Portait of the Month – July

(c) National Portrait Gallery NPG 764

(c) National Portrait Gallery NPG 764

‘Unknown woman, formerly known as Lady Jane Dudley (née Grey)
by Unknown artist
oil on panel, circa 1555-1560
6 1/2 in. (165 mm) diameter
Purchased, 1887’
NPG 764
© National Portrait Gallery


A similarity to other portraits at Syon House, Audley End and Berry Hill has led to this miniature being identified as possibly Lady Jane Grey or Princess Elizabeth.

In ‘Tudor and Jacobean Portraits: Volume One’ the portrait is described as:

‘Head and shoulders; brown eyes turned towards the spectator; auburn hair; she wears a black french hood, small ruff and black dress trimmed with ermine; plain brown-green background; lit from the front.’ (p. 76, Strong)

In 1963 in ‘Portrait of Queen Elizabeth’, Sir Roy Strong put forward the theory that this is the young Princess Elizabeth but in ‘Tudor and Jacobean Portraits: Volume One’ published in 1969, he writes :

‘The identity of this picture has never been certain. It was offered as Mary I and acquired as Lady Jane Grey, but neither identification can be sustained. I am less inclined to support a reidentification as the young Elizabeth I than I was. The portrait has been considerably rubbed and worked over at various periods. Due to its condition and uncertain history it is likely to remain unidentified both as regards artist and sitter.’ (p. 76, Strong)

Dr Stephan Edward’s report can be read here:

Some Grey Matter

His report concludes:

‘In the absence of virtually any substantive evidence to identify the sitter, the artist, or even a reasonably narrow timeframe during which the portrait was created, it is unwise to suggest, even tentatively, possible identifications for the young lady. And while past identifications as Lady Jane Grey or Elizabeth Tudor may have been based in part on the supposition that she is wearing ermine, a fur often assumed to denote highest status, studies of Tudor-era sumptuary laws have shown that use of ermine was far more widespread.[12] The lady may as easily be any one of hundreds, if not thousands, of young women who lived in England in the middle of the sixteenth century. Her identity must therefore remain unknown.’ (Edwards)


This portrait was on display as part of the ‘On the Nature of Women: Tudor and Jacobean Portraits of Women 1535-1620′ at Montacute House in Somerset between April and October 2008 and March and November 2009.

The portrait label read:

An unknown woman called Lady Jane Grey
By unknown artist
Oil on panel 1555-60

‘When it was acquired by the NPG in 1887, this small, circular portrait was identified as Lady Jane Grey because of its similarity to a seventeenth-century panel painting in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. However, no authenticated, contemporary likeness of the young queen has yet been found. Lady Jane Grey was executed in 1554 at the age of seventeen after reigning for just nine days.

Recent research indicates that the sitter may, in fact, be Queen Elizabeth I when a princess.

The richly dressed sitter was clearly a young woman of high status. The size and format of the panel and the sitter’s direct, outward gaze suggest that this might have been kept as a treasured personal memento.’ (NPG)

The recent research referred to was the discovery at Boughton House of a portrait of Henry VIII, Edward, Mary and Elizabeth and Will Somers.

You can currently view an image of the portrait as part of the National Portrait Gallery’s interactive Miniatures Gallery in Room 3.

National Portrait Gallery – Miniatures: Highlights

So who do you think it is?

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Portrait of the Month – July

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