The ‘Streatham’ portrait is currently on display at the National Portrait Gallery as part of ‘The Real Tudors: Kings & Queens Rediscovered’ exhibition. The exhibition runs from 12 September 2014 until 1st March 2015.
The portrait was discovered at a house in Streatham in January 2006. It was announced in the November of that year, that it had been purchased by the National Portrait Gallery.
The portrait was first on display at the Gallery in Room 3 of the Tudor Galleries from spring 2007 to April 2009 and then at the entrance to the ‘Lady Jane Grey’ display from December 2009 until 15th August 2010. Between March 2013 and May 2014 it was on display at Montacute House in Somerset.
The painting was the subject of a gallery talk by Justin Nolan on June 12th 2007.
These were the main points from this talk:
‘The NPG has been aware of this painting since 1923. It is a ¾ length portrait of a woman wearing high status clothing from the 1550s.
The sitter is someone of importance. Analysis (including ‘dendrochronology’) has shown that the wood used dates from after 1593. The question is why would someone paint a portrait of a woman after 1593 wearing clothing from forty years before? There must have been something about the sitter to make it worthwhile.
The inscription dates from the same time as the portrait and cross referencing it with the known ‘Lady Jayne’s’ at the time, shows that it could refer to Jane Grey.
Jane was in the public consciousness in 1602. This is shown by Thomas Dekker’s play, ‘Sir Thomas Wyatt’. Some of this play survives and in it, Jane and Guildford are portrayed as lovers. So from very early on, the romantic notion of Lady Jane Grey existed.
It is possible that this painting belonged in the collection of a gentleman who wanted to promote his enthusiasm for Protestantism and could have been part of a series of paintings of ‘Protestant Worthies.’
This was probably not intended to be an accurate portrait of Jane but was using her as a badge of the Elizabethan Protestant Order.’
There isn’t anything in this portrait that supports an accurate representation, however, the question remains, why else produce this painting’ (Justin Nolan, NPG)
The painting was displayed between 2007 and 2009 as:
‘Memorial Portrait of Lady Jane Grey (Lady Jayne)
16th century’ (NPG)
The postcard on sale at the time had the following information:
‘Lady Jane Dudley (nee Grey) 1537-54
After a portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger.’ (NPG)
It was displayed between December 2009 and August 2010 as:
‘This panel is one of the earliest surviving portraits of England’s shortest reigning monarch Lady Jane Grey. It was not painted from life or indeed made during her lifetime. It is a commemorative portrait made at least 40 years after her death.’ (NPG)
It was displayed between March 2013 and May 2014 as:
‘Lady Jane Grey
By an unknown artist
Oil on oak panel 1590s’
‘This is one of the earliest surviving portraits of England’s shortest-reigning monarch, Lady Jane Grey, despite being made some 40 years after her death. The sixteen-year-old Jane Dudley (née Grey) was nominated by her cousin, Edward VI, to succeed him and at his death was uncrowned Queen of England for nine days before being deposed and executed by Mary I.
A commemorative portrait, this panel may have formed part of a set of Protestant martyrs. Scratched lines across the eyes and mouth suggest that the painting may have been subjected to an iconoclastic attack at some point in its history.’ (Montacute House)
It is currently displayed as:
‘Lady Jane Grey
By an unknown artist
Oil on panel, late sixteenth century’ (NPG)
In May 2014, Dr Stephan Edwards published his latest findings on the portrait, at his website, Some Grey Matter. He wrote:
‘On the whole, it seems entirely likely that the Streatham Portrait was based upon some earlier reference image that depicted Katherine Parr but, like the Norris Portrait, was adapted to “become” Jane Grey in the absence of an accessible authentic portrait of Jane.’ (1)
You can read about the rest of his research at Some Grey Matter.
The National Portrait has the following text on display at its current exhibition, ‘The Tudors Rediscovered.
‘Lady Jane Grey was named as heir to the throne by her cousin Edward VI: however, she was imprisoned after only nine days’ rule when Mary successfully asserted her right to the crown. Highly educated and devoutly Protestant, it was only during Elizabeth’s reign that she became more widely known. This fuelled an interest in her portraiture and portraits such as this example were created to mark her place for an Elizabethan audience. However, no lifetime portraits of Jane appear to survive and it is possible that none were ever painted. By 1620, one image had gained credence as a lifetime portrait and was used as the basis for an engraving. However, the sitter in this image wears a jewel that is very similar to one that belonged to Katherine Parr, and may be Henry VIII’s sixth queen.’ (NPG)
In the catalogue to accompany the exhibition, it is stated that:
‘Even during the uncertain time between Edward’s death and Mary’s accession, Jane made little mark on contemporary commentators, and given the short period of her reign it is not likely that a portrait was ever produced.
…Numerous portraits have been identified as Jane, but no certain image during her lifetime appears to have survived, if one ever existed. One portrait thought to depict Jane was painted in the Elizabethan period and was probably produced in response to her growing reputation as a Protestant martyr. In this three-quarter-length image, she stands holding a book, wearing a costly, if simply painted, gown of red velvet and cloth-of-gold and silver. Tree-ring dating suggests that the portrait was painted in the 1590s, and thus it may derive from an earlier likeness, or could even have been adapted from a portrait of another sitter. Whatever the case, it is clear that the portrait served as a likeness of Jane for its Elizabethan audience. The fragmentary inscription, which identifies the sitter as ‘Lady Jayne’, suggests that it may have formed part of a set of portraits, and the scratched lines across the eyes and mouth may be result of a deliberate attack at some point in history.’ (2)
1.Edwards,S. Some Grey Matter – The Streatham Portrait Date accessed: 5 October 2014
2.Bolland, C. and Cooper, T. (2014) The Real Tudors: Kings and Queens Rediscovered, National Portrait Gallery Publications, p.99