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Introducing a new feature - FOCUS. A series of articles from our paintings research department, presenting a new slant on familiar artists and works of academic interest. We would love to hear your thoughts, please email: email@example.com
PORTRAITS FROM MOURNE PARK
Mourne Park is the secluded and history-filled seat of the Kilmorey family, who have been in the Newry and Mourne area of Northern Ireland since the mid 1500s. Predecessor Sir Nicholas Bagnall was granted extensive lands and a title in Newry and Mourne in 1552 by Edward VI for his military help against Irish chiefs in their clashes with the Tudor dynasty. The Bagnall family married into the Nedham (Needham today) family and the Bagnall name died out in 1708. The Nedham family hailed from Shropshire, where their main seat stood at Shavington. Mourne Park was a summer house until the 3rd Earl of Kilmorey’s extravagant lifestyle and spending led to its sale and the family moving to Ireland permanently in thenineteenth century.
The present pair of portraits have been in the Kilmorey family’s possession since each of them were painted. They beautifully illustrate the changes English portraiture underwent in the just over hundred years that separate them. The first work is typical of Elizabethan courtly portraiture, with its very formal composition, lack of concern for rational anatomy and real depth of character but immense interest in costume and portraying the sitter in an appropriately formal and dignified manner.
The portrait of the 4th Viscount of Kilmorey, attributed to John Hayls, possesses the dynamism and psychological depth which filtered into portraiture by the middle of the seventeenth century. The Nedhams’ connection to Ireland goes back to the Plantation of Ireland during James I and Charles I’s reigns. The process of ‘Planting’ Ireland began during the reign of Henry VIII but made significant progress under James I, Charles I and Cromwell. It involved confiscating land from Gaelic clans and Hiberno-Norman dynasties and populating it with settlers from England, Scotland and Wales, who were Protestant and English-speaking, thus altering the demographic of Ireland, most successfully in Ulster and Munster. The Nedhams were one of the families which took part in the ‘colonisation’ of Ireland under James I and for his support, the sitter, Sir Robert Nedham was granted the feudal Barony of Orhera in 1613 and was created Viscount Kilmorey by Charles I in 1625.
ATTRIBUTED TO ROBERT PEAKE THE ELDER (BRITISH c. 1551-1619)
THREE-QUARTER LENGTH PORTRAIT OF THE FIRST VISCOUNT OF KILMOREY
Inscribed and dated 1598, oil on panel
127cm x 102cm (50in x 40in)
SOLD FOR £14,000.00
The attribution of lot 23 to the portraitist Robert Peake is based on the strong stylistic similarities between thislikeness of Nedham to other works by Peake of the English nobility such as Elizabeth D’Oyly, in the Norwich Castle Museum and Elizabeth Poulet in the Berger Collection in Denver. The composition of the male sitter also bears strong resemblance to the Portrait of John Braddyll of Portfield and Whalley (1557- 1616) from 1580s also attributed to Peake by Philip Mould, London. The three-quarter length format and style place it firmly at the centre of Elizabethan portraiture. Born in Lincolnshire, Peake was appointed sergeant painter to James I in 1607, sharing the office with John De Critzt.
Peake was already a popular society portraitist by the 1580s but he undertook the official task of painting the royal likeness when he entered in the service of James I. A significant portrait of James I’s second son, then Prince Charles, Duke of York, and the future Charles I was commissioned from Peake by the Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University in 1613 for £13.6s.8d which still hangs in Cambridge University Library today. The present work depicts Robert as a young man with the Nedham (Needham) family coat of arms to the left and a cloak over his left shoulder.
His visage is quiet but confident and his manner and dress refined – a courtier similarly at ease at court and in the countryside.
THREE-QUARTER LENGTH PORTRAIT OF THE FOURTH VISCOUNT OF KILMOREY
Oil on canvas
127cm x 102cm (56in x 40in)
SOLD FOR £20,000.00
Lot 24 depicts Charles Nedham, 4th Viscount of Kilmorey, the grandson of the 1st Viscount of Kilmorey depicted in lot 23, who succeeded to the title after the death of his half-brother Robert Nedham, the 3rd Viscount in 1657. In 1659 along with other Royalists, some of them from the aristocracy, he was involved in the unsuccessful uprising on behalf of King Charles II known as the Booth Uprising.
Nedham liaised with the Earl of Derby and Sir George Booth, a particularly active Royalist in that uprising, at Warrington. Richard Cromwell's intelligence managed to infiltrate the conspiracy and many of those involved were intercepted before the insurgence had taken place. Nedham was arrested the same year and he died in prison in 1660, unlike Booth and Derby who both escaped conviction and survived the Tower of London, later returning to their lands and flourishing when Charles II was indeed reinstated as King in May 1660.
The painting, attributed to John Hayls is very different from the depiction of his grandfather by Peake. The sitter is portrayed in a most dynamic composition, his body facing away from the viewer and into his private space yet turning his head to look back towards us, as if interrupted mid-stride. He is clearly depicted as a man of action, his sword prominently in the centre of the foreground. Diarist Samuel Pepys wrote of Hayls quite frequently and commissioned first a portrait of his wife and then one of himself from Lely's contemporary and rival. Pepys's description of sitting for Hayls: 'I sit to have it full of shadows, and do almost break my neck looking over my shoulder to make the posture for him to work by. (17th March 1666)' curiously echoes the very dramatic posture of Charles Nedham, much more so than Pepys's own portrait, now in the National Portrait Gallery in London.
Pepys was to become a firm friend to the artist. Hayls was greatly influenced by Anthony Van Dyck, both in his handling of paint and in his compositions - he was known to use a Van Dyck composition directly and just add his sitter's head. The unusual pose of glancing back at the viewer may be related to two of Van Dyck's Self-Portraits where the artist depicts himself from the waist-up looking over his shoulder. Hayls demonstrates his great skill in observing the variety of textures in his sitter's dress -the gleaming armour, intricate embroidery on the sleeve and luxurious velvet of the green cloak.
There is far more intensity in the sitter's expression and gaze, than in the portrait of his grandfather father several decades earlier.