The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. Search over 215,000 works, 150,000 of which are illustrated from the 16th Century to the present day.

Advanced Collection search

Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey

  • Overview
  • Tudor and Jacobean Portraits Database

Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, by Unknown Italian artist, 1546 - NPG 5291 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Tudor and Jacobean Portraits Database

Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey

by Unknown Italian artist
oil on canvas, 1546
87 1/2 in. x 86 1/2 in. (2223 mm x 2197 mm)
NPG 5291


Technical analysis and contextual research confirmed that the portrait dates from the mid-sixteenth century. It is therefore one of the earliest surviving British portraits on canvas.

This painting was first recorded by Loigny in 1637 as part of the collection of Thomas Howard, 14th Earl of Arundel and again in a 1655 inventory of the Arundel Collection. It passed by descent to Arundel’s daughter-in-law, Viscountess Stafford and was bought in 1720 by Sir Robert Walpole at the sale of the Arundel Collection at Stafford House and presented by him to Thomas 8th Duke of Norfolk. On the death of Bernard Marmaduke Fitzalan-Howard, 16th Duke of Norfolk, the painting was accepted by the Gallery in lieu of tax in 1980 but continues to be displayed at Arundel Castle.

Historical context
Surrey was the eldest son of the 3rd Duke of Norfolk, the premier nobleman in England. He enjoyed success as a soldier and a poet at the court of Henry VIII but fell from favour after defeat at St. Étienne in France on 7 January 1546. The sitter is identified in the portrait by the ‘H’ held by putti, and the inscription of his age and the date: ‘ANNO DNI . 1546 . AETATIS . SVE . 29’ within the arch. The motto ‘SAT SUPER EST’ (Enough survives) is inscribed on the pillar.

Surrey was tried for treason early in 1547 on the charge of displaying the royal arms and insignia within his own heraldry at Kenninghall in Norfolk on 7 October 1546. Various contradictory reports describe paintings presented as evidence during the trial but the survival of this work attests to the fact that it was not one of them, as the reports note that the offending images had been ordered to be destroyed. Nonetheless, although the painting contains no treasonous heraldry, it probably informed the rumours that surrounded the trial and by the early seventeenth century it had come to be identified as part of the reason for Surrey’s downfall.

The distinctive shield-shaped Garter jewel worn by the sitter passed to Henry VIII following the earl’s attainder, and subsequently to Edward VI. An identical jewel is depicted in a portrait of Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon, dated 1591 (Berkeley Castle), and it is possible it had remained in royal possession until being given to Hunsdon, presumably by Elizabeth I.

Notes on attribution
This portrait has previously been associated with the artist Guillim Scrots on the basis of the payment of 50 marks to the artist in 1551 for ‘iii great tables’, one of which depicted ‘the late earle of Surrey attainted’. However, close comparison with other works attributed to Scrots, such as the full-length portraits of Edward VI in the Royal Collection, shows that this attribution is unsustainable.

The pose of the figure shares compositional characteristics with the work of Giovanni Battista Moroni. There is no evidence to suggest that Moroni gained employment at Henry VIII’s court, although a number of north Italians did travel to fight the French with the English in the 1540s, and it would be the earliest work within his oeuvre. The central figure is therefore attributed to an as yet unidentified Brescian artist, who may also have trained with Il Moretto da Brescia. However, the elaborate marble and grisaille archway has no parallels within Brescian work and it is possible that the portrait was conceived and painted by more than one artist. The design of the archway appears to relate to a print design by an artist of the Fontainebleau School. Two Italian artists working at the Henrician court had connections to the work that was underway in France: Niccolò Bellin of Modena had worked on the grande gallerie with Primaticcio before moving to England, whilst Bartolommeo Penni’s brother Luca, was still engaged on the project. The conception of the archway shares similarities with the designs for English palace interiors that are attributed to Bellin (Louvre), and also with a small painting Abundance that is attributed to Penni’s other brother, Giovanni Francesco (Louvre).

The original paint surface is obscured in many areas by extensive overpaint and restoration, and the residues of heavily discoloured varnish. The painting’s appearance has also been distorted by the discolouration and fading of smalt and red lake in the costume and sky; for example, the embroidered doublet was originally a deep purple but has discoloured to a dull greyish brown.

During the first lining campaign the canvas was extended by approximately 50 mm along the lower edge. The sitter's foreshortened feet were subsequently elongated, and the bottom of the arch extended to the lower edge of the enlarged canvas, distorting the perspective. Overall, the perspective in the painting is more successful when viewed from below, which suggests that the canvas was intended to be displayed at a high level.

Painting technique
This portrait was carefully planned and executed, using some fine drawing and skilful paint handling techniques. The canvas was prepared with a chalk ground and a grey priming. There is a dark grey underlayer beneath the flesh paint, which provides shadow and mid-tone; this is now more exposed due to abrasion in the flesh paint. The painting technique uses both wet-in-wet blending and careful layering, and may have been executed by several hands. The decoration on the ledges on which the grisaille figures stand was loosely 'drawn' by incising into the grey paint when it was still wet and the details were added above.

Justification for dating
The integrity of the inscription in the archway has been questioned, but microscopic examination demonstrated that it is original to the composition and has not been altered. The materials and techniques in use are entirely consistent with a work of this date and the costume and architecture are at the height of fashion for 1546; the fashion for decoration in the style of Fontainebleau was relatively short-lived in England.

Drawing and transfer technique
This large-scale portrait was carefully planned and executed. Fine underdrawing is visible in the grisaille work using infrared reflectography. This marks the figures’ positions and the architectural setting; there is also some hatching to mark areas of shadow. Faint lines in the face and beard may be underdrawn marks of a type that would suggest a face pattern was used, but the canvas weave makes it difficult to interpret. The blocks of the ruined wall behind the sitter are much clearer in the infrared image. Infrared reflectography also reveals that the position and shape of the legs was changed slightly during painting, and that the grisaille figures were originally nude; the drapery that covers them is a later addition, possibly from as early as the seventeenth century.

Other known versions
Three later copies of this portrait were brought together for study at the Gallery in 1977-1978:
- Knole (Lord Sackville) – early 17th century NT 129952, on loan from the Trustees of the Sackville Estate
- Parham Park – late 17th or early 18th century copy of the Knole portrait
- Castle Howard – early 20th century

Another version was sold at Christie’s, New York, Old Master Paintings and Drawings 3 November 1999 (ex collection Earl of Effingham, sale Christie’s July 24 1959, lot 127; previously sold at Christie’s 14 January 1993, 31 May 1991, 20 October 1988)

Bolland, Charlotte, ‘“SAT SUPER EST”: A portrait of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, in T. Cooper, A. Burnstock, M. Howard and E. Town, eds, Painting in Britain 1500-1630: Production, Influences and Patronage, Oxford, 2015, pp. 352-61
Camden, William, Remaines Concerning Britaine, 1605, p. 165
Galansino, Arturo and Simone Facchinetti, Giovan Battista Moroni, Royal Academy, 2015, pp. 30-31
Godwin, Francis, Bishop of Hereford, Annales des choses plus memorable, translated by Loigny, 1647, pp. 284-5
Hearn, Karen, ed., Dynasties: Painting in Tudor and Jacobean England, 1995, pp. 50-52 (cat. 14)
MacLeod, Catharine, ‘Guillim Scrots in England’, Unpublished MA thesis, University of London, 1990, pp. 37-8
Moore, Peter, ‘The Heraldic Charge against the Earl of Surrey 1546-7’, English Historical Review, 116, 2001, pp. 557-83
Strong, Roy, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 1969, pp. 307–308
Wells-Cole, Anthony, Art and Decoration in Elizabethan and Jacobean England: The Influence of Continental Prints, 1558-1625, 1997, p. 35

Exhibition history
'Le Roi et l''Artiste: Francois Ier et Rosso Fiorentino', Chateau de Fontainebleau, France, 2013
'Dynasties: Painting in Tudor and Jacobean England', Tate Britain, London, 1995-1996


Micro 01. Detail of pigment mixture in the ho…
Micro 04. Detail of the garter (12.5 x mag).
Micro 05. Detail of the blue sky (63 x mag).
Micro 06. Detail of green foliage over the sk…
Micro 07. Detail of female grisaille figure's…
Micro 08. Detail of pigment mixture in the po…
Micro 09. Detail of the edge of the porphyry…
Micro 12. Detail of inscription, with restora…
Micro 14. Detail of metal soap protrusion in…
Micro 15. Detail of the eye on the left (7.1…
Micro 17. Detail of the lips and beard (7.1 x…
Micro 18. Detail of feather on the hat, with…
Micro 20. Detail of the sword hilt (7.1 x mag…
Micro 22. Detail of the garter (7.1 x mag).
Micro 24. Detail of area beneath '2' in inscr…
Detail 01. Detail of the face.
Detail 02. Detail of the hand on the left.
Detail 05. Head of male grisaille figure.
Detail 11. Detail of the garter.
Detail 15. Detail of the sword hilt.

Compare Images (what's this? )

Compare Imagesclose

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.

Open compare viewer Open compare viewer Open compare viewer

Open viewer


The canvas has two glue-paste linings, carried out at different times. The second lining is in sound condition and the tacking edges remain. These are covered with brown paper tape. There are some remains of the first lining canvas tacking edges at the right edge beneath the paper tape. The original paint is abraded and there are numerous small old paint losses. There is extensive overpaint in many parts. There is extensive restoration along the central join and along the lower edge. Areas of overpaint are clearly evident, as they are notably thicker and more glossy than the original paint, which is more thinly painted. The paint appears stable. The varnish is clear, although areas of overpaint appear glossy. A number of small paint losses have recently been noted, in addition to an area of raised craquelure to the right of the sitter's right leg. The overall canvas dimensions were extended during the first lining process. The canvas tension is poor.


Support type: Canvas

Panel condition observations

The lined canvas appears to be in sound condition. The edges of the original canvas are very damaged and there are ragged losses which can be seen in x-ray. There is much filling and overpaint along the edges. The second lining tacking edges are covered with brown paper tape. At the right edge there are residues of the first lining tacking edge and blue paper can been seen beneath the brown tape. This may be remains of a paper facing applied before the lining process.

The corners of the lining tacking edges have been strengthened with canvas and BEVA 371 adhesive. The stretcher is in sound condition. The side joints are each reinforced with a short steel bar. All wedges are present.

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.

Last date of tree ring: n/a


The painting is on a canvas support.

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 that the original canvas is constructed of two pieces, joined horizontally across the centre (see x-ray mosaic 01). The canvas imperfections, slubs and the neatly stitched join can clearly be seen. The x-ray shows the extent of damage to the edges of the original canvas, as well as evidence of original tack holes and cusping along the lower edge. There is evidence of a number of differently positioned tack holes, presumably made when the first tack holes were damaged, and further holes were made to secure the canvas onto the original stretcher.

The first lining canvas can be seen as a 5 cm strip along the lower edge. The non-original paint along the lower edge appears to have been applied directly onto the first thinly primed lining canvas.

Minor changes to the overall contours of the figure, the architecture, the grisaille figures and shields can be seen in x-ray. These can primarily be seen in the sitter's legs and the foot, and the buttocks of the putto to the right of the standing female grisaille figure. The outline of the grisaille figure's legs, which are hidden beneath the overpainted drapery, are visible in x-ray. These details can also be seen using infrared reflectography.

X-ray shows an area of density beneath the paint on the floor inside the archway, which now appears brown. It is clear that a high proportion of lead white pigment is present in this area, which suggests that the floor was intended to be a pale step, and not brown earth as we view it today. Viewing this as a step makes the architectural lines (which go off in a diagonal direction to the right) more believable, as they would not have extended as far as they do now.

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.

Some fine underdrawing, marking out the position of the figures and architectural details can be seen using infrared reflectography (see DIRR mosaic 01). A few faint lines in the face and beard, may be underdrawn marks of a type that would suggest a face pattern was used. Parallel hatching is visible in the grisaille surround; this is particularly evident in the legs of the seated putto to the left of the standing male grisaille figure. When viewed using infrared reflectography, it is also clear that the standing grisaille figures on either side of the sitter were originally painted nude. Small changes to the position of the legs are also visible, and the non-original lining canvas can be seen long the lower edge. The blocks of the ruined wall behind the sitter are much clearer in the infrared image.

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 March 2012.

There is a thick chalk ground, and a grey priming containing lead white and carbon black. These layers can be seen in the cross-section for sample 1.

Porphyry marble background to the grisaille figures
Sample 1: Cross-section shows all the layers, including the chalk ground and the grey priming. Above the priming there is an opaque red underlayer, with the bright pinkish-purple of the porphyry pattern above.
The red underlayer contains vermilion, lead white and carbon black. The pattern consists predominantly of red lake with vermilion or red ochre, high quality azurite, lead white and the occasional particle of yellow ochre. The azurite has an extraordinary intensity. Dispersion shows azurite, vermilion and red lake particles.

Drapery on a grey stone putto
The sample was taken in order to investigate the date of the greenish drapery.
Sample 2: Cross-section shows a grey layer (which could be the priming) with an opaque yellowish-grey layer above, which is the surface of the stone sculpture. Examination under ultra violet light shows a thin translucent layer between, which could be a varnish layer. Above this is the greenish-grey paint of the drapery.
The yellowish-grey paint in the sculpture contains lead white, yellow ochre, brown earth pigments and a little carbon black. The drapery paint contains lead white with a little carbon black, brown earth and yellow ochre. Dispersion was made of a dark pigment particle that appeared blue but was found to be black when analysed.

There are no pigments in the drapery layer that would give some idea of the date when it was applied. An opaque layer can be seen in the cross-section in ultra violet light which could be a varnish layer. Cross-section also appears to show that there is a significant gap in time between the lower layer, the priming, and the flesh layer of the stone figure. These leads to the suggestion that there may be two layers of
retouching over the stone figure, and that the lower layer in the cross-section is not the priming layer but the first layer of the stone figure.

Sample 3: Cross-section from the sitter's forehead, above the eyebrow on the left, shows the upper layer with pink flesh containing lead white, vermilion and traces of red lake. Beneath is the the grey underlayer. Due to the fragmentary condition of the sample it is difficult to determine whether azurite is mixed in the flesh or in the lower layer. In the sample the upper part of the grey layer contains azurite and carbon black but black and white predominate lower in the sample.

Blue sky
Sample 5: Cross-section shows only the bright blue layer with a slightly paler blue layer on top. Ultra violet light shows a translucent interlayer, probably resinous varnish, which indicates that the uppermost layer is a later retouching. The bright blue layer consists of large particles of bright blue azurite mixed with lead white. The upper pale blue layer of retouching paint contains finer particles.

Sample 6: Dispersion contains slightly discoloured smalt particles, azurite and red lake.

Sample 4: Dispersion contains lead-based yellow.

Yellow on the shield on the left
Sample 7: Dispersion contains lead based-yellow.

The yellow on the chain and the yellow on the shield vary in appearance but they are both probably lead-tin yellow; however, this was not confirmed.

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
This large-scale portrait was carefully planned and executed, using some fine drawing and skilful handling. The technique encompasses both wet-in-wet blending and careful layering, and may have been executed by multiple hands. The decoration on the ledges on which the grisaille figures stand, was loosely 'drawn' by incising into the grey paint whilst it was still wet, and the details were added above. A considerable amount of colour change has occurred over time in both the costume and sky, suggesting the painting would have been much brighter and more colourful than we see it today.

During the first lining campaign, the canvas was extended by approximately 50 mm along the lower edge. At this time, the sitter's foreshortened feet were elongated, and the bottom of the arch extended to the lower edge of the now enlarged canvas. This elongation has made the composition and perspective in this area appear very awkward. However, when raised up to a considerable height on an easel, the painting is much more successful. This suggests that the canvas was intended to be displayed high up.

Preparation layers
The canvas was prepared with a single layer of chalk ground, followed by a thin grey priming containing lead white and carbon black.

Surface microscopy suggests that the flesh was underpainted with a very thin layer of dark grey (see micro 17). This provides some shadow and varies the tone of the flesh, according to the thickness of the paint above (see detail 01 and detail 02). In addition, this dark underlayer appears visible on the surface where a metal soap protrusion from the priming layer has broken through to the surface, allowing the full layer structure of the paint to be examined (see micro 14). The flesh paint is considerably abraded, exposing the tops of the canvas weave in many areas. It is composed of a mixture of lead white, charcoal black, vermillion and some yellow ochre. The quantity of black present in the flesh mixture is notable. This may have been mixed into the flesh paint as it was applied above the dark underpainting, or may have been deliberately added to the paint mixture on the palette. The deep shadows in the flesh were applied above the first layer of flesh paint, using an increased quantity of red and black. Red lake (with a little red ochre and black) was applied above for the deepest shadows. The flesh paint was blended wet-in-wet in many areas, using some fine brushwork and skilful handling (see micro 17).

It appears that the flesh paint was first laid in, followed by the features, which were detailed when the flesh paint was still wet. The whites of the eyes were applied, followed by the dark irises and defining shadows (see micro 15). The whites of the eyes were painted using lead white and large particles of charcoal black, and it appears that areas of brown definition were painted using a medium-rich mixture of red ochre, charcoal black and white. Pure lead white was then applied for the highlights. Some scumbled white restoration is visible over intact original paint in the eye on the left (see micro 15).

Hat and feather
The black hat and white feather were painted after the sky was applied. The aglets on the hat were applied above, using lead-tin-yellow and yellow ochre for the gold elements and grey. The feather was first blocked in above the hat and sky, using a pale grey paint mixture. Soft brushstrokes of lead white and dark grey were then applied above to create the detail in the feather (see micro 18).

Doublet and hose
Technical evidence suggests that the embroidered doublet and hose were originally deep purple (see Paint sampling). They were first painted using a mixture of high quality smalt and red lake pigments, which have degraded to a dull grey/brown. Surface microscopy shows the presence of large particles of highly tinted smalt, which still remain even though much of the paint layer has suffered from chemical degradation and the resulting fading which occurs in oil medium (see micro 01). After applying a first layer of smalt and red lake, the embroidery details were applied above. A mid-tone grey, composed of lead white, azurite and smalt was brushed on for the shadowed parts of the embroidery, followed by pure lead white for the highlights.

Lower hose and garter
The shape and position of the costume appears to have been marked out in very dark paint at an early stage, before the background elements were applied. The garter was painted before the lower hose were applied, using yellow ochre and lead-tin-yellow. The lettering was then added above, using fine wet-in-wet brushstrokes into the lead-tin-yellow in red lake glaze, lead white and azurite (see micro 04, micro 22 and detail 11). The lower hose were then painted using lead white, black and a little red pigment. Scumbled white overpaint has been 'skipped' over the canvas texture in many areas, making the hose appear lighter than originally intended. Darker, more opaque overpaint can also be seen. During the painting process the position of the legs was shifted slightly to the left, making them appear slightly larger than originally planned. This change was made after the rocky landscape, column base and sky were applied.

Rocky landscape in foreground and sky
The rocky landscape was freely painted using broad brushstrokes and earth pigments, black, white and possibly some green earth. Areas of green foliage were applied above, using what appears to be a mixture of lead-tin-yellow and verdigris, and a copper green glaze above (see micro 06). The detail in the rocky landscape is more clearly visible in infrared (see Infrared reflectography). The sky was painted using two tones of blue. The upper, paler blue was painted using a mixture of smalt and lead white. A second, warmer layer was then applied in the lower portion of the sky, using lead white and azurite. It is likely that the smalt has faded to some degree, suggesting that it would have originally been a brighter blue than seen today (see micro 05 and micro 06).

Sword and dagger
These details are very finely painted, with some wet-in-wet blending. Lead -tin-yellow, yellow ochre, lead white, black and azurite pigments were used (see micro 20 and detail 15).

Architectural background and grisaille figures
The architectural detail and grisaille figures were first blocked in using a dark grey paint mixture. Lead white and pale grey modelling was then added above using flat brushstrokes and some wet-in-wet blending (see micro 07 and detail 05). The veils on both grisaille figures are not original; they were applied at a later date, thickly covering old losses and the canvas and original paint texture. The texture and gloss of this restoration is considerably different from the surrounding original, and appears flat and glossy. A number of minor alterations to the outline of the architectural elements and figures has been noted. These are most clearly visible in x-ray and infrared reflectography. (see X-ray and Infrared reflectography). The inscription on the archway was applied directly above the grey paint. The lettering is well preserved, although some areas have been reinforced with non-original restoration (see micro 12). In the past there has been some suggestion that the '2' of '29' may have been changed from '2' to a '3', thus potentially changing the identification of the sitter from Howard to Edward Seymour. Close examination of the inscription does not provide any indication that this is the case (see micro 24).

Porphyry background
The porphyry surround was applied after the monochrome architectural elements. The deep red shadows appear to have been painted using a mixture of high quality azurite, red ochre and lead white (see micro 09). Above this, crimson red 'dabs' of quite dry colour were applied using red lake, azurite and lead white (see micro 08). Pale ochre coloured dabs were also applied (see micro 09). These appear to contain red lead, red lake and lead-tin yellow. Large areas of the porphyry surround have been overpainted with thick, opaque restoration. This is particularly evident around the edges and in the upper left-hand corner, where it covers seemingly intact original paint.

Order of construction
- Ground
- Priming
- Underlayer to flesh
- Figure
- Grisaille figures and architecture
- Sky
- Rocky landscape
- Foliage
- Legs strengthened

Carbon black, lead white, azurite, smalt, vermilion, red lake, red ochre, earth colours, yellow ochre, lead-tin yellow, verdigris, red lead

Changes in composition/pentimenti
The legs were moved slightly to the left and made a little thicker.

Restoration observations
Large areas have been heavily and unnecessarily overpainted. Microscopy has shown that much of the restoration extends beyond areas of damage, over seemingly intact original paint. This is particularly evident in the porphyry surround and architectural elements. Passages of dark paint, such the sitter's cloak, have been heavily overpainted and areas of scumbled white restoration can be seen throughout. Although there are areas of considerable abrasion and damage, such as the face and around the edges of the canvas, much of the restoration seen elsewhere is unnecessary and covers original paint below. Residues of heavily discoloured natural resin varnish are present throughout.

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 it is clear that the painting has an overall, uneven natural resin varnish layer and a considerable amount of restoration is also present.


Frame type: Not original.

Frame date: 19th century.


Reverse section water and oil gilt carved frame with a scrolling acanthus pattern to the front scoop, running acanthus design to the back edge and punch work throughout.
Carving intact and in good condition. Overall condition of the surface is fair. Numerous minor losses to gilt/gesso. Losses appear to be as a result of handling and knocks to the frame, rather than through any inherent instability to the gesso layer. The gilding is generally worn throughout, especially to the high points of the carving. The water gilding to the lower frame member is also significantly worn - this may be as a result of over cleaning/dusting.
There is a small discoloured label '54' to the left hand side of the bottom frame member. There are also 4 screw holes to the bottom frame member.
The frame is mitred and the mitres secured with coach bolts. The frame has been built-up to the reverse, making disassembly of the frame problematic. All four mitres are open but the frame appears to be structurally sound.