The Case of the Three Portraits

   
     

 

The portrait on the left was identified as Lady Jane Grey (artist unknown) by Sir Roy Strong the director of the National Portrait Gallery, London. In 1996 an inventory of Henry VIII's jewels in the British Library and the Society of the Antiquaries contained a description of the jeweled brooch as being "a crown headed flower brooch with two diamonds, one ruby, one emerald and three hanging pearls." In the inventories it was in the possession of Catherine Howard, Henry VIII's fifth wife. From there it was assumed the brooch was passed to his sixth wife, Catherine Parr. The portrait now is reidentified as that of Catherine Parr and dated from about 1543-4. Before it's identification as Lady Jane Grey it had been called Catherine Parr. This may bring the mystery of one portrait to an end but what about two similar portraits with what looks like the same type, if not the same brooch?

The middle portrait has been identified as Lady Jane Dudley (nee Grey) in the possession of Lord Hastings. I have never seen this portrait reproduced in colour so it is hard to guess at the hair and eye colour etc. This would help to identify the jewel that hangs from the front of her dress that looks suspiciously like the jewel in the Catherine Parr portrait. If the woman in question is the 10 -12 year old Lady Jane Grey then the fact that she was a resident in Catherine Parr's household after Henry's death could account for the fact that the jewel is similar. Catherine might have loaned it to Jane when the portrait was painted or even given to her.

The portrait on the far right has been identified as Lady Jane Dudley and also as Queen Mary. It was credited to the collection of the Earl of Jersey and in one source noted as "now destroyed." The fact that the pose in these portraits along with the necklace and brooch are exactly the same raises new questions. The portrait on the far right has a completely different face, more in keeping with 31 year old Mary than with the 10-12 year old Lady Jane. The materials of the dresses are different although the style is the same. If the portraits are contemporary who are they supposed to represent?

It is my opinion they might be later copies of Tudor portraits and were a pastiche of styles borrowed from the Catherine Parr portrait along with the jewels represented there.

If not, it would be invaluable to know who these other two women are. Were jewels of this type common? Did Catherine loan out the jewel for both portraits or was it a later painter, (or painters) trying to recreate the look of Tudor portraits?

Does anyone have any new information?

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