This stiple and line engraving from the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London, dating from the early 19th century, is undoubtedly based on a portrait of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, also in the NPG and therefore one of his better known likenesses today. The engraving’s catalogue entry under NPG D41890 also makes this clear. In the early 19th century the founding of the National Portrait Gallery lay still in the future, however, and so the industrious herald and biographer, Edmund Lodge, relied both on “galleries of the nobility” and “public collections of the country” for his compilation of Portraits of Illustrious Personages of Great Britain.
The multi-volume work used engravings from “authentic pictures”. Of these, several were “after Holbein”. One, that of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, was indeed based on an authentic Holbein, while the (authentic) picture of the young King Edward VI could not possibly have been a Holbein because the artist had been dead for three years when it was painted. Other engravings were also based on authentic likenesses, like Thomas Cranmer after Gerlach Flicke and arguably even John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, after an unknown master at Syon House.
A considerable number of the engravings, though, were based on portraits which are now – and have been for a long time – associated with other people than Edmund Lodge believed. For example, the plate purporting to show Ambrose Dudley, Earl of Warwick, is derived from a portrait of William Cecil, Lord Burghley, by Arnold van Bronckhorst from the Cecil family’s own collection. Another case is Lodge’s “Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk”, which in reality is the above-mentioned NPG engraving showing Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. The costume alone could have made clear that Henry Grey (the father of Lady Jane Grey) had been dead for some 20 years when the original was painted; but of course the history of costume, like all other fields of history, was in its infancy in the early 19th century – and since it is intertwined with the correct dating of paintings there was still a long way to go.
If he was wrong about the sitter, Lodge at least attributed the original painting to Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder, an important portrait painter of Elizabeth’s court. Alas, Gheeraerts is no longer believed to be responsible for the NPG portrait of Robert Dudley. The wrong identification of Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk, on the other hand, lives on: Eric Ives’ 2009 book Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery contains a plate inscribed,
Henry Grey, duke of Suffolk (engraving of lost portrait 1826)
The engraving in question is another reproduction of NPG D41890 and thus shows, once again, the Earl of Leicester, who incidentally was the most often portrayed male person of Elizabethan England. The wrong plate was removed from Eric Ives’s book in the paperback edition; the looks of the Duke of Suffolk, sadly, will most likely remain unknown to us – no authentic likeness has been found so far.
Hearn, Karen (ed.) (1995): Dynasties: Painting in Tudor and Jacobean England 1530–1630. Rizzoli.
Ives, Eric (2009): Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery. Wiley-Blackwell.