Sunday 14 November 2021

The lost "Berry-Hill" portrait of Lady Jane Grey: an unrecognised gem at auction in the US

Butterscotch, from Bedford, New York, sells on 21 November an "Anglo-Dutch School, 17th century" "Portrait of Mary, Queen of Scots", with a provenance of "Private collection, Scarsdale, NY": the unsigned oil on pnel is estimated at $5,000 to $10,000. 

The bad news is that this finely painted work probably isn't a portrait of Mary, Queen of Scots, who had on nearly all portraits a less rounded, sharper face. 

The remainder of tis post is good news though. This is another version of a portrait of Lady Jane Grey (1537-1554), the so-called "Nine Days' Queen". The most important portrait of her (until now!) was the Syon House portrait

Other version also exist, e.g. the above one.

But the few sites discussing the portraits of Jane Grey most lament the loss of the so-called "Berry-Hill" portrait, presumed lost since the 1960, and presumed to be the model, the original, for the above two portraits. 

Hmm, doesn't that look an awful lot like the one for sale now? Now, to throw a spanner in the wheels, some sites claim that this is not a portrait of Jane Grey, but of her sister Katherine Grey, which would have served as a model for the later portrait of Jane Grey, painted posthumously. Which would be too bad, as Katherine, though important, wasn't a nine days' queen of course. But the most important of those sites,, does give a lot of information about this painting, including the following provenance; 

    John Lumsden Propert (d.1902)

    John Pierpont Morgan (d.1913)

    Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York;

    de-accessioned January 1956;

    Parke-Bernet Galleries, sold 25 October 1956;

    Berry-Hill Galleries, New York until at least 1961;

    Current whereabouts unknown.»

Which is, well, wow! And nicely fits in with being in the US now, of course. 

The sitter was given as "unknown" when with the Met, apparently, and is also said to be "Elisabeth I as a princess, ca. 1555". Which wouldn't be too bad either, but seems out of the question: it is nearly certain to be one of the Grey sisters.

So, value? If this was believed by enough bidders to be the original portrait of Jane Grey, well, the sky is the limit. For Katherine Grey, I think the interest would be less, but it still should easily fetch the higher estimate. And in any case this find will make a lot of writers and sites very happy I think!

UPDATE: sold for $120,000!

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