Monday, 17 October 2016

"Circle of Lely" portrait: a 1665 version of a 1630 portrait?

Mallams, from the UK, sells on 19 October 2016 a "Circle of Peter Lely" portrait of Elizabeth Cockayne, estimated at £700 to £900.

There are a few mysteries around this work. Mallams correctly point out that a portrait of the same sitter together with her husband is housed in the Valence House Museum in London.

The sitters in the two works are clearly the same, with the same pose and the same dress. Normally I would conclude that the solo portrait is a copy after the portrait of the couple, but as the solo portrait is better and considerably larger (65 by 56cm, compared to 40 by 50 cm for the full couple painting), it may well be that the portrait now for sale is the original and the one at Valence a composition of two individual portraits.

The portrait at Valence is described as "This is Thomas Fanshawe's second marriage portrait (there is another portrait in the Collection of him with his first wife Margaret Heath, painted by Peter Lely). The exact date of the marriage between Thomas and Elizabeth is not known, but it must be after 1682 when Elizabeth is mentioned in documents relating to Thomas. Elizabeth was one of the 16 children of Thomas, 1st Viscount Fanshawe, and Elizabeth Cockayne, and her husband Thomas was a distant cousin of hers, as they shared a great grandfather in Thomas Fanshawe, second Remembrancer, although through different great grandmothers."

However, the one for sale has the above label identifying the sitter. If the label is correct, the above double portrait is not of Elisabeth Fanshawe, daughter of Thomas 1st Viscount Fanshawe, wife of Sir Thomas Fanshawe of Jenkins (dating the portrait after 1682), but a portrait of Elizabeth Cockaine, 2nd wife of Thomas 1st Viscount Fanshawe, dating the portrait at ca. 1631 (their first child was born in 1632, and this is probably a marriage portrait).

We can compare the portrait at Valence with the known portrait of the 1st Viscount by Mary Beale; the Beale portrait is probably closer to the end of his life, and certainly after 1650. They could be the same person, but it's hard to be certain.  The third painting is by Sir Peter Lely and dates from ca. 1660. Again, could be the same, but far from certain.

Mary Beale also helpfully painted a portrait of the second candidate: Thomas Fanshawe of Jenkins, the supposed sitter in the Valence portrait. To me, this one seems less similar to the Valence portrait than the 1st Viscount.

The Valence Museum itself has another portrait of Fanshawe of Jenkins, by Peter Lely. This matches the above (somewhat later) Beale portrait, but doesn't seem to match the Valence mariage portrait.

Another problem with the Valence double portrait is that Thomas Fanshawe of Jenkins was born in 1628, and only married his Elizabeth Fanshawe in 1682, when he was 54 years old. The above portrait is not of someone of that age, and while portraits often were idealized, this seems a bit farfetched as an explanation in this case.

So, to me it seems quite certain that the portrait for sale and the double (marriage) portrait in the Valence House Museum are of Elizabeth Cockaine / Cockayne and Thomas Fanshawe, the 1st Viscount, as the label on the portrait indicates. This would date the portrait to ca. 1630, removing it from the circle of Peter Lely (born in 1618)

With such a date, one automatically comes to the Circle of Anthony Van Dyck instead. The first wife of the st Viscount, Anne Alington, was encore painted by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, probably the best portrait painter in England of the previous generation, indicating (together with the other portraits shown here) that the family of Fanshawe employed only the best. 

The portrait for sale is obviously much more modern than the Gheeraerts above. Interesting is the portrait of Anne Cockayne, sister of Elizabeth. Their father was Lord Mayor of London and obviously very wealthy. The portrait is attributed to a Follower of Van Dyck.

The main problem with my whole theory is that the painting would be very modern for ca. 1630, and more in style for 1680. Enigma! Perhaps it is a portrait of the 1630 Elisabeth Fanshawe née Cockayne, painted ca. 1680? Not impossible, but a bit strange nevertheless.

It should be worth the estimate as a 1680 portrait, and a lot more as a 1630 portrait.

UPDATE: I've been thinking about this some more, and am not really comfortable describing it as ca. 1630 either, because the style of painting doesn't fit. So, on second thoughts (and considering the label on the painting), perhaps this is a portrait of Elizabeth Cockayne, based on the marriage portrait, but painted shortly after her death by a Lely-esque painter (this would also match the more greyish mourning colours of the dress)? I've changed the title of this blog post accordingly.

UPDATE: sold for £6,800 or nearly 10 times the estimate, so I'm clearly not the only one who noticed this painting.

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