Two new corridor sets in Georgian auctions part 1: ‘from Mouseham Hall, Essex’.

Look for one thing and you find another. I was looking for Gainsboroughs in early nineteenth century sale catalogues and turned up two sets of early royal portraits from Moulsham Hall in Essex and an unnamed house in Kent.

‘Corridor sets’ is the generic name for the series of head-and-shoulders panel portraits of early kings and queens. They were hung round the Long Gallery in an Elizabethan or Jacobean great house. Or in any house you could fit a few portraits in. First spotted at Court around 1520, the fashion spread through the houses of grandees to the gentry as a whole by the 1580s and the urban middle class by 1600. The actor Edward Alleyn built up a set of 26 portraits between 1618-20 (Dulwich Picture Gallery). They said a lot about the owner; you’re the rightful ruler/support the ruler/ a loyal link in the Great Chain of Being/ bang on trend/fascinated by history. Thousands of them must have been painted between 1580 and 1630. A few hundred survive, some still together like the Hornby Castle set in the National Portrait Gallery. Many single panels still turn up at auction, separated from their original sets and divorced from context, so it’s good to find records of two lost sets.

On June 11th 1825 James Webber Southgate auctioneers held a sale in London at 22 Fleet Street (Getty Provenance Index catalogue no. Br-2719). They were selling the property of Charles Yarnold of Great St Helen’s. There were 38 picture lots, including old masters, library portraits and these:

Lot 192 Six Kings of England, on panel, from Mouseham Hall, Essex, viz. Edward IV, Henry IV, Henry VI, Richard II, Richard III and Henry VII. Bought by John Swabey for £38 and 6 shillings.

This Moulsham flush, every king from Richard II to Henry VII also included this lot:

Lot 192a Portrait of Elizabeth, Queen to King Henry VII, on panel, also from Mouseham Hall (bought Rodd £3 3s)

Elizabeth of York, Edward IV’s daughter, who married Henry VII is a very rare sitter. Catherine Daunt lists only eleven examples (Portrait Sets in Tudor and Jacobean England, University of Sussex PhD Thesis, 2015, Vol 2, p. 110) compared with thirty portraits of her husband. Only two of the eleven, the painting at Christ Church, Oxford, and the painting at the National Portrait Gallery (illustrated) lack early provenance. (Daunt’s thesis is the definitive text for corridor portrait study and well worth checking out here. Many further examples of corridor portraits have appeared at sale even since 2015.)

(c)National Portrait Gallery, London.

The date Christ Church acquired their version is not recorded. The NPG bought their painting in 1870. The history of both is unknown. It would be great if the ‘Mouseham’ painting was either of them, but I should think that there were quite a few of them out there. What her inclusion says about the Mouseham set is less clear. Elizabeth’s marriage to Henry VII symbolically united the houses of York and Lancaster and ended the Wars of the Roses, so she would be a natural choice for inclusion, but few sets did include her it seems. Either the set was even larger than the seven in the sale, or the patron recognised her key role in the Tudor dynasty. The large set in the Deanery at Ripon includes her along with portraits of Elizabeth Woodville, Lady Margaret Beaufort, Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour. To my knowledge it’s the only set so balanced. The Dean told me that Elizabeth of York was the model for the Queen of Hearts on playing cards.

Mouseham Hall must be Moulsham Hall – is mouz’am the old pronunciation? Martin Robb, who’s made a study of Moulsham Hall and its owners the Mildmay family, very kindly told me that the house was demolished in 1816 when the Mildmays moved to Dogmersfield Park in Hampshire taking most of their picture collection with them. Sir Henry Paulet St John Mildmay 3rd Bt sold several low value old masters at Christie’s 29th May 1802, so perhaps other paintings that weren’t coming to Dogmersfield were dispersed at around the same time. Corridor portraits were very out-of-date by 1800.

Moulsham Hall c.1620, when corridor portraits were the must-have decor. It was replaced by a grand Palladian house in 1749, which always seems a bit of a shame (Image from Great British Life)

Charles Yarnold of Great St Helen’s is also a mystery. His sale included various old masters selling at ‘circle of’ prices. There was a Charles Yarnold (1751 – 1824) of St Helen’s parish Worcester. His death would fit with a sale in 1825, but why his estate would use an Essex auctioneer is unclear. Yarnold was a glazier. His son Charles Yarnold II (1751 – 1824) was a soldier, plumber, glazier and painter (online information from Richard Barton). It’s possible that Yarnold senior collected pictures. Why not? (* because Richard Barton his descendant has since told me that his ancestor Charles Yarnold, glazier in Worcester was not a collector. I’m very grateful for his information that the collector was his namesake Charles Yarnold Great Saint Helen’s in the City of London, surgeon, who died in 1825, and for the notice of his will in The National Archives.)

John Swabey who bought the kings and Rodd who bought Elizabeth of York were prolific buyers of old masters and British paintings in the early decades of the nineteenth century.

If anyone owns a panel painting with tattered labels saying Southgate/Yarnold/Moulsham on the back I’d be glad to hear. There was a Gainsborough in the sale, lot 214, Landscape, trees, etc. sold Rodd, bought ‘Duvar’ for 13 shillings. But that could be almost anything. Southgate’s sale doesn’t give dimensions.

Since posting this blog on Friday, Martin Robb has sent me a brilliant preview of Yarnold’s sale that’d seen in the Literary Gazette 1825 previewing Charles Yarnold’s sale.

Curiosities, Antiquities Catalogue of the private Museum of the late Mr Yarnold of Great St Helens (about to be sold by auction) has been put into our hands. Among the articles we observe some not unworthy of public notice. Passing over cameos, intaglios etc., there is Hugo Vander Goe’s picture of ‘Abigail and her Maid’, which Pilkington mentions as an admired painting, and several royal portraits from Mouseham Hall, Essex, viz. Edward IV, Henry IV, VI and VII, Richard II and III, and Elizabeth Queen of Henry VII. There are other portraits on a piece of tapestry, called the Plantagenet Tapestry, and containing twenty-three likenesses of the life-size, of individuals belonging to the Houses of York and Lancaster. Other large tapestries, used in ceremonies in ancient times, are also curious and interesting.’

From The Literary Gazette and Journal of Belles Lettres, Arts, Sciences etc. for the year 1825, London 1825, page 382

2 thoughts on “Two new corridor sets in Georgian auctions part 1: ‘from Mouseham Hall, Essex’.

  1. Hi James. This is nothing to do with my Charles Yarnold or Worcester. You will probably find that this is linked to Charles Yarnold of Great St Helen’s in London, a Surgeon, who left a will in about 1825. This will is available online. My glazier ancestor was a bankrupt not a collector of artworks! Kindest regards Richard (Barton)

    1. Hi Richard, thank you very much – that’s brilliant. Matt Robb has sent me an article from the Literary Gazette 1825 mentioning the paintings in the sale of the late Mr Yarnold’s private museum, but it doesn’t give his occupation. I’ll post a note correcting this on Monday. I saw on your site that your ancestor went bankrupt in the 1790s but I’d hoped things might’ve picked up in the next twenty years. It would be odd for a Worcester man to use an auctioneer in Enfield but I could imagine the glazier-collector. My great-grandfather was an upholsterer and if his clients didn’t want to pay cash he had a good eye for antiques. Very best wishes, James

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