the two panel joins. The varnish has a green fluorescence, which indicates that it is resin based.


Frame type: Not original.

Frame date: Late 20th century.


Carved and ebonised frame with Egg and Dart motifs.