The Portraiture of Lady Margaret Beaufort

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    ThePortraitureofLadyMargaretBeaufort

    FrederickHepburn

    TheAntiquariesJournal/Volume72/March1992,pp118140DOI:10.1017/S0003581500071213,Publishedonline:21April2011

    Linktothisarticle:http://journals.cambridge.org/abstract_S0003581500071213

    Howtocitethisarticle:FrederickHepburn(1992).ThePortraitureofLadyMargaretBeaufort.TheAntiquariesJournal,72,pp118140doi:10.1017/S0003581500071213

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  • THE PORTRAITURE OFLADY MARGARET BEAUFORT

    By FREDERICK HEPBURN

    LADY MARGARET BEAUFORT (1443-1509), Countess of Richmond and Derby, was one of the mostremarkable women of her time. A wealthy heiress, she was married early, and was alreadywidowed at the age of thirteen, shortly before the birth of her son, who was to become KingHenry VII. During the Wars of the Roses she learned to survive through political astuteness,though she showed that she was willing to risk all for her son when, during Richard I l l ' s reign,she conspired to bring Henry to the throne. Her devotion to Henry, together with heroutstanding personal qualities, meant that when he became king in 1485, Lady Margaretremained his most trusted supporter and adviser. Accorded semi-regal status, she administeredher vast estates with exemplary efficiency and fairness, showing a concern for individuals whichsprang from her own religious humility. She is best known today for her patronage of learning,particularly at Cambridge, where in addition to providing endowments for individual religiousscholars, she was the foundress of Christ's and St John's Colleges. In view of Lady Margaret'sachievements it seems entirely appropriate, not only that she is buried in Henry VII's Chapel inWestminster Abbey, but also that her epitaph was written by Erasmus and that her splendid giltbronze tomb-effigy (fig. 1) is the masterpiece of another man of the Renaissance, the Florentinesculptor Pietro Torrigiano.

    The production of Lady Margaret's tomb is in fact very well documented.1 The contractbetween the executors of her will and 'Petir Thoryson of florence graver' (who neverthelesssigned himself 'Piero Torrigiani Schultore fiorintino') survives among the muniments of StJohn's College, Cambridge, and is dated 23 November 1511. From this contract, and fromvarious entries in a volume of the accounts of the executors, also preserved at St John's College,we gather that Torrigiano was required to follow a certain design. The tomb project wasevidently supervised by William Bolton, Prior of St Bartholomew's, a man noted for his abilityas an administrator of building works. Bolton assembled a team of foreign craftsmen whichincluded the painter Meynnart Wewyck. During 1512-13 Wewyck drew alternative designs forthe tomb on paper; one of these was chosen and approved by the executors; Wewyck thenproduced two copies of the approved design, painted on canvas; one of these was kept by theexecutors, and the other delivered to Torrigiano. In the course of his work on this project, on22 June 1513, Wewyck was also paid 335. ^ d. 'for makinge the picture and image of the seideladye'.

    Meynnart Wewyck's involvement in the tomb project is interesting. Presumably he wasrequired to provide 'the picture and image' of Lady Margaret because Torrigiano needed alikeness on which he could base his tomb-effigy portrait, since by 1513, of course, LadyMargaret had been dead for four years. Presumably also Wewyck was chosen to provide thislikeness because he had already, at some previous time, painted a portrait of Lady Margaret.There is sufficient evidence to indicate that it was a common practice among painters of royaland princely portraits at this time to keep drawings or replicas which could be used as the basisof further painted portraits, should these be required.2 In this connection it seems significant

  • PORTRAITURE OF LADY MARGARET BEAUFORT 119

    FIG. I . Pietro Torrigiano: Lady Margaret Beaufort.Gilt bronze effigy on Lady Margaret's tomb in

    Westminster Abbey, c. 1514Photograph: The Conway Library, Courtauld Institute of Art

  • 120 THE ANTIQUARIES JOURNALthat, at some point during the years 1510-13, Lady Margaret 's executors also paid Wewyck 3'ffor payntynge the pyketour off my lady the kynges grauntmother [i.e. Lady Margaret] inCristys college in Camberige . . . in partye of payment of a more somme'.3

    In the latter entry the executors referred to Wewyck as 'Maynerde payntor' . In the entriesconcerned with his work for Lady Margaret 's tomb he is called 'Maynarde paynter ' and'Maynarde Vewike of London paynter' , though he signed his own name as Meynnart Wewyck.We find his name again, at earlier dates, in the accounts of the royal household: in 1506 apayment of 4.0s. had been made to 'Maynard Waywike duchman in Reward'; and 20s. in 1505had been paid to 'maynard the kings payntor for pictors'. In view of these references Wewyck isvery probably identifiable with the painter named in the Scottish treasurer's accounts as'Mynour ' . In 1502 he had brought from England to the court of James IV portraits ofHenry VI I , Elizabeth of York, Prince Henry and Princess Margaret (shortly to be married toJames) , and had stayed in Scotland until 1503.4 Presumably Wewyck himself had painted theportraits which he took to Scotland, and he may well have been the originator of the standard'official' likenesses of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. Sadly, no portrait survives today whichcan be attributed to Wewyck's own hand, though some of the earliest of the surviving examplesof the standard likenesses of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York certainly could be his work.s

    Having said this much about Wewyck, one must also note that, sometime during 1510-11,Lady Margaret 's executors paid a total of 3 10s. to 'Wolff the paynter' for two pictures of LadyMargaret .6 John Wolff (assuming that this is he) appears elsewhere in records mainly as aheraldic painter.7 He seems rather an unlikely choice as a painter of portraits, and it may be thathe was asked to provide these because the executors were keeping Wewyck fully occupied withtheir other commissions. Wolff would probably have worked from the same approved portraitpattern as Wewyck.

    A large number of painted portraits of Lady Margaret have survived from the sixteenthand early seventeenth centuries. They range in size from the miniature head (fig. 4) to thefull-length, life-size portraits (figs. 2, 6). The majority are in the same format, depicting thesitter rather less than life-size and at half-length or a little less (figs. 5, 7-8). The reason for thefrequent occurrence of this format is that it was the norm for the series of panel-paintings ofkings and queens with which it became fashionable to decorate the walls of the Long Gallery ingreat Elizabethan and Jacobean houses. Series of this kind, with panels usually measuringabout 56o-8omm by 43o-6omm, evidently quite often included a portrait of Lady Margaret.Examples which still form part of Long Gallery sets are in the royal collection at HamptonCourt (fig. 5)8 and in the Deanery at Ripon,9 and many of the other paintings which havesurvived separately are similar to these in size and style.10 If one takes all of the painted portraitsof Lady Margaret together, one can see that, without exception, they show her with her head inthree-quarters view, and wearing essentially the same, nun-like costume. This is a strongindication that all of these paintings were derived, at nearer or further removes, from a singlesource. Their costume also, of course, relates them to Lady Margaret 's tomb-effigy, which, aswe have seen, was based on a painting supplied by Meynnart Wewyck. In view of theseobservations, the surviving painted portraits ought to provide evidence for the nature ofWewyck's painting.

    None of the surviving portraits appears to date from Lady Margaret 's lifetime, or to beidentifiable with any of the paintings commissioned by her executors c. 151013. It is possible, infact, that no portrait had been taken during Lady Margaret 's lifetime none is documented but that Wewyck had painted a likeness from memory, or perhaps using a death-mask. A

  • PORTRAITURE OF LADY MARGARET BEAUFORT 121

    FIG. 2. Rowland Lockey: Lady Margaret Beaufort. Panel, i-8ioby 1159m.c. 1598. St John's College, Cambridge

    Photograph: reproduced by permission of the Master and Fellows

  • 122 THE ANTIQUARIES JOURNALparallel instance of a memorial portrait of a college founder is that of Richard Fox, Bishop ofWinchester (died 1528), attributed to another Netherlandish immigrant artist, JohannesCorvus, at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. This has the appearance of having been based on adeath-mask, or even perhaps on a drawing of the corpse.11 In Lady Margaret's case, however,evidence in favour of a likeness having been made during her lifetime is provided by one of thesurviving portraits, namely that at St John's College, Cambridge (fig. 2). This portrait is knownto have been painted by Rowland Lockey c. 1598, the date at which it was presented to StJohn's.12 It shows Lady Margaret kneeling at her devotions beneath a richly embroideredcanopy, presumably in a chapel, whose stained-glass window is seen at the left-hand side of thepicture. Its importance lies in the fact that it was very probably based on an earlier painting ofthe type which is found recorded in Edward VI's collection at St James's Palace in 1549-50:'. . .

    FIG. 3. Bruges Master of 1499: Diptych of Margaret of Austria. Panel, each wing 305 by 146mmc. 1505. The painting on the left wing, of the Virgin and Child crowned by