Printer Friendly

Who was Holbein's Lady with a squirrel and a starling? Ever since it was acquired by the National Gallery, London, in 1992 this celebrated English portrait by Holbein has remained tantalisingly anonymous. A detective trail has led David J King to East Harling in Norfolk, where clues in stained glass and a tomb reveal the sitter's identity.

The portrait of a Lady with a squirrel and a starling by Hans Holbein the Younger, in the National Gallery, London (Fig. 1), has hitherto defied all attempts at identifying its subject, a demurely but well-dressed young woman sitting against a plain blue background and holding in her lap a pet squirrel on a chain eating a nut. A starling, perhaps also a pet, sits on a fig tree in the background with its beak pointing at her right ear. It has been suggested that the pets may have an heraldic or other significance which could lead to her identity, and that the lady's resemblance to one of the figures in the preparatory drawing for the lost painting of the family of Sir Thomas More points to her having come from More's family or acquaintances, or at least from the influential court circles from whom Holbein drew his clientele at this time. The portrait is dated by general agreement on style to Holbein's first visit to England, in 1526-28. (1)


Recently, the painting was part of the 'Gothic: Art for England' exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Another exhibit was the bronze portrait relief attributed to Torrigiano of Sir Thomas Lovell (Fig. 2), and it was the combination of these two exhibits that suggested to the present writer the solution to the problem of the lady's identity. (2) Sir Thomas Lovell KG served the country under both Henry VII and Henry VIII as Chancellor of the Exchequer, knight of the king's body and Speaker of the House of Commons. He was made a Knight of the Garter in 1503, and his portrait relief, surrounded by the Garter, is thought to have been made for the gatehouse of the residence he built at East Harling in Norfolk that survived until the early nineteenth century. (3) The manor of East Harling had previously belonged to Sir Edmund Bedingfield, knight, and before that to the Harling family, who had rebuilt the church in the fifteenth century. (4) The main lights of the cast chancel window of the church there are filled with much fine painted glass of c. 1475-80, most of which was originally made for the east window of the south aisle. Tucked away in the tracery, set in modern foliage, sits a large, finely-painted red squirrel cracking a nut, the badge of the Lovells (Fig. 3), and amongst fragments set in the cast window of the south aisle are two shields of arms of the Lovell family, each depicting six more red squirrels, all in glass of the 1520s, and originally from the east chancel window, where it had been until the 1930s. (5) Many further squirrels appear on the three Lovell tombs in the church. (6) The association of a red squirrel eating a nut with a person with such close connections to royal circles immediately suggested that the portrait's secret might be discoverable, and this was soon confirmed by the realisation that the starling was a pun on 'East Harling'. That made the case even stronger, and it then remained to look into the Lovell family at East Harling at the time of Holbein's first visit to see whether it still had after Sir Thomas' death in 1524 the necessary social connections to have brought it into contact with the court milieu from which Holbein drew his patronage.


The Lovell family

Sir Thomas died without issue and left much of his estate, including various manors in East Harling with the advowson of the church, to his 'cosyn' Francis Lovell, who was one of the executors of his will. (7) The elucidation of the history of the Lovell family before Sir Thomas Lovell KG, is fraught with difficulties and many contradictory accounts have been written; as a result the relationship between Sir Thomas and Francis has never been established beyond doubt. The most likely is that they were uncle and nephew, and that the frequent references by Sir Thomas to his 'cosyn' Francis used the word in its now obsolete sense of 'a collateral relative more distant than a brother or sister ... formerly very frequently applied to a nephew or niece'. (8) According to this account, Francis Lovell was the son of Sir Gregory Lovell of Barton Bendish, elder brother of Sir Thomas Lovell KG and his mother was Margaret Brandon, daughter of Sir Williant Brandon. His paternal grandparents would have been Thomas Lovell of Barton Bendish, who died in 1479, and Anne, daughter of Robert Toppes, alderman of Norwich, who died in 1467. (9) The earliest reference to Francis was his appointment as esquire of the body to Henry VIII in 1516, an office his uncle Sir Thomas had held in 1485 under Henry VII. (10) In the years immediately preceding his uncle's demise, Francis served him at his residences at Halywell in Shoredirch, London, and Elsynges in Enfield, Middlesex, receiving payment as a gentleman waiter and attending his funeral as a mounted mourner in livery. (11) Although Francis would have inherited the manors of East Harling immediately after Sir Thomas's death on 25 May 1524, as an executor to the will he would have been much exercised in administering the distribution of his uncle's vast estate and it would have been some time before he was able to take up residence in Norfolk. Indeed, Sir Thomas made provision in his will for Francis to stay for two years at his manor at Halywell in London, provided that he also allowed access to his other executors 'for such busyness as they shalhave to doo aboute my funeral and for thexecucion and performance of this my Testament and last Wille'. (12)

Although probate was not granted until 26 September 1528, it appears that after the two years Francis did move to East Harling (Fig. 4). In 1526-27 he served the first of three terms as sheriff of Norfolk, which would have required frequent attendance in the county, and in June 1526 he visited Sir Thomas le Strange at his family residence in Hunstanton in the northwest of the county for three days with his wife and other members of his family. (13) The Hunstanton visit is the first reference to Francis's wife. The inquisition post mortem held in Norwich Castle on 9 April 1552 for time couple's son and heir Thomas Lovell stated that he was '26 et ultra' on that day, indicating that he was born a little before 9 April 1526. (14) Allowing time for the pregnancy, this would suggest that Francis probably married during his stay at Halywell.


Francis was knighted between 12 March 1528, when he wrote a letter to Thomas Cromwell as 'Francis Lowell' and 13 July 1530, when 'Sir Francis Lovell' was commissioned to investigate Wolsey's property in Norfolk." (15) Thereafter a career involving service to the crown continued, combined with the usual local appointments. In 1531 he served as commissioner for peace in Norfolk, the first of several such appointments. (16) Two years later, in 1533, he attended Anne Boleyn at her coronation. (17) An attempt the following year to marry his son Thomas to a daughter of Lord Lisle came to nothing, but in 1538, following several mentions in the records of his assistance to Henry viii at the time of the northern rebellion in 1536, he appears in a list of 'persons to be had at this time in the King's benign remembrance'. (18) Having helped accompany the ill-fated arrival of Anne of Cleves at Rochester in 1539/40 and served as a commissioner of the peace in Norfolk in 1547-48, he wrote his will in August 1551, died apparently in an epidemic in the following January, and was buried in the church at East Harling in a tomb on the south side of time chancel. (19) It would seem, then, that at the time the portrait was painted of a female member of the Lovell family c. 1526-28, the male member of the family who would almost certainly have commissioned it was the up-and-coming Francis Lovell, not quite yet a knight, but a member of a family with strong court connections and himself already an esquire of tire body, and wealthy after his inheritance of the greater part of the estate of his uncle.

The sitter's identity

Who, then, was the lady in the portrait? As Sir Thomas Lovell had no daughters, the obvious answer is that she was Francis Lovell's wife. However, two wives are documented. In a licence for a grant by Sir Francis of 1550 and in his will written the following year, 'Dame Elizabeth' is mentioned, but Blomefield gives as his wife, Anne, daughter of George Ashfield of Haresfield (Harefield) in Middlesex; this is in fact an error for George Ashby, as will be explained below, (20) Harefield is about seventeen miles from Enfield, where Sir Thomas Lovell KG had his manor of Elsynges, in which he also resided and where his nephew Francis had served him in 1523 and probably up to his death. Luckily, a sixteenth-century document survives which mentions 'Dame Anne' as his wife, indicating that she survived at least until her husband was knighted, which, as has been seen, was between 1528 and 1530, and thus very probably after Holbein's first visit. This confirms that the lady in the portrait is Anne Lovell rather than Elizabeth. (21) The fine but sober costume of the sitter would correspond with her social position at the time of Holbein's first visit, rather than with her later role as wife of a knight. Her demeanour and dress contrast strikingly, for example, with the 1527 portrait by Holbein of a lady of higher rank, Mary Wotton, Lady Guildford, wife of Sir Henry Guildford, Comptroller of the Royal Household (Fig. 5); she is much more sumptuously attired and stands next to an ornate renaissance column. (22) Moreover, it is probable that Francis Lovell would have taken advantage of his considerable wealth soon after acquiring it, that is, around the time of Holbein's 1526-28 visit, by commissioning a portrait of his wife from the fashionable (and expensive) German painter.


Blomefield, however, as mentioned above, made a mistake in copying Anne's surname. 'Anne Ashfield of Haresfield' should be 'Anne Ashby of Harefield', an understandable case of assimilation of -by to -field caused by the second -field of Haresfield. This can be demonstrated from the heraldry on her husband's tomb. On the tympanum at the top (Fig. 6) is the heraldic achievement of Lovell, with helmet, crest and mantling, flanked by two simple shields. That on the dexter side can be blazoned: Quarterly dimidiated, 1 Argent on a chevron azure between three squirrels sejant gules a crescent of the field, 3 Vert on two chevrons argent six cinquefoils gules, three and three, impaling azure a chevron or between three double-headed eagles wings displayed argent, armed gules. (23) This is the quarterly arms of Lovell and Muswell, borne by both Sir Thomas Lovell KG, and his nephew Sir Francis, impaled with the arms of Ashby. This evidence of the Lovell Ashby alliance is confirmed by a late-sixteenth-century antiquary who recorded the same impaled arms in East Harling Hall. (24) The Ashby arms appear on an impression of the seal of George Ashby in 1509, and on his brass in Harefield church made about 1540, some time after his death. They also occur for his father, John Ashby, in a roll dated c. 1480-1500. (25) The armigerous state of the family goes back at least another generation, however, as in his will, written on 4 March 1514 and proved in September the next year, George Ashby bequeathed to his son Thomas 'my signet w[i]t[h] my armes in it which was my grandfathers and bequethid unto me by my ffader in his last will'. (26) The ring duly appeared in John Ashby's will, proved in 1499: 'Item I bequethe unto my sonne and heir my signet'. (27) The grandfather's will appears not to survive.


The gift of a signet ring passed down through the generations was an appropriate one, as George Ashby, his father, John, and his grandfather and namesake, George Ashby, were all clerks to the signet for the king, and thus had close connections with the court, helping the king's Secretary to draft, copy and seal private royal documents. Grandfather George was a figure of some interest. Born of a Warwickshire family, he served first of all as clerk to the signet to Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, transferring in 1437 to the signet office of Henry VI when the king became old enough to need his own officials. When the king married in 1445, he took on the additional role of clerk to the signet of Margaret of Anjou. He received various pensions, grants and sinecures from the crown, was a member of parliament for the borough of Warwick, and frequently served abroad. An ardent Lancastrian, he was also imprisoned for debt and other reasons in the Fleet in 1463, where he wrote A Prisoner's Reflections, and as an old man, probably about 1470, he wrote his Active Policy of a Prince, for Prince Edward. After his release from prison he had been in France with the queen, directing the prince's education. He gained possession of an estate called Brakespears in Harefield, Middlesex, and died and was buried there on 20 February 1475. (28)

His son John Ashby was also a clerk to the signet, although possibly only an assistant, from 1457 to 1459. (29) Little is known about him in comparison with his father and his son. In 1480 and 1487 he received a pardon for not answering in court for a debt; on both occasions he is called a gentleman from Harefield. (30) On 5 March 1498 he appeared as one of eleven 'ancient witnesses' in connection with the unsuccessful moves to canonise Henry VI, to attest that the king had himself chosen a place in St Edward's Chapel at Westminster as his burial place, and in the following year he released some land in Harefield to John Newdegate of that place." His will was proved on 1 July of the following year. Apart from the bequest to his son George of his signet ring, he asks to be buried in the new aisle of the church of Rickmansworth, about three miles north-west of Harefield. (32) His wife, Anne, was his executrix, and Weever records the inscription on his tomb, which informs us that she was the wife of 'Iohn Ashby of Herfield Esqwyre daughter of Thomas Peyton of Iselham Esqwyre, who died 22 Oct 1503'. (33) Thus Anne Lovell, nee Ashby, the lady with the squirrel and starling, was named after her grandmother.

George Ashby junior was clerk to the signet under Henry vii in 1500 and this office brought with it regular grants to enhance his income, the first of these occurring in 1508, when he was appointed as bailiff of the lordship of Yelvertoft in Northamptonshire. (34) In the following year he was listed as one of those attending the funeral of Henry VII in his role as clerk of the signet and then the coronation of Henry VIII, this time as squire for the body. (35) In that year he was also appointed as master of the swans in the Thames and in 1510 was granted some tenements in London, followed by some forfeited goods in 1511, custody of the lands and wardship and marriage of William Steuecle in the next year and an annuity of 20 [pounds sterling] in 1514, together with 20 [pounds sterling] for attendance on the queen. (36) On 8 March of that year he wrote his will and was dead by 19 April of the following year; on 18 September the will received probate. (37) In his will he requests burial either in the London Blackfriars, or in the monastery of Christchurch (unspecified). His daughter Anne Ashby, the subject of the portrait, receives 50 [pounds sterling] towards her marriage, unless she dies before marrying, or marries his ward William Stucle, when the money goes to his wife, Rose. His daughter Elyn receives a similar bequest, but Anne is also to inherit a 'guylt cupp w[i]t[h] certeyn l[ett]res of A in the cover and a pece p[ar]rcell gilt with one A in the botome of it'. His son Thomas, recipient of his great-grandfather's signet ring, he wishes to go to school and 'put to suych lernyng' as his wife, brother and his friends shall think 'moost co[n]venant' until he crones of age. His wife is to be sole executrix, and the supervisors his brothers-in law, master Richard Eden and Henry Eden.

Holbein and the Lovells

It is by now clear that the Lovell family of Norfolk continued to be connected with the highest strata of society, including royal circles, after the death of their most distinguished relative, Sir Thomas Lovell. They were therefore likely to have known of and been in a position to give patronage to Hans Holbein the Younger when he arrived for his first visit to England. Both Sir Francis Lovell and the family of his wife Anne Lovell, rite Ashby, were employed in administrative or diplomatic capacities by the crown. They were also associated with others who commissioned portraits from Holbein. The Lovells' friendship with Thomas le Strange of Hunstanton, who had his portrait painted by the artist in 1536 (Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth), may have brought them into contact with Sir Henry and Lady Guildford, and Sir Richard Southwell; all three were connected by marriage to Le Strange and all were painted by Holbein, the first two in 1527 and the latter in 1536. (38)

Anne family connections may have brought other patrons of Holbein into the circle of the Lovells' acquaintances. Sir Brian Tuke, whom Holbein painted c. 1532, had earlier served with her father, George Ashby, in 1509, when both attended the funeral of Henry VII as clerks of the signet, and later that year at the coronation of Henry VIII, when they were both esquires of the body. (39) In 1528 Holbein painted the double portrait of Thomas Godsalve and his son John, from Norwich (Gemaldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden); he added a drawing of the son on his return to England c. 1532 (Royal Collection, Windsor Castle). Their Norwich connections, where both served as registrars of the diocese, may have been sufficient to bring them into contact with the Lovells, but in addition, John became a royal servant. He is recorded as a clerk to the signet in 1531, but was probably connected with the court sometime before then. (40) Some of these portraits of acquaintances of the Lovells were painted after that of Anne and as such could not have influenced the Lovells' choice of artist. They provide, however, yet further evidence that Francis was part of that web of alliances and friendships from which Holbein drew so much of his patronage while in England.

These affinities were so broad and complex that it is probable that the Lovells also had a connection with the circle of Sir Thomas More and that, as has been suggested, the portrait may have come to be painted because of More's patronage of Holbein. There is no direct evidence, but some indirect links are known. For example, Cuthbert Tunstall, bishop of London, had been appointed as one of the supervisors of the will of Sir Thomas Lovell KG and Francis Lovell, as the main executor, must have had many dealings with him. Around the time the portrait was done, Tunstall was a close friend of More, who himself took over the high stewardship of both Oxford and Cambridge universities from Sir Thomas after his death in 1524, having previously served in the king's council with him (41)

A reassessment of the portrait

Now that the sitter has been identified, the significance of certain elements in the painting can be reassessed. As a preliminary, issue must be taken with an earlier attempt by Mark Roskill to do this. (42) Two details of his analysis do not seem to stand scrutiny, regardless of the identification of the lady. The first is his assumption that the starling is dead and is depicted by Holbein as a shadow, from which he draws conclusions about the contrast between life and death represented by the squirrel and the shadow. The bird is certainly depicted as alive: it is painted with Holbein's usual attention to detail, the eye sparkles with life and the feathers gleam with iridescence. The second point, which is important for the heraldic significance of the squirrel, is that the animal is not, as Roskill has it, chewing a metal ball at the end of the chain, but, like the squirrels on the Lovell arms and badge, cracking a nut, the chain, of course, being fastened round its neck.

It can he agreed that the starting (Fig. 7), like the squirrel, should be read on the literal level as a pet. It may even have been the case that Francis Lovell was himself particularly interested in birds. In the first printed book to be published by an Englishman on the subject of ornithology, which appeared in 1544, the author cites Sir Francis Lovell, whom he describes as 'a most noble knight, with gifts as much of mind as of body' (tam animi quam corporis dotibus equem auratum nobilissimum), as the only authority for the English name of the shrike. (43) The starling can also be seen to represent by means of a pun the place where the sitter lived. This was most commonly spelled 'Estharlyng' at the time, and if as is probable this indicated a short, unaccented initial vowel, the aural consonance of bird's name and place name would have been closet than it is now.

This type of pun is of course frequent in heraldic rebuses, but these almost invariably stand for personal names, although they can sometimes be identical with place names; a few also relate to dedications. (44) It may be that the heraldic nature of the squirrel's significance in the painting suggested the rebus like pun to represent the place name. (45)

Yet another layer of meaning for the starling can, however, also he suggested. In Shakespeare's Henry IV Part 1, Hotspur, angry that he has been told by the King not to speak of Mortimer, tells Worcester I'll have a starling shall be taught to speak/ Nothing but Mortimer, and give it to him/To keep his anger in motion'. Thus it appears that in the sixteenth century it was current practice to teach per starlings to say names, and there are other Elizabethan references to starlings being taught to speak. (46) Sir Thomas More, Holbein's patron, when discussing the art of the painter, says of a portrait of a rhetorician, 'Sextus himself is silent; the image of Sextus exercises his art'. The painter can 'petrify his subject for eternity' as Pascal Griener puts it, but the portrait remains silent. (47) Perhaps Holbein here uses the loquacious starling to voice the painting in the viewer's imagination, possibly even as a response to More's reflections on the silence of Sextus. Thus the squirrel would provide the family name, the starling's name the location, and his voice the first name of the lady or, more probably the name of her newly-born son, Thomas, speaking directly into her ear.

The significance of the squirrel can also be amplified (Fig. 8). Although other writers have mentioned the erotic aspects of the squirrel in relation to women, Roskill drew attention to the way in which it was placed in the painting in order to maintain decorum, with the tail hiding her cleavage and its 'rounded and pleasurably textured forms' drawing attention away from those of the lady. (48) This becomes all the more understandable if one sees the squirrel as in fact representing the baby that the lady has recently had. The squirrel was the badge of the Lovells and badges were a more direct and personal way than blazon of providing a sign to stand for a member of a particular family. A contemporary viewer of the painting would have seen the squirrel as such, and, at the moment of its painting and for some time afterwards, as signifying Thomas Lovell, the infant heir.

Thus the semiotics of the portrait and the historical and personal circumstances surrounding its production suggest that its primary purpose was to celebrate the birth of the Lovell heir. The arrival of a male heir was always an important event for a family, but for two reasons perhaps even more important than usual for Francis Lovell and his wife Anne. Firstly, the reason why Francis inherited much of his uncle's estate was that Sir Thomas Lovell died childless. Francis would have been very conscious of this fact and even more desirous than usual that his new wife should provide him with the means of handing on the family's wealth to a direct male descendant. a second reason relates to the moment when the baby was born, which, as we have seen, was probably shortly before April 1526. Francis's contacts with the court would bare made him very aware of the problems that were being caused by the failure of Catherine of Aragon to produce a male heir for Henry VIII. By 1526 she was almost past childbearing age and it was in the early months of that year that the king began the intrigue with Anne Boleyn that was to have such far-reaching consequences for the country as a whole. (49) His relief and joy at the birth of his own heir could not have been unaffected by what he knew of the royal problems.

A further motivation is suggested by the use of the starling. It is very unusual for a portrait at this time to give an indication of place, as the starling does. This can only be explained by the importance that Francis and Anne accorded to having become lord and lady of the manor of East Harling. Before his inheritance, Francis had faced the prospect of being the younger brother of Gregory Lovell of Barton Bendish, rather than a wealthy, independent landowner. The perhaps unexpected acquisition of East Harling, with the new house built by his uncle, would have made him all too ready to announce to the viewers of the portrait that be had arrived there as the new owner.

The association of portrait and place can be paralleled in a rather different way by the relief of Sir Thomas Lovell KG made probably for the gatehouse at East Harling and illustrated above (Fig. 2). (50) Here, the portrait was physically attached to the front of the building to announce to all visitors, in a very obvious and even more personal way than the usual heraldry, the ownership of East Harling by the Lovells. The depiction of Anne Lovell delivers the same message, but by bringing it inside the hall and employing a visual pun it does so in a much more subtle and appealing way.

Another means used by the Lovells in promote the family name and also in this ease to demonstrate loyalty to the crown was that of stained glass. In the payments made on behalf of Sir Thomas Lovett KG by his receiver, John Carelton, in the period 25 December 1522 to 1 January 1524, while Francis Lovell was living with him, is the following:
 Item payd to Crystofer Wykeman,
 of London, glasyer, for reparaciouns
 of glass windows at my maister's
 place and chapel at Halywell this
 yere, xijs. ijd; for glasse and glasyng
 of diverce wyndowes this yere at
 Endefeld at my maister's place and
 amending of quarelles, xxiiijs, vd.;
 and for ccc foote white glasse, for
 x wyndowes in the clere story of
 Endefeld church, for [vj.sup.xx] small
 badgies, wynges, trewlofes, and
 squerelles, xvi great badgeys, viij
 armes in the Garter, for himself,
 iiij of the Kynge's badgeis crowned,
 ij of the Kynge's and Queen's
 crowned, translating your armes
 and drawing in papur, xlj, xiiijs.
 viijd.--xijli. xs. iijd. (51)

The wording is slightly ambiguous, but it would appear that Sir Thomas had provided heraldic glass for the clerestory of Enfield church consisting of twenty-six small and sixteen large badges for himself, eight shields with his own arms in the Garter and four crowned badges of the King and two royal coats of arms of Henry viii impaling Catherine of Aragon. One of the latter was still to be seen in the north clerestory at Enfield in the early nineteenth century. (52) The 'wynges' and 'trulofes' can be interpreted as forming a macaronic rebus of Lovell, the first syllable being represented by the 'trulofes' or 'true lover's knot', and the second by the wings, or 'ailes' in French; Lovell was a lawyer, and used French regularly in the courts. (53)

Similar glass is still to be seen in East Harling church. In the east window of the south aisle are two shields of Lovell quartering Muswell in the Garter (the arms of Sir Thomas) (Fig. 9), a closed crown of the type regularly placed above the royal arms and a strip of renaissance ornament. Amongst fragments set into the background of a fifteenth-century panel depicting St Mary Magdalen in the east chancel window are quarries with fragments of the Lovell rebus (Fig. 10). Here, two types are seen, one with the wings and trueloves on separate quarries (only the wings survive), probably of the type ordered for Enfield, and the other with both elements combined with a flower. All this glass almost certainly came from the east chancel window, in the tracery lights of which the Lovell arms were to be seen until recently. It must postdate Sir Thomas's award of the Garter in 1503, and the use of renaissance ornament in English glass occurs from about 1515 onwards. (54) In fact, the style suggests a date in the 1520s, so that it is not possible to say whether the window was a gift of Sir Thomas Lovell before his death in 1524 or of the new patron of the church, Francis Lovell, made as a memorial to his uncle; on balance, tire latter seems more likely. The fine renaissance ornament (Fig. 11), which depicts hermaphrodite satyrs and bare breasted winged figures in foliage, must have been designed by a foreign artist, possibly even Holbein himself, whose graphic work is very similar, or perhaps Cristofer Wykeman, the London glazier with a Dutch- or German-sounding name, was responsible. Certainty is not possible, given such exiguous remains, but the Lovell glass at East Harling confirms the family taste for high-quality foreign art exemplified by the Lovell relief and the Holbein portrait.


Dating and provenance

In conclusion, the questions as to when and where the portrait was painted and who subsequently owned it will be addressed. Holbein left Basel shortly after 25 August 1526 and arrived in England possibly by the beginning or middle of October. A letter from Sir Thomas More to Erasmus dated 18 December is the first documentary record of his presence in England, and on 8 February 1527 he received his first day's pay for work at Greenwich decorating the banquet house, being occupied with this and other work in London until April. (55) This would mean that the portrait of Anne Lovell could have been painted either before Holbein embarked on this work, or afterwards, from April 1527 until he left in the summer of the next year. If the suggestion made above that the portrait was a celebration of the birth of Thomas Lovell in the first quarter of 1526 is correct, then it is perhaps more likely that it was painted earlier rather than later, and the fact that the sitter wears a warm fur hat which covers the ears may suggest that it was in the colder months of late 1526 or early 1527 rather than the spring or summer of the following year. Some corroboration for this might be drawn from the fact that the same fur hat is seen in the preparatory drawing of Margaret Giggs for the group portrait of Sir Thomas More and family done at about the same time. (56) Anne was sufficiently recovered from the birth to travel in Norfolk by June of 1526, and it is probable that Francis would still have had to visit Loudon from time to time in his role as executor of his uncle's estate, which would have given him an opportunity to hear of Holbein's arrival and to have his wife's portrait done, perhaps while they were staying at the Lovell residence in Shoreditch.

The provenance of the Lady with a squirrel and a starling has been traced back to Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel (1588-1646). (57) He was a great collector of art, which makes his possession of the portrait unsurprising, but it is even more understandable now that the original owner is known. In the inquisition post mortem of Sir Francis Lovell, namesake and great-grandson of the sitter's husband, written in 1625, it is stated that the manor of East Harling was held of Thomas, Earl of Arundel, by fealty and a certain rent, an equally unsurprising situation in view of the fact that the palace of the Dukes of Norfolk at Kenninghall, built by Thomas Howard, third Duke of Norfolk, who died in 1554, was less than three miles from East Harling. Sir Francis died without heir, and his brother Charles Lovell of Spridlington in Lincolnshire inherited. Although the manor and hall remained in the Lovell family until 1707, it was probably the failure in 1624 of the direct male line of the Lovells of East Harling for the first time since Sir Thomas Lovell KG in 1524 which caused the family to part with this precious and beautiful portrait, which can now once again after so long be associated with the Lovells. (58)

(1) Mark Roskill, 'Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling by Holbein', in Mark Roskill and John Oliver Hands (eds.), Hans Holbein: Paintings, Prints and Reception New Haven and London, 1997, pp. 155-74; Richard Marks and Paul Williamson (eds.), Gothic: Art for England 1400-1547, exh. cat., Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2803, p. 298 no. 162 (Susan Foister).

(2) Ibid., p, 152, no. 9 (Peta Motture).

(3) George L. Harrison, 'A Few Notes on the Lovells of East Harling', Norfolk Archaeology vol. XVIII, 1914, pp. 46-77. Marks and Williamson (eds), op. cit., p. 152 (Motture), with bibliography. For Lovell's career, see also Stanley. T. Bindoff, The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1509-1558, vol. II, London, 1982, pp. 548-49.

(4) Harrison op. cit., p. 52.

(5) Chrisopher Woodforde, 'Medieval Glass in East Harling Church', Norfolk Archaeology, vol, XXIV, 1932, p. 261; ibid., The Norwich School of Glass-Painting in the Fifteenth Century, London, 1950, pp. 42-54; David J. King, The Medieval Stained Glass of St Peter Mancroft, Norwich, Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi Summary Catalogue, forthcoming.

(6) Edmund Farrer, The Church Heraldry of Norfolk, part 1, Norwich, 1885, pp. 41-43.

(7) Public Record Office, London, Prerogative Court of Canterbury (hereafter PRO, PCC), prob/11/23.

(8) James A.H. Murray et al., Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford, 1933 p. 1097; Harrison, op cit., p. 46-47, disagrees.

(9) See the conflicting information in Francis Blomefield, An Essay Towards a Topographical History of the County of Norfolk, vol. I, London, 1805 (2nd edition), p. 323; ibid., vol. VII, 1807, pp. 272-73; William Robinson, The History and Antiquities of Enfield in the County Middlesex, London, 1823. vol, I, fold-out between pp. 138 and 139; Harrison, op. cit., pp. 46-56; Dictionary of National Biography, London, 1921, vol. XII, pp. 175-76; Bindoff, op. cit., pp. 548-49.

(10) For Francis Lovell, see Letters and papers Foreign and Domestic of the Reign of Henry VIII, London, vol II, part 1, 1515-16, p. 872; for Sir Thomas Lovell, see Bindoff, pp. cit., p. 548.

(11) Historical Manuscripts Commission Report 24: The Manuscripts of his Grace the Duke of Rutland KG, vol. IV, p. 261; Letters and Papers Foreign and Domestic of the Reign of Henry VIII, London, 1880-91 (hereafter Letters and Paper), vol. IV, part 1, p. 149.

(12) See n. 7 above.

(13) Hamon Le Strange, Norfolk Official Lists from the Earliest Period to the Present Day, Norwich, 1890, p. 18; J.R. Mayer, Extraneus: A Social and Literary Chronicle of the Families of Strange, Le Strange, and L'Estrange 1082 to 1986, San Francisco, 1986, p. 608.

(14) Harrison, op. cit. p. 56; PRO, PCC, c142/96/41.

(15) Letters and Papers, vol. IV, part 2, 1528, p. 1799; ibid, part 3, 1529-30, p. 2931.

(16) Ibid, p. 2946.

(17) Letter and Papers, vol. VI, 1533, p. 562. 29 May 1533.

(18) The Lisle Letters, Muriel StC. Byrne (ed.), Chicago and London, 1981, vol. III, pp 10, 12; Letters and Papers, vol. XI, 1536, pp. 233, 247, 253, 435, 450; Harrison, op. cit., pp. 56-57.

(19) Letters and Papers, vol. XV, 1540, p. 4; Calendar of Patent Rolls, Edward VI, vol. I, p. 87; Harrison, op. cit., pp. 56-57.; Farrer, op. cit., pp. 41-42.

(20) Calendar of Patent Rolls, Edward VI, vol. III, 1548-51, p. 230; PRO, PCC, prob/11/35; Blomefield, op. cit., vol. I, p. 323.

(21) PRO, c4/24/22.

(22) Oskar Batschmann and Pascal Griener, Hans Holbein, Princeton, 1997, pp. 166, 169.

(23) Farrer, op. cit., p. 41-42; he ignores the crescent.

(24) British Library, London, MS Lansdowne 260, fol. 187.

(25) Thomas Woodcock, Jane Grant, Ian Graham, Dictionary of British Arms: Medieval Ordinary II, London, 1996, pp. 299, 301.

(26) PRO, PCC, prob/11/18.

(27) Ibid., prob/11/11.

(28) Letters of Queen Margaret of Anjou and Bishop Beckington and others, Cecil Munro (ed.) Camden Society, 1863, p. 114; Josiah C. Wedgwood and Anne D. Hunt, The History of Parliament: Biographies of the Members of the Common House 1439-1509, London, 1936, pp. 21-22; Annette J. Otway-Ruthven, The King's Secretary and the Signet Office in the XV Century, Cambridge, 1939, pp. 120, 135, 142, 158, 185. For Ashby's writings see George Ashby's Poems, Mary Bateson (ed.). Early English Text Society, extra series no. 76, reprint, Oxford, 1965.

(29) Otway-Ruthven, op. cit., p 158.

(30) Calendar of Patent Rolls, 1476-85, Edward IV, Richard III, vol. I, p. 188; ibid, 1485-94, vol. I, p. 187.

(31) Bertram Wolffe Henry VI, London, 1981, p. 357, citing P. Grosjean, Henrici VI Angliae Regis Miracula Postuma, Brussels, 1935, p. 189; Calendar of Patent Rolls, 1485-1500, Henry VII, vol I, p. 336.

(32) PRO, PCC, prob/11/11.

(33) J. Weever Funeral Monuments, London, 1631, p. 590.

(34) Wedgwood and Holt, op. cit., p. 22; Calendar of Patent Rolls, 1494-1509, Henry VII, vol. II, p. 605.

(35) Letters and Papers, vol I. part I, 1509-13, pp. 18, 42.

(36) Ibid., pp. 32, 196, 328, 435, 684-85, 1144, 1463.

(37) PRO, PCC, prob/11/18, Letters and Papers, vol. part I, 1515-16. p. 106.

(38) Arthur B Chamberlain, Hans Holbein the Younger, London, 1913, vol. I, p. 319; Susan R. Foister; Holbein and his English Patrons, PhD thesis, Courtauld Institute of Art London, 1981, p 120. For the portrait of Sir Thomas le Strange see Edmund Pillsby and William Jordan, 'Recent Painting Acquisitions, II: The Kimbell Art Museum', The Burlington Magazine, vol, CXXVII, no 987 (June 1985), p 409; lot those of Sir Henry and Lady Guildford, see Batschmann and Griener, op. cit., illustrations 229, 225; for that of Sir Richard Southwell, see Jane Roberts, Holbein London, 1979, p. 81.

(39) Letters and Papers, vol. I, part I, 1509-13, pp. 18, 42. For the portrait of Sir Brian Tuke, see Batschmann and Griener; op cit., illustration 235.

(40) Le Strange, op. cit., p. 76; Letters and Papers, vol. V, 1531-32, p. 75 For the portrait of the Godsalves and the drawing of John, see Batschmann and Griener, op. cit., illustration 232, 233.

(41) For Tunstall, see PRO, PCC, prob/11/23; Peter Ackroyd, The Life of Thomas More, London, 1999, p. 277. For the More Lovell connection, see John and J.A. Venn, Alumni Cantabrigienses, Cambridge, 1922-54, part I, vol. III, p. 108; Alfred B. Emden, A Biographical Register of the University of Oxford to AD 1500, Oxford, 1958, p. 1306; Bindoff, op, cit., p, 549; Ackroyd, op. cit., p. 235; John Guy, 'Wolsey and the Tudor Polity', in Steven J. Gunn and Philip G. Lindley (eds.), Cardinal Wolsey: Church, state and art, Cambridge, 1991, p. 58.

(42) Mark Roskill. 'Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling by Holbein: Incursions of the Figurative in his Portraits', M. Roskill and J.O. Hand (eds.), Hans Holbein: Paintings, Prints, and Reception, Washington, 2001, p. 174-185.

(43) William Turner, Avium praecipuarum, quarum apud Plinium et Aristotelem mention est, brevis et succincta, Cologne, 1544, fol. 49.

(44) J.A. Goodall, 'The Use of the Rebus on Medieval Seals and Monuments', The Antiquaries Journal, vol. LXXXIII, 2003, pp. 448-70.

(45) The Lovells had their own rebus see below.

(46) A.R. Humphreys (ed.), William Shakespeare. The First Part of King Henry IV, The Arden Edition of the Works of William Shakespeare, London, 1966, p. 32, Act I, scene 3, lines 219-26..

(47) Batschmann and Griener, op. cit., p. 169.

(48) M. Camille, Mirror in Parchment: The Luttrell Psalter and the Making of Medievel England, London, 1998, p. 299; Roskill, op. cit., pp. 181-82.

(49) J.C. Scarisbrick, Henry VIII, Harmondsworth, 1971, p. 202; Ackroyd, op. cit., p. 258.

(50) See n. 2 above.

(51) Historal Manuscripts Commission Report 24: The Manuscripts of his Grace the Duke of Rutland KG, London, 1905, vol. IV, pp. 264-65.

(52) William Robinson, The History and Antiquities of Enfield in the County of Middlesex, London, 1823, vol. II, pp. 28-29.

(53) For the use of French in legal proceedings at this time, see Ackroyd, op. cit., p. 54.

(54) Richard Marks, Stained Glass in England during the Middle Ages, London, 1996, p. 54.

(55) Chamberlain, op. cit., pp. 289, 313.

(56) Karl T. Parker, The Drawings of Hans Holbein in the Collection of His Majesty the King at Windsor Castle, London, 1945, p. 37, and plate 8.

(57) Marks and Williamson (eds.), op. cit., p. 298, no. 162 (Susan Foister).

(58) Harrison, op. cit., p. 68.

David J. King is a research associate in the School of History at the University of East Anglia and an author for the Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi medieval stained-glass project. His volume The Medieval Stained Glass of St Peter Mancroft, Norwich will appear early next year.
COPYRIGHT 2004 Apollo Magazine Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:King, David J.
Article Type:Cover Story
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 1, 2004
Previous Article:After the looting was over: one year after the Iraq war, the damage to the country's National Museum is still being assessed. Martin Bailey provides...
Next Article:Sir William Hamilton's Vesuvian apparatus.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters