15 September 2019

Mystery of the 'Lady Jane Grey' Portrait at Grimsthorpe Castle


I recently visited Grimsthorpe Castle in Lincolnshire as part of the research for my new book about the amazing life of Lady Katherine Willoughby. As well as seeing the famous portraits of Katherine, her husband Charles Brandon and son Peregrine, I was intrigued by the portrait of an unknown Tudor lady (above).

I was told the portrait has been thought to be of Lady Jane Grey, (related to Katherine as the daughter of her stepdaughter, Lady Frances Grey.)  It is interesting to compare this picture with the fifty-seven portraits associated with Lady Jane Grey in the National Portrait Gallery: https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/person/mp01373/lady-jane-dudley-nee-grey

Several of these are confirmed by the the National Portrait Gallery as wrongly attributed, and none show the large and unusual pendant of the Gristhorpe portrait, which seems to depict some sort of classical scene. It was difficult to see due to the reflected light, but the castle's access manager, Ray Biggs, kindly sent me this close up picture:


An expert on Lady Jane Grey told me this  Grimsthorpe portrait was exhibited as Jane in the 19th century. She added that the brooch probably depicts the judgement of Paris, a common theme in the 16th century:

The Judgement of Paris, Hans Rottenhammer, c. 1600
(Wikimedia Commons)
 She added that that the face of the painting has been entirely over painted for some reason - which of course would make identification more difficult without the use of X-Ray. A catalogue of all the paintings at Grimsthorpe castle is being prepared, so please comment below if you have any more theories about the sitter - or her curios pendant.

Tony Riches

(Images copyright Ray Biggs 2019)

1 comment:

  1. It certainly looks like other portraits of Lady Jane Grey, doesn't it? As far as the pendant goes, although it's hard to see, the raised hand makes me think of the many depictions of the death of Socrates. Sir Thomas Chaloner (or Challoner) , in his poem
    ‘Elegy on the Death of Lady Jane Grey’ alluded to the Socratic way that Lady Jane met her death:

    "And keeping steadfast spirits in the final moments,
    or until she had departed to the unfamiliar Socratic funeral pyres."

    And I think Lady Jane was a scholar of the classics?

    Also, you could probably draw some similarity between Socrates and both Jane getting shafted by the powers of the state.

    But although it's hard to see, it doesn't look like an old man, as Socrates was at his death, but perhaps it is a depiction of Jane herself as a Socrates-figure accepting the cup of death? Which would kind of go along with the hidden meanings and symbolism hidden in paintings.

    Or I could be totally off the mark and not have a clue. Lol. Interesting article though.

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