Pendants in the Name

Today I am looking at this painting again the Peake-style portrait of a lady formerly called Lady Alathea Talbot Countess of Arundel at Ingestre. By comparison with the contemporary portraits by Daniel Mytens (Arundel Castle and NPG) we can agree that it is probably not Lady Arundel, who was according to most sources between two and five years older than our sitter.

(c) Ingestre Hall Residential Arts Centre; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
(c) Ingestre Hall Residential Arts Centre; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Who then is she? From the inscription we know her age – she was 32 in 1619 – and it is likely from the provenance that she was connected with the Talbot family. From her dress she was a courtier. From her pendant I thought that she might be a Catholic, like Lady Arundel, who followed the religion of her mother the fearless convert Mary Cavendish Countess of Shrewsbury. The Victoria and Albert Museum has a diamond and gold enamelled IHS pendant dated 1580 – 1600 that belonged to Lady Arundel’s son and might have belonged to the Countess herself.

(c) Victoria and Albert Museum
(c) Victoria and Albert Museum

However this page on their website suggests that there was also a wider application for the jewellery; that the Holy Name might be worn as a protective amulet as well as a statement of faith. This drawing for an IHS pendant is a design by Arnold Lulls (fl.c1580 – 1642), the fashionable London jeweller who supplied King James I and his wife Queen Anne of Denmark, and their Court.

(c) Victorian and Albert Museum
(c) Victorian and Albert Museum

I wonder. The Jesuit Order use the IHS as their emblem – it appears today in the arms of Pope Francis. In England at this date would it have that association? Or would it, like a character in Shakespeare swearing ‘By the Mass!’, scarcely raise an eyebrow? (I am listening to Radio 4’s brilliant Hamlet every afternoon this week)

Maybe Anne of Denmark’s Court is the key. The Queen had converted to Catholicism in Scotland, and kept a Catholic circle around her when she became Queen of England. Would jewellery like this, which makes a less emphatic statement than the large pendant worn by the Countess of Arundel, have been more of a feature of Anne’s Court? Was it ‘trendy’ for her ladies to wear such jewellery, even Protestants? In her portrait of 1612 by Gheeraerts at Penshurst, Lady Mary Sidney Lady Wroth is wearing a large diamond cross. Heirloom? Expression of personal faith? Or an example of a Catholic aesthetic at Anne’s Court?

More evidence is needed. If the answer to ‘If not Lady Arundel then who?’ might include Protestant as well as Catholic courtiers, it brings me to the reason I was looking at the Talbot portraits in the first place. I have been trying, as I mentioned a month ago, to find evidence to support the identification of this portrait of a young woman, aged 19 in 1607, as Lady Mary Wroth (1587 – 1651/3). It was during my first enquiries into this portrait, incidentally, that I encountered the name Arnold Lulls. The elegantly simple crescent and pearl drop earrings that this sitter is wearing compare almost exactly with a Lulls designs, supporting the argument that our sitter here is a courtier.

RM Lady Mary Wroth 12


Lady Mary played the marriage game very differently to Frances Howard. She married one man while in love with another, and became his mistress after her first husband died. She led a rather Bloomsbury life. She was a writer – which was not unusual because many aristocratic ladies were – but less respectably she was also a published writer, and she engaged in literary duels and controversies with men. All of which might have been acceptable within a marriage, but without a husband, without a surviving legitimate heir and with two illegitimate children she became an isolated figure. The first part of her life was lived at Court; the second was more retired. There are only two accepted portraits of her, the Gheerearts and a John de Critz at Penshurst, and the latter, the famous portrait with an archlute, is sometimes disputed as the sitter appears too young to be a 33-year old woman c.1620. There must have been portraits covering the rest of her life, at least until the death of her lover William Herbert Earl of Pembroke in 1630. Some were no doubt lost when the Wroths’ house Loughton Hall burnt down in 1836, but Lady Mary had a wide circle of friends and relatives who must have owned her portrait. She should be a classic example of the sitter whose identity would be lost, and I was searching the collections of her friends and relatives for unknown and misidentified women of the right age. The Talbots were friends of the Sidneys, and relatives by marriage of the Herberts. Lady Mary Talbot (still a candidate for the Ingestre portrait) who married Lord Pembroke grew up with Lady Mary Sidney. The portrait of a lady formerly called the Countess of Arundel is exactly the same age as Lady Mary Sidney, and the likeness compares well with the Gheerearts. But would she be wearing the IHS? Is blue and silver a colour she is recorded as wearing? Back to the sources.

13 thoughts on “Pendants in the Name

  1. Sorry James, I was refering to a dating typo my own larger earlier comment, that I wasn’t sure actually got sent properly. Here it is again:

    Who then is she?

    I believe she is Brighid Nic Gearailt, Brighid Chill Dara, Lady Bridget Barnewall, Viscountess Kingsland, nee Fitzgerald, earlier Bridget O’Donnell, Countess of Tyrconnell. Daughter of Henry FitzGerald, 12th Earl of Kildare and Lady Frances Howard, daughter of the Earl of Nottingham. Poetess. Born 1586 or 87 according to the this portrait. Previously stated to be born c. 1589 or 90. Great-great-granddaughter of Mary Boleyn and possibility Henry VIII.

    I think her and Mary Wroth, both being poetesses, may have been friends. With this page you have helped me hopefully identify two portraits of this noted Gaelic poetess, this one and another, where none are previously known.

    I’m sure you’d enjoy seeing the other one, and reading the comments, where you eventually get drawn into the fray!

    If correct, it is amazing to have identified two portraits of this poetess and notable figure in Irish history. It would be great to have you cast your eye and brain over the whole thing.

    Many thanks and hope you are doing ok through the pandemic and lockdowns.

    1. Wow! Thanks Luke that’s very exciting. Sorry I didn’t see your original comment. I’ll certainly have a look and get back to you. I see that someone says she was traditionally identified as a member of the Boleyn family. She certainly has the Boleyn look. Yes, all well here thankfully. Hope you are too.

      1. [written in haste – rather, someone says the portrait on artuk was a member of the Boleyn family (?source). The artuk portrait and the lady wearing IHS do certainly look like the same sitter.]

  2. RE. Brighid Nic Gearailt, it is staggering to think that she was essentially the last Irish Queen, her first husband the last King of Thir Chonaill, she may have been viewed as such by those who didn’t accept submission to James I. And descended on her mother’s side from Henry VIII, the great tyrant. C’est incroyable!

  3. High quality portraits since mid-Tudor times were/are recognisable as the people they are. That’s how I recognise people. Aside from a little face-lift, or ‘Instagram filter’ work that older sitters may have had, but you can adjust to that too. For example, shadows, lines, shapes if it’s there they didn’t make it up, I think, they weren’t guessing as to facial features. Expensive likeness were a likeness, even when smoothed out a bit.

    There are computer programs where they can put in the faces of parents and children, and say with a % of certainty if they are or could be the child of, or parents of, each other. In these three images above, we have father, mother and daughter.

    You are a respected person in the field, can you look into this and help get this done please? To help get this new Mary Wroth portrait find accepted?

    As if your cv isn’t already good enough, LOL.

    Or, old school version, I just use my eyes and brain. It’s done ok, recently.

  4. I don’t know why that posted live, if it did, as I have two earlier comments that are awaiting moderation, that I posted leading up to it. Perplexed.

    Let me know if you’ve missed my two earlier comments RE. new Mary Wroth portrait discovery.

  5. Is it true to say that posts with links in them get stuck in ‘awaiting moderation’ so don’t go live, but one’s without don’t?

    I have various heavyweight posts that are not live as they are forever stuck in ‘awaiting moderation’ – unless that’s what you want, James? If so, that’s ok.

    It’s difficult to contribute to the sum of human knowledge when nothing will go live for me!

    ‘Everything in moderation, except moderation!!!’

  6. Ok, you have a setting set:

    In Dashboard—Settings – Discussion—Comment moderation – Hold a comment in the queue if it contains ?? or more links.

    You’ve got it set to something. But then do you look in the queue, to see my comments you have held in the queue?

    What the system has mistook as spam is me actually trying hard. Doesn’t it all seem a bit… immoderate?!

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