Thomas Wentworth, 1st Baron Wentworth
1 of 2 portraits of Thomas Wentworth, 1st Baron Wentworth
- Tudor and Jacobean Portraits Database
Thomas Wentworth, 1st Baron Wentworth
by Unknown Anglo-Netherlandish artist
oil on panel, circa 1547-50
30 3/8 in. x 28 7/8 in. (771 mm x 734 mm)
Key findings: Original dating confirmed. X-ray shows that several changes were made to the portrait some years after its completion (including the addition of the baton to reflect his office as Lord Chamberlain), probably following instructions from the patron. The tentative attribution to John Bettes cannot be sustained.
Purchased from Christie's in the Wentworth Sale (property of Captain B. C. Vernon-Wentworth) of November 1919.
Roy Strong suggested in 1969 that the portrait was once in the collection of John Lumley (1533-1609) and that it is likely to be the portrait mentioned in the Lumley inventory of 1590: 'of the first Lo: Wentworth, Lo: Chamberleyne to K: Edw: 6' (Strong, 1969, p.325). Strong notes that it was later brought back into the Wentworth collection and was recorded at Wentworth Castle in 1770, and was then sold by Captain B.C. Wentworth at Christie's in 1919 (Strong, 1969, p.326).
Having embraced Protestantism and supported Henry's divorce from Catherine of Aragon in 1530, Wentworth was appointed as Edward VI's Lord Chamberlain in 1550, but died the following year. It would appear that this portrait was begun just before his appointment to the office and that the white rod of the Lord Chancellor was a slightly later addition, probably on the instructions of the sitter.
Three versions of this portrait exist and all include a cartellino at the top left. The National Portrait Gallery painting is a version of a nearly identical portrait that descended in the Wentworth family. In the bottom left-hand corner of the NPG version there is a small lap dog reclining on a carpet, however the dog does not feature in the Wentworth version, which appears to date from around the same time and both versions are dated 1547. This suggests that the two portraits may have been commissioned around the same time.
On the pilaster to the left there is a paper with fragments of an inscription: G[ratior et pulchro veniens etcorpore vitu]s / Corporis effigie [pulchrior est (animi?)] / Anno Aetatis Suae  which can be translated as: 'Fairness of form to virtue adds new grace/ Yet the mind's portrait far excels the face'. The first line is from Virgil's Aeneid,V, 1.344. The inscription also records Wentworth's age as being 48 which would mean the picture can be dated to c.1547. Below is a further inscription in black: ANNO DNI. / 1547. Strong recorded in 1969 that this was preceded by THOms: Ld. WENTWORTH / LORD CHAMBERLAIN TO / EDWARD. THE. VIth., which was probably a later addition and has since been removed. At the top right-hand corner are Wentworth's arms and a further inscription at the very top right-hand corner: PAENSES A/ BEEN (see micro 12). This is only partially visible as old, abraded overpaint has been applied on top.
Notes on likely authorship
The portrait has previously been attributed to John Bettes the Elder, who was a portrait painter and wood engraver active between 1531 and 1570 (Strong, 1969, p. 327). However, there is not enough evidence to sustain this. The handling of the paint indicates an artist who either trained in the Netherlands or was trained by someone from the Netherlands.
Commentary on condition, painting style, technique
The painting is in fair condition: the paint surface is considerably worn in places (in the face) and much restoration has been undertaken particularly in the face, hands, fur collar and the area surrounding the dog's face. Damage to the lower left-hand corner can be seen with x-ray. The back of the panel still retains its original tool marks as it has not been thinned or cradled.
During the painting of the jacket, the dark paint was drawn upwards into the already laid-in fur collar paint, using the jagged shape of the end of the stroke, made with a stiff brush, to create the edge of the fine hairs (see micro 09). This technique is similar to that used in the beards of William Paget (NPG 961) and Flicke /Strangwish (NPG 6353).
Justification for dating
The technique and materials in use are entirely consistent with a work from this period. Analysis of the wooden panel by dendrochronology revealed the wood derives from a tree which was felled after 1538. This would indicate that the National Portrait Gallery panel could have been put to use some eight years later (i.e. after 1546).
Drawing and transfer technique
Over the priming layer there is some underdrawing. This was done in a carbon-based medium, in a thin and sketchy manner and is used to indicate the basic features of the face, hair, beard and neckline. The drawing can be seen beneath the flesh paint in some areas without magnification (see micro 04). Individual hairs of the beard and moustache have also been outlined.
A small number of changes to the final composition made by the artist are evident from x-ray and infra-red analysis. The key areas of changes to the composition are as follows:
- a shield (or oval) shaped design was originally present in the painted position of the cartellino - this may have been the original position of the coat of arms
- changes in the hands and gloves (from the hand on the right to the hand on the left) are visible as a result of the addition of the white rod of office shortly after the portrait was first painted (from 1550-1)
- small alterations were also made to the positioning of the fingers during the painting process (see micro 17).
Relevance to other known versions
A drawing of Wentworth, in a different pose, probably by Holbein, is at Windsor. If this attribution is correct it must date to before 1543, RCIN 912248
Two other versions of the NPG portrait exist:
- a version belonging to the Wentworth family, dated 1547 (no dog appears in this version)
- a version sold in 1996 at Sotheby's, which was formerly owned by Lord Bristol (oil on canvas), probably seventeenth century
Hearn, Karen (ed.), Dynasties: Painting in Tudor and Jacobean England 1530-1630, Tate Gallery, 1995, pp.231-5
Strong, Roy, The English Icon: Elizabethan and Jacobean Portraiture, 1969, p.67 (No.3)
Strong, Roy, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 1969, pp.325-7
Strong, Roy, The Elizabethan Image: Painting in England 1540- 1620, Tate Gallery, 1969-70, p.18, (No.22)
Tudor Exhibition Catalogue, The New Gallery, 1890, p.48, (No.143)
Tudor Exhibition, Manchester, 1897, p.33, (No.94)
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The condition of the painting is fair. The paint surface is considerably worn in areas, particularly in the face, and much restoration is evident. A small split in the panel at the lower left-hand corner has been reinforced with two nails and a canvas patch on the reverse.
A distinctive yellow pigment has been observed in the white of the sitter's eye on the left side and in the white shirt collar (see micro 05). It was unclear whether this yellow pigment was an extremely vivid, original yellow ochre, or whether it forms part of a post nineteenth-century restoration campaign (see Paint sampling for investigation). A considerable amount of restoration can be seen throughout the painting, particularly in the flesh paint and the top right quadrant. Old, abraded overpaint lies over the inscription in the top right corner.
Number of boards: 3
Panel Orientation: Vertical
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: 3
Last date of tree ring: 1537
The boards were labelled A to C from the left for analysis (from the front). The last heartwood ring found on all three boards was from 1530 and the three board series matches sufficiently well statistically and visually to conclude that they were derived from a single tree. However, sapwood was present on all these boards and the last sapwood ring (found on board C) was from 1537. Adding the minimum and maximum expected number of sapwood rings suggested that the tree used for boards A, B and C cannot have been felled before 1538 and was probably felled before 1554.
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 wood grain and areas of damage are clearly evident in the x-ray. The most notable area of damage can be seen in the lower left-hand corner, alongside the dog: the panel has split and been rejoined with the support of two nails, knocked in from the left-hand edge and lower corner. Original dowels can also be seen at the panel joins. The most severe area of loss to the paint and ground can be seen in the fur collar on the right-hand side. The red wax seal on the reverse of the panel is clearly visible in the x-ray image, presumably because of the inclusion of vermilion as the colouring agent for the wax (see x-ray mosaic 01).
The x-ray shows that the gloves were originally painted in the hand on the right but they were moved to the hand on the left when the white rod, held in the hand on the right, was added. The x-ray also shows that the position of the cartellino in the upper left-hand corner was altered during the painting process: it was first planned to be lower down the column, at approximately the same level as the sitter's nose. In addition, the x-ray also indicates that an oval shaped design was originally present in the painted position of the cartellino (see x-ray 01). It is supposed that this was the original position of the coat of arms, and that it was moved to the upper right-hand corner at the same time the cartellino was moved up (see Paint sampling).
A technique used to observe the layers beneath the paint surface which can reveal underdrawing and changes to the initial design.
A considerable amount of fine carbon-based underdrawing can be seen in the face and neck of the sitter. These lines are sketchily made to outline the position of the eyebrows, eyelids, ear, lips and the line of the nose. Details of individual hairs within the beard and moustache have also been outlined.
Changes to the composition/pentimenti
Changes in the hands, glove (when white stick was added at a later date - see Surface examination) are clearly evident.
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 presence of a chalk ground was confirmed, but the priming layer in each sample taken appeared to contain only lead white, and not the additional pigments noted in the surface examination. However, this does not mean that they are not present. The priming has a particularly bright tone in cross-section.
Yellow spots in collar
The yellow spots noted in the collar during Surface examination were sampled and examined in dispersion. Energy dispersive x-ray analysis indicated that the pigment is probably an earth pigment.
The orange here was found to be a mixture of vermilion and lead-tin yellow, with some lead white.
In sample 4, taken near the dog, the red lines in the carpet were painted in two layers, with red lake glaze over a thicker layer of vermilion, which is painted over a blue layer of azurite lead and lead white. This indicates that it was painted by applying an overall layer of blue, over which the pattern was painted. The green areas of the carpet were found to be made with a mixture of azurite and probably lead-tin yellow. The medium around the azurite has discoloured over time and darkened the green. A little black could be seen over the priming which might be part of the underdrawing. The green in the carpet is a mixture of azurite and lead-tin yellow.
Column and cartouche
Two samples (1 and 2) were taken, one from the area of the cartouche where an oval shape was noted in the x-ray (see X-ray), and one from the edge of the painting, to the left of the first sample. Both samples showed the same structure over the preparation layers. Lowest is a light grey layer (consisting of lead white, carbon black, earth pigments, bright yellow - possibly good quality yellow ochre, and traces of what might be verdigris. Next is a translucent brown (probably an old resinous layer) and over this is a dark grey, of similar composition to the lighter grey, but with more black and some more red particles. It is possible that the sample from the cartouche area missed the paint of the original feature seen in x-ray, or that this original paint was scraped down before the cartouche was painted.
Dark area in coat of arms
The dark area noted in the surface examination as possibly containing tarnished silver leaf was sampled, and energy dispersive x-ray analysis was carried out. This showed the presence of lead, and also indicated the presence of silver. This would seem to confirm the observation.
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 has generally been applied thinly over the thin priming layer, which lies over the chalk ground.
Microscope examination of the priming where it is visible at the lower edge of the panel and in areas of loss and abrasion indicated that a small amount of vermilion might be present in the mixture, perhaps to increase the warmth of tone. The pale priming is visible through the thin paint surface in many areas, particularly in the background and flesh paint.
Over the priming, the basic features of the face, hair, beard and neckline were underdrawn in a carbon-based medium. The underdrawing can be seen beneath the flesh paint in a number of areas, including the arch and crease of the proper right eye (see micro 04). Throughout, the underdrawn lines are thin and sketchily marked, and show a number of pentimenti at both the drawing and painting stages (see Infrared reflectography).
The flesh paint in the face and hands appears to have been blocked in at an early stage, directly over the pale priming (and underdrawing). This paint was thinly applied; a mixture of lead white, vermilion, ochre, black and azurite (identified in the mixture by microscope examination). Over this layer, a very thin 'wash' of warm brown was applied to create areas of shadow and achieve variations in tone within the face and hands (see micro 01 and micro 02). Features such as the edge of the nose were then defined with thin brushstrokes of a medium-rich dark paint, which appears to include a considerable amount of black. Much of this appears to have been abraded, and is now reinforced with a non-original line. The moustache, beard and hair were applied using very fine brushstrokes over the flesh paint (see micro 07 and micro 09). Azurite is present in the irises and whites of the sitter's eyes (see micro 03).
The hat was laid in after the flesh paint. It has been suggested previously that the hat was applied over a red layer. However, microscope examination indicates that the hat was applied directly over the priming, but in two layers: firstly a warm brown layer (possibly containing some red lake and vermilion), then a darker brown/black layer. Areas of surface abrasion through to the priming and ground are covered by pools of discoloured varnish, creating a reddish appearance.
The marbled effect seen in the background was achieved by applying a mixture of azurite, ochre and vermilion wet-in-wet over the background paint. The fur cuffs (excluding final hairs) on the sleeves were painted over the flesh paint, and then the black jacket added. During the painting of the jacket, the dark paint was drawn up into the already laid-in fur collar paint, using the jagged shape of the end of the stroke, made with a stiff brush, to create the edge of the fine hairs (see micro 09). This technique is similar to that used in the beards of William Paget (NPG 961) and Flicke /Strangwish (NPG 6353). The opaque strands of the hair and beard were then painted, and a similar dark brown/black to the jacket paint was also used to create the final hairs of the beard. The aglets were painted over the jacket paint, before the final opaque hairs of fur were applied (see micro 13).
The jewel in the ring on the sitter's index finger on the right side is painted using azurite over a lead white layer (which itself is over the ochre of the ring) - see micro 15. The blue pigment has the appearance of having been scattered over the underlying white. Some of the particles have fallen into the edges of cracks in the white layer, suggesting that the white was applied some time before the blue.
Coat of Arms
The coat of arms in the top right has many layers: gold leaf was applied prior to the background paint; the gold was then glazed with a dark layer in areas of definition and shadow, and a thin overall layer of translucent warm orange paint. In the top right corner of the coat of arms, a thin, abraded dark layer can be seen (micro 06). It has been thought that this is tarnished silver leaf (see Paint sampling).
There are two painted inscriptions in the upper right quadrant of this painting. Microscope examination indicates that both inscriptions were carried out in lead-tin yellow, with the addition of a small amount of azurite (see micro 11). The smaller inscription, in the top right corner, is only partially visible, having been painted out with what appears to be a non-original dark grey paint (micro 12). This dark grey layer, which is now abraded, was blended over the background in this area and can be seen to flow into old cracks over some of the letters in the inscription.
Order of construction
- Chalk ground
- Pale priming
- Flesh paint - face and hands
- Definition of facial features
- Moustache, beard, hair
- Gold leaf for coat of arms - glazes applied subsequently
- Background, and marble effect
- Initial paint for fur collar
- Fur cuffs
- Black jacket
- Last strands of hair and beard
- Final strands of fur
- Staff of office
- Inscriptions presumably applied late in the process
Carbon black, lead white, azurite, vermilion, red lake, earth pigments, lead-tin yellow, yellow ochre, verdigris
Changes to composition/pentimenti
A number of changes occurred between the drawing and painting stages. The most notable of these is the change in the position of the sitter's gloves from the hand on the right to the hand on the left (micro 16). This is partially visible with the naked eye, but is clearer in both x-ray and infra-red (see Infra-red reflectography and X-ray), and shows the extent to which the gloves were quite comprehensively painted before the decision to move them was made. There is no evidence that the white staff was ever in the hand on the left, and so it seems it was not part of the original planned composition. Once it was added, it is probable that the gloves were moved in order to balance the composition. Small alterations were also made to the positioning of the fingers during the painting process (see micro 17 and micro 18). There have been changes to the cartellino position (see X-ray). Further pentimenti can also be seen in the right edge of the hat and the side of the face on the left side (over the hat paint), and the back of the neck was widened.
A method which helps to reveal past restoration and the extent of varnish layers.
A considerable amount of varnish can be seen on the surface, in addition to many areas of restoration. Much of this restoration is visible in areas of pale paint in the face, hands, fur collar and the area surrounding the dog's face. Isolated areas of restoration are also clearly evident in the background, particularly in the upper-right quadrant, where it can also be seen clearly in normal light (see UV 01).