Two new corridor sets in Georgian auctions part 2: medieval kings from an old hall in Kent ‘saved from total destruction, the companion pictures having been destroyed by fire.’

In 1827, exact date unknown, there was a picture auction at Thomas and Horatio Rodd’s 17 Air Street, Piccadilly (Getty Provenance Index catalogue no.. Br-2912). The vendor is unknown but the 254 historical portraits in the sale show they were quite a collector. It includes artists like Holbein, Gheeraerts, Van Dyck, Lely, Beale, Kneller, Gainsborough, Hogarth, and Hoppner.

The paintings have come from numerous sources, but provenance is sometimes given and the preface to the catalogue includes this nugget:

‘Of the Regal Heads, there are portraits of nearly all the Sovereigns of our native land, from Henry the First to his present Majesty. Several of those of earlier date, described in the present Catalogue as being on Panel, were the compartment decorations to an old hall in Kent, now demolished: they were saved from total destruction, the companion pictures having been destroyed by fire.’

If any Kent historians have an idea of where this lost house might have been I’d love to know.

Apart from the portraits of Richard II and Richard III the first ten are the same standard panel size of 22 x 17 inches. Richard II at 22 x 16 inches and Richard III at 23 x 17 inches may still be part of the series. The second smaller portrait of Edward VI at 18 x 15 inches is presumably not part of the same set. Both portraits of Edward sold for 7 guineas, while the others sold for 8 guineas each. No name is given for the buyer. Some of the iconography is surprising. Henry IV is usually shown in green velvet, but it can look very pale in some versions. Henry V’s ‘fur cap’ must be a misreading of his Blackadder bowl-cut.

Lot 107 Henry the First — King of England. On Panel, 22 inches by 17, in ermine robes, holding the globe and sceptre £8 8 shillings

Lot 108 Henry the Second, King of England. On Panel, 22 inches by 16 £8 8 shillings

Lot 109 Henry the Third, King of England. On Panel, 22 inches by 16, in a purple cloak £8 8 shillings

Lot 110 Henry the Fourth, King of England. On Panel, 22 inches by 17. In white dress, holding a rose, &c. … £8 8 shillings

Lot 112 The Same [Henry the Fifth, King of England]. On Panel, 22 inches by 17. Profile, in fur cap, gold collar, &c.: a contemporary portrait, resembling the picture in the Palace at Kensington; finely painted, in richly carved frame £8 8 shillings

Lot 113 Henry the Sixth, King of England. On Panel, 22 inches by 17. Hands joined, holding collar of gold £8 8 shillings

Lot 195 Richard the Second, King of England. On Panel, 22 inches by 16. Ermine dress, crowned 8l. 8s. £8 8 shillings

Lot 196 Richard the Third, King of England. On Panel, 23 inches in 17. Hat and jewels, golden collar, &c £8 8 shillings

Lot 259 The Same [Edward the Sixth, King of England]. On Panel, 22 inches by 17. In similar costume £7 7 shillings

There are other early panel portraits in the sale, acquired by this unknown collector from other sources. Lot 260 may be a small-scale full- or three quarter-length rather than the usual corridor set head-and-shoulders:

Edward the Sixth, King of England. On Panel, 18 inches by 15. In rich crimson dress, gloves in his hand, with sword hanging by his side, inscribed ‘EDWARDUS REX’ £7 7 shillings

Lot 78 is attributed to Marcus Gheeraerts the younger. This is also painted on the standard size panel usual for corridor portrait panels:

Elizabeth — Queen of England. Mark Garrard [as Gheeraerts was known by the Georgians]. On Panel, 22 inches by 16. Habited in a white lace ruff, richly pearled dress, falling veil from an elegant head dress: a well painted portrait, in a superb carved frame. ‘ELIZABETHA ANGLIE REGINA,’ in gilt projecting letters, £24 This portrait, which exhibits ‘the Maiden Queen’ late in life, and as such is not without interest, was recently the property of the late Sir William Smith, Bart. of Hill-Hall, Essex.

Hill Hall is another house much of whose contents were destroyed in a fire. It was built 1569-75 for Sir Thomas Smyth, Queen Elizabeth’s Secretary of State. The house was rebuilt in 1719, but the Elizabethan core must have survived intact because Historic England say that the house contains two rare and outstanding sets of mythological and religious wall-paintings dating from c.1570. More amazingly, the wall-paintings survived a fire that gutted the house in 1969. Around 1995 the house was restored and converted into flats, but the paintings are still viewable by appointment.

Photo (c) Stephen Richards

The restoration is an amazing achievement when you see what it looked like in 1995.

Photograph taken 01 June 1995 © Historic England Archive Photo Library ref: K950439

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