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Gerlach Flicke; Henry Strangwish (Strangways)

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Gerlach Flicke; Henry Strangwish (Strangways)

by Gerlach Flicke
diptych, oil on paper or vellum laid on panel, 1554
3 1/2 in. x 4 3/4 in. (88 mm x 119 mm)
NPG 6353


Key findings: Original dating confirmed. Extensive underdrawing can be seen in infrared reflectography. The painted palette is set with a range of pigments suitable to portrait painting. Certain types of marks indicate that magnification has been used.

Historical summary
Purchased in 1996. The earliest known provenance is recorded by Horace Walpole as in the collection of Dr Thomas Monkhouse (d. 1793).

The work is painted as a diptych on paper or vellum. How it was originally presented is not known. It is not clear at what date the painting on vellum was stuck down on the small oak panel. Therefore it could conceivably have originally been seen in another format, for example a friendship book, manuscript or framed device.

The circumstances of the production of this image are unusual and the inscription indicates that the image was painted by Gerlach Flicke (also known as 'Garlicke') for his companion Henry Strangwish when in prison. The inscription in English over the head of Henry Strangwish reads: Strangwish, thus strangely, depicted is One prisoner, for thother, hath done this / Gerlin, hath garnisht, for his delight This woorck whiche you se, before youre sight. The Latin inscription over the head of Gerlach Flicke translates as: 'Such was the face of Gerlach Flicke when he was a painter in the City of London. This he himself painted from a looking-glass for his dear friends. That they might have something by which to remember him after his death'. The artist's palette includes pigments for portrait painting (see micro 13).

Notes on likely authorship
The authenticity of the inscription in Latin referring to the painter 'Gerlachius Flicci' is not in doubt (see micro 19).

Commentary on condition, painting style, technique
There are some small paint losses and retouched areas. The x-ray and paint sampling results indicate that a lead white layer exists between the panel and the paper support. It remains a possibility that the wood has been recycled from another larger panel.

The handling of this small picture is orderly and carefully planned. The drawn lines under the texts have been incised to provide a guide for the lettering. A pink priming layer has been applied to the entire surface of the support. The painted framing was applied at the late stage in the painting process and covers parts of the costume of both sitters at the bottom edge (see micro 07).

Justification for dating
The picture has two original inscriptions with the date of 1554. Henry Strangwish was incarcerated in the Tower of London in March 1555 (old calendar 1554). The costume, technique and materials in use are entirely consistent with a work from this period. The oak panel was too small to allow dating by dendrochronology.

Drawing and transfer technique
Infrared reflectography reveals extensive and strongly defined underdrawing in a fluid medium (see IRR mosaic01). The underdrawing indicates that the image was carefully planned and defines the scale and key features of each sitter and the placing of the inscriptions. It is likely that the underdrawing was originally meant to play a part in the tonal variations of the flesh, an effect which is now exaggerated by a change in the translucency of the paint film (see micro 09).

Relevance to other known versions
No other versions are known.

Exhibition Illustrative of Early English Portraiture, Burlington Fine Arts Club, 1909, p.56
Bracher, Tricia, 'Partners-in-crime: a reading of Gerlach Flicke's 1554 prison diptych', Word and Image, 2007, vol.23, no.2, pp.195-210
Cooper, Tarnya, A Guide to Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 2008, p.42
Hervey, Mary F.S., 'Notes on a Tudor Painter: Gerlach Flicke- II', Burlington Magazine, vol.17, 1910, pp.147-9
Hearn, Karen, (ed.), Dynasties: Painting in Tudor and Jacobean England 1530-1630, Tate Gallery, 1995, p.120 (No.67)
Sotheby Sale Catalogue, 9 July 1975 (16), pp.19-20
Strong, Roy, The English Icon: Elizabethan and Jacobean Portraiture, 1969, p.79 (No.16)
Waterhouse, Ellis, Paintings in Britain 1530-1790, 1978, p.27


Micro 01. Left-hand edge, showing pink underl…
Micro 02. Two blue pigments present in the gr…
Micro 03. Detail of black paint dragged over…
Micro 04. Detail of side of Strangwish's face…
Micro 05. Detail of pigments used in Strangwi…
Micro 06. Detail of Strangwish's beard (7.1 x…
Micro 07. Detail of lower edge, showing the o…
Micro 08. Detail of the inscription in raking…
Micro 09. Detail of the side of Flicke's face…
Micro 10. Detail of Flicke's beard, showing t…
Micro 11. Flicke's collar, showing the order…
Micro 12. Detail of central frame, showing th…
Micro 13. Detail of the colours on the palett…
Micro 14. Detail of Strangwish's fingers (16…
Micro 16. Detail of Flicke's beard, showing s…
Micro 17. Detail of Flicke's fingers, showing…
Micro 18. Detail of side of Strangwish's head…
Micro 19. Detail of top of Flicke's head, wit…
Micro 20. Blue paint mixture in background, w…

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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 paint is generally in good condition, although there are a number of areas of abrasion and loss which have been restored. Further areas of minor loss can be seen around the edges of the panel, particularly along the lower edge. The panel has a very slight convex warp. A number of fine vertical cracks can be seen on the paint surface, particularly in the central area of blue background. In addition, there is a curved crack which runs from the central upper edge above the figure of Flicke, through the hair and round to the upper left edge. This could be an accidental fold in the corner of the paper. None of these cracks relates to the direction of the wood grain. There are no cracks in the back or the sides of the panel. The varnish is thinly applied and does not appear to be discoloured.

Areas of retouching are evident in normal and ultra violet light. There are small areas of restored loss in the face and hair of both figures, as well as in the background and drapery. Further restoration can be seen in areas of damage around the edges of the panel and down the central framing line.


Support type: Paper or vellum mounted onto oak

Number of boards: 1

Panel Orientation: Horizontal

Panel condition observations

The condition is good. Small loss to upper left- and right-hand corners, and lower left-hand corner. Much of the verso is obscured by paper labels: 1. Fragment of an old, discoloured handwritten paper label 'Monkhouse' (?) written in ink. 2. Pink square printed label '21 Feb 1995' (removed and filed July 2007). 3. White auction label ' July '95 EB, Colour, B/W' (removed and filed). 213.CZ' written in ink on verso. '145' written in white paint on verso. '16/' written in white paint on verso.

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: 1

Last date of tree ring: n/a


The panel is too small to date as there are not enough rings present.

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.

Limited information can be gathered from the x-ray as it appears dense and almost entirely white, with only a small amount of wood grain visible. This is due to the substantial amount of lead white in the structure: there is a thick lead white layer present between the oak panel and the paper, and a pink layer above the paper also contains lead white (see Paint sampling).

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.

Considerable fine underdrawing is visible throughout, including figures, faces and framing elements. In addition, horizontal lines have been drawn to delineate the position of the inscription, although the lettering itself is not underdrawn (see IRR 01).

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.

Preparation layers
The painting is on paper mounted onto wood. The paper is visible in one of the cross-sections taken (sample 1), and can also be seen in small losses around the edges. Underneath the paper is a thick paint layer of white lead and smalt which lies between the wood and the paper. (It is theoretically possible that the panel was reused, but the lead white paint blocks any evidence of this in x-ray.) The cross-section taken from the lower edge of the painting in Strangwish's costume (sample 1) contained all layers of paint, the paper and the white with smalt layer beneath, although the layer beneath the paper is rather disturbed in the sample.

Above the paper, a warm pink priming layer can be seen under the whole painting. This can be seen in various losses along the edge and in other parts of the portraits. The paint mixture consists of lead white with vermilion and traces of yellow ochre. Such pink preparation layers were commonly used for portrait painting and miniatures.

Underdrawing is clearly visible throughout, particularly in the figures.

The order of painting over the pink preparation layer can be deduced to some extent by microscope examination (see Surface examination). The background blue is composed of azurite and lead white. A little dark red has been added to the azurite, perhaps to give it a closer appearance to ultramarine. Azurite can also be seen in the whites of Strangwish's eyes, but not in those of Flicke.

A sample of flesh paint was taken from the edge of a small loss in one of Flicke's fingers (sample 4). This showed that it was painted primarily with lead white and vermilion. However, particles of brown, black, ochre, azurite and a touch of lead-based yellow could be seen in the dispersion, most of which were probably from the surrounding paint. Shadows of azurite can be seen, under the microscope, on the fingers.

Interestingly, a number of large dark blue particles could be seen in parts of the black costumes, and one of these was sampled and identified as smalt. It is unusual to find the presence of two blues mixed in to black. The purpose of the smalt may have been purely as a drier rather than a colourant. The pigment in the cloak is a carbon black derived from plants. (See samples 3 and 5)

Two yellows were used in the painting: a yellow ochre and a lead-tin yellow. Lead-tin yellow has been used for the brighter lines of yellow and the inscription. The yellow line, where sampled over the black cloak, was identified as lead-tin yellow, with a fine line of a translucent substance on top, which is more likely to be varnish than an original glaze.

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
Fine underdrawing is visible beneath the paint surface in several areas. The drawn line for the upper edge of Flicke's white collar is above the painted line (it is visible through the flesh paint -see micro 11).

Flicke's beard is painted with a similar technique to that used in the painting of William Paget (NPG 961), using the black paint of the drapery brushed up over the flesh paint (using spiky brushstrokes) to create hairs. Flicke brushed the dark paint over the orange/grey beard colour which was already blocked in. Following the brushing up of the black drapery paint, further opaque highlights were applied to finish the painting of the beard. The brushstrokes in the beard are very fine and fluidly applied.

The blue background paint was applied in two layers of a mixture of azurite and white with a little red (see Paint sampling). At the edge of Flicke's shoulder on the left side, where the edge of the black drapery has been abraded, a lighter blue can be seen below. This appears to be the same blue mixture as described above, with a little more white added (see micro 11).

The inscription and pale yellow border around the painted framing were carried out in pure lead-tin yellow (see micro 08). The line under the lettering was incised before the underdrawing was applied. In contrast to the smooth, flat application of paint seen elsewhere, the inscription was painted using a drier paint mixture (containing less oil) which gives it a raised texture (see Paint sampling).

Head and flesh
Azurite has been used in Strangwish's eyes. The flesh paint is composed of a mixture of lead white, vermilion, azurite, black, ochre and possibly some red lake. In areas of shadow, there is a higher proportion of black used.

Costume and figure
The black of the costumes contains azurite and red lake, and some particles of smalt (see micro 02) and Paint sampling). Where the left-hand side of the lute meets the adjacent black drapery, a technique of dragging the black paint over the ochre colour has been used (see micro 03). Given the micro scale of the brushwork here, this is only really visible with magnification. However, the technique used here is probably similar to that seen in the painting of Baron Berners (NPG 4953), where shadows in the purple sleeves were created by dragging dark paint over light, using a comb-like tool.

The underdrawing is utilised in the final painting to define the features through the thinly applied upper paint layers. Given that little shadow is created through the use of dark paint in these areas, it is likely that the underdrawing was intended to show through the paint and play a role in the creation of tonal variations in the flesh. This effect is however now exaggerated beyond the original intention of the artist because of the increased transparency of the oil paint film.

The painted palette held by Flicke has been set with a range of colours suited to portrait painting. Red lake is to the left of the thumb, followed by azurite. A dark brown lies in the lower left-hand corner, and two tones of pink at the lower edge, before ending with white below the thumb.

Order of construction
The paint layers have an orderly application.
- Oak panel.
- Thick layer containing lead white and smalt (see Paint sampling).
- Paper and glue (examination by Alan Derbyshire (V&A) was inconclusive but favours paper rather than parchment as the probable surface support).
- Pink priming (see micro 01 and Paint sampling).
- Lines incised for lettering (see micro 08).
- Underdrawing applied with carbon in liquid medium (see micro 04 and micro 09).
- First layer of blue background paint laid in up to edge of panel. This extends beneath the central column (but not right to the bottom of the column where it is adjacent to black drapery).
- Blue details, such as the gaps between both Flicke and Strangwish's arms.
- Opaque brown earth pigment used for the palette and lute. Details such as the patches of paint and the strings were applied later when the lower layer had dried (see micro 13).
- Hands of both figures (see micro 14 and micro 17).
- The main body of each figure: black/grey drapery was applied directly over the pink priming layer, with lighter details such as the grey texture in Strangwish's drapery added on top. The dark drapery paint extends under the painted frame to the edge of the panel.
- Flicke's white collar. The black detail on the collar was painted on top of the white (see micro 11).
- Further layer of blue background paint.
- Painted framing (see micro 12).
- Flesh paint on the faces, followed by the hair and beard - wet-in-wet (see micro 04 , micro 06, micro 10, micro 16 and micro 18).
- The white ribbon/necktie and button at bottom of Stangwish's jacket, over the black paint.
- Highlights in the flesh paint.
- The inscription and pale yellow border in the painted framing (see micro 08 and micro 12).
- The red border in the painted framing.

Lead white, plant black, vermilion, azurite, smalt, red lake, yellow ochre, earth pigments, lead-tin yellow

Other observations
In the lower right-hand corner a red paint layer can be seen above the black drapery paint, and below the upper ochre framing. It is not clear what this area of red relates to and why it was applied.
Under magnification small specks of gold can be seen on the surface of the painting.

Ultra violet examination (what's this? )

Ultra Violetclose

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

Small areas of damage and restoration can be seen throughout. These are most evident in the flesh and background. In ultra violet light, the detail in Strangwish's black tunic is far more evident than in normal light, showing very fine opposing diagonal brushstrokes (see UV 01).


Frame type: Modern display vitrine.

Frame date: 2008