A second Pregnancy Portrait

A second Pregnancy Portrait

Welcome to another presentation, this time about a second version of the Pregnancy Portrait.

In 2018 I posted a presentation on a painting which hangs in Hampton Court Palace. Described for 300 years as being of Elizabeth1st. It is now labelled unknown woman in a Persian dress.

It might be worth taking a look at this, but if not here is a brief summary.

The subject is an unsmiling pregnant young woman standing in front of a single tree with shrubs in the background. She is wearing a heavily patterned garment covered with a transparent wrap.

She has a headdress and veil which appear to be Middle Eastern. Around her neck is a cord to which are attached tw o rings. Beside the lady is a weeping stag, which she is crowning with pansies.

On the left of the picture in front of the trunk of the tree are three Latin inscriptions. There are two brightly coloured male chaffinches within the tree itself. On the right of the picture is a sonnet within a cartouche, the subject of which is sorrow and loss. Behind this is a pond, with trees and behind those a receding landscape.

I made a strong argument that the figure is an allegory represented Elizabeth in the guise of her alter ego the Goddess Diana. She is showing sympathy for the fate of the stag who represents someone who has wronged her and has been rendered mute, but she refuses to reverse the metamorphosis.

Analysis of the poem provides circumstantial evidence that the stag is Edward de Vere 17th Earl of Oxford who wrote as William Shakespeare and that the loss concerns a child brought up as Henry Wriothesley Earl of Southampton. I discuss this in some detail in another presentation entitled was Henry Wriothesley the son of Elizabeth 1st?

The painting is full of complex imagery and has been altered extensively over 400 years. There is still much to understand about its meaning. So in many ways my work has raised more questions than supplied answers.

Quite by chance a new avenue of investigation opened up to meI came across this report from 1819 from the New British Traveller by James Dugdale, in which he describes a visit to Tring Park Mansion in Hertfordshire England.

He describes a park of some 400 acres and a large and convenient building. This is the rear view with the entrance on the right. The hall was ornamented with corinthian columns and on each side high up were six full length figures of Queen Elizabeth, Mary Queen of Scots and others.

This a ground plan of the building drawn, some years later

What was called the Old Hall was the long central room on the right. The room was later renamed the morning room when a new entrance was constructed. Dugdale goes on to say that in a small dining room opening onto the hall (seen here coloured beige,) was a curious full length painting of Queen Elizabeth, probably copied from the one by Zucchero mentioned by Walpole as being at Kensington Palace. The dress is fancifully imagined and richly wrought with birds and flowers. Her right hand is placed on the head of a stag, crowned with flowers. Behind her is a tree in which swallows are perched. On the trunk are inscriptions and in a scroll below the tree are the lines of a poem.

This of course sounds very familiar, as it is describes the original portrait now hanging in Hampton Court which was later ascribed to the artist Marcus Gheeraerts the younger.

There is another report this time in 1880 by Young Crawley in his guide to Hertfordshire.

“The house contains some very valuable pictures by the Old Masters and one of Queen Elizabeth, which has been much spoken of; it is thought to be a copy from the celebrated picture by Zucchero [sic] (which Horace Walpole speaks of) at Hampton Court. The Queen is represented with her hand on the head of a stag; and in the corner, some fanciful poetry is written, which it is presumed was thought to be suitable to her peculiar taste.” Young Crawley.

This was the only picture he mentioned by name so it must have left an impression on him.

I then came across this picture on the internet of Tring Old Hall taken around 1885. Oddly the photograph was owned by the Natural History museum. The reason for this being the the animal skin rugs on the floor, which I will come back to later. I managed to obtain a high resolution version of the image and surprisingly hanging on the right hand wall was the pregnancy portrait. By now promoted to a prominent position in front of the fireplace.


Well this photograph raises some interesting possibilities. Were both paintings carried out at around the same time around 1600 in the same studio, that of Marcus Gheeraerts the younger? Was the Tring version a copy of the one in the Royal Collection? What are the differences between the two portraits which might give some clue as to changes that have been made to the Hampton Court version?

The Hampton Court painting was lost to the Royal Collection during the 17th century possibly as a result of the Civil War.

In the early 1700’s Sir John Stanley recovered for the Crown, the painting of “Queen Elizabeth in a strange fantastick habit” from a painter who had bought it at a flea market in Moor Fields.

This sounds an unlikely tale, It was however recorded by George Vertue the engraver in one of his note books of 1725 vol 1V. which was completed when he viewed the painting. The account was later written up in Vol 24 of the Walpole society.

George Vertue Note books 1725 vol 1V. 24th volume of the Walpole Society

We must assume that when it was discovered it was minus a frame otherwise the huge portrait would have made an extraordinary sight in the Georgian equivalent of a car boot sale.

A clue about a copy being made during its absence may be that it was in the hands of a painter.

The history of Tring Park Mansion

So let’s take a look at the history of Tring Park Mansion to see if this helps to establish when the painting arrived there.

During the time of Charles II the estate belonged to Henry Guy (1631-1710), Groom to the Bedchamber and Clerk of the Treasury.

He was in charge of ‘secret service accounts’ for the King; amongst other duties he provided maintenance for Nell Gwynn.

He also served under James II and was a member of parliament for Hedon in Yorkshire for many years. On the death of Henrietta Maria in 1669 Guy obtained a grant of the manor of Great Tring. In the early 1680s he chose to enclose his 250 acre estate at Tring and build a new house.

William 111

Tring House in 1700

William III dined at Tring Park in June 1690 and Guy was made a Commissioner of Customs in 1691. Soon after however he was charged with accepting a bribe and sent to the Tower of London.William 111 He was certainly connected to Royalty.

In 1705 Henry Guy sold the estate to Sir William Gore, Lord Mayor of London. In whose family it remained for four generations. Sir William was well connected, his grandfather also being Lord Mayor of London. He was also a founding member of the Bank of England.

He lived only 3 years after buying the estate. Here he is with his wife in the Parish Church Tring. This was an attempt to get away from the tradition of effigies of the dead lying supine on the grave.

Personally I think it would be better if they were lying down. Goodness knows what they were supposed to be talking about.

In 1710 William Gore was succeeded at Tring by his son (also William, d. 1739). William Gore the younger employed the architect James Gibbs (1682-1754) to alter and improve the existing house. What Gibbs did at Tring exactly is unclear as records do not survive to document his work.

Upon his death in 1739 William Gore the younger bequeathed the Tring estate to his son Charles who did a little light gardening as can be seen from the plans drawn for him in 1739.

1786 Charles died without issue and consequently the Tring estate was sold to Sir Drummond Smith (1740-1816), son of a London merchant and himself probably a London banker. Drummond Smith was responsible for several considerable alterations to Tring Park house in the 1780s, including moulded and carved ceilings. His other contribution was to rip up the gardens. He died without issue.

William Kay (d. 1838) purchased the estate at auction in 1820. Kay, the son of a yeoman farmer, was born in Cumberland and had established himself in the textile industry in Manchester. A trade directory of 1804 lists William Kay as a cotton manufacturer, with a mill in Watling Street, Manchester.

As a result it is possible that during the early- nineteenth century Kay was acquainted with Nathan Mayer Rothschild who had begun the English Rothschilds’ first successful business enterprise in textile trading and finance in Manchester in about 1798. Kay was succeeded at Tring in 1838 by his son, also William (d. 1865). He and his wife were childless, and after his death the estate was sold: it was eventually offered for auction in 1872.

Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1808-1879)

Lionel de Rothschild had rented the stabling and coach house on the Tring Park estate from the 1840s. Lionel evidently knew and admired the estate (which was around 3,500 acres) when it came up for sale in 1872 and decided to purchase it for nearly £250,000.

Tring Park was the third substantial house established by the Rothschild family in the Vale of Aylesbury. It was intended not for Lionel himself however but his eldest son, Nathaniel de Rothschild (1840-1915,) created 1st Lord Rothschild in 1885). It was a belated wedding present.

Lionel Rothschild died in 1879 and his extensive collection of Old Masters was distributed to his children. It is reasonable to conclude that Nathaniel was then the owner of our portrait of interest.

During the 1880’s Nathaniel began significant structural alterations to the house, Much of which was controversial. He not only extended his new residence but also substantially transformed its exterior: the original house was encased externally in red brick, and elaborate stone dressings were added.

Nathaniel Mayer de Rothschild (1840-1915)

By the 1880s Tring Park had been transformed into a considerable red-brick house in the

eighteenth-century French style, with stone dressings and slate mansard roof. These alterations were undertaken in such earnest that the older structure was almost entirely obscured. In 1880 Young Crawley noted that the house had been ‘built in the reign of Charles II’, but that now there were ‘no external marks of antiquity’. These wholesale alterations gave the mansion the manner of an 18th Century French château. Despite the exterior alterations Nathaniel retained the majority of the original seventeenth- century building of Tring Park and its interior plan (simply encasing it) as well as much of its interior features.

What concerns us here is that he made alterations to the “Morning Room” by replacing the double height ceiling with a barrel vaulted structure to reduce the visible height of the room. He also erected large glass doors separating off the morning room from the main hallway. Nathanial’s study was a small room adjoining the morning room. You can see it here on the corner of the building with the morning room just behind it in the centre of the building.

Walter de Rothschild (1868-1937)

As a slight digression, Nathaniel had a son Walter. Walter was a banker, politician, zoologist and soldier. It is fair to say he was somewhat eccentric. Seen here with his team of zebras.

Following the death of his father in 1915 he lived at Tring Mansion with his mother Emma and established a massive collection of zoological specimens. On his death these were given to the Natural History Museum of which his personal museum the The Walter Rothschild Zoological Museum at Tring is now part.

It was because of Walter’s interest in wildlife, much of which, it has to be said was either stuffed or flattened that this photograph was taken The estimated date of the photograph is around 1885. You can clearly see the double height ceiling, and the hallway in the distance is open to the room.

This the same room after the alterations. The work was done around 1890 and this image was published in Country Homes magazine of 1897. The ceiling is vaulted, the room divided from the hall and there is a large Gainsborough portrait on the right hand wall. The room description tells of ornate bookcases, but no word of the Pregnancy Portrait.

This photograph is from a collection by photographer Bedford Lemere, 1890 (NMRC) National Monument Record Centre. Many photographs were taken of the inside of the house but the portrait of Elizabeth is nowhere to be seen. The Rothschild Archive have checked their copy of the book published by Lemere and confirm this.

Tantalisingly this view on the left shows more of the right hand wall, but not the space where the painting was hung. An inventory of the contents of Tring Park Mansion was carried out in 1915 and the painting was not included.

John Leyland writing in Country Life of 1897 comments on this picture of Elizabeth 1st hanging in Nathaniel Rothschild’s study. indicating that he had at least some interest in paintings of the queen.

My guess is that he was not enamoured of the Pregnancy portrait and disposed of it.

Just to complete the story of the house. It remained in Rothschild Family until after WW2 and was eventually became an Arts educational school called Tring Park, which remains to this day.

So what can we learn from all this? Let’s work backwards. The painting was described in 1819 and the three previous owners of the house before this were:

Henry Guy (1680-1705) who built it. He was a favourite of Charles 11, so it could have been the case of here’s some money for a house and a nice big picture to go in it.

Sir William Gore (1705-1786) ex Lord Mayor of London could have brought it with him and stayed in the house for the next 3 generations.

Sir Drummond Smith (1786-1816). Apart from being a London banker nothing known about him. He may have brought the picture with him to Tring

Henry Guy had the strongest connections to Royalty and my guess is that painting came with him, this would fit with it being copied from the original in the latter part of the 17th century. As I described earlier each time the house changed hands it did so with the death of the owner with no issue so the contents probably went with it to the next owner.

Clues from the photograph

So the next step is to see if we can learn anything about the painting from the photograph taken in 1885. Well the first thing is that it is large and in a substantial frame similar in design to the Hampton Court Palace painting which is 2.4 metres high. One way of examining it is with the aid of the Photoshop warp feature to turn the oblique image into a rectangle. Nothing is added by this process, the pixels are merely rearranged into the proportions of the original painting.

The preliminary result is shown above on the right where I have corrected the image to the known proportions of the Hampton Court Palace version of 241cm by 152cm. This was just a guess, and the proportions didn’t look quite right.

I then resized the image so that the vertical length of the figure in both pictures was the same. The result is shown above on the left.

I then realised that the paintings are different sizes with much more tree visible at the top on the Tring version and less foreground at the very bottom. Even given the inherent inaccuracies of working with such a poor image this appears to be real.

Now let’s look more closely at different areas of the image. Below is the top part of the picture. As noted there is more of the tree above the head in the Tring painting. The leaf pattern is very different being much more sparse in the upper picture, and extending less far downwards. The bright white area over the left shoulder is an artefact, probably caused by the flash, which reflects off other items in the room.

Vertue’s description of the painting describes flying birds which the feint shadow may represent. Addition of the leaves and walnuts has obliterated this space in the sky.

The hair hangs closely to the left of the subjects face with no sign of the mane of hair cascading over the shoulder in the Hampton Court Version.There is just the faintest suggestion of a spherical object adjacent to the neck. Unfortunately the resolution is insufficient to see if an armillary sphere or large pendant hangs from the hair.

The edge of the veil is much more vertical in the upper image and hangs very naturally. In fact it hangs entirely to the left of the later version.

Moving down we come to the most interesting part of the painting. You may remember that I spent a great deal of time trying to understand the scenery behind the left arm. The seemingly impossible effect of a receding landscape ending up as a row of bushes with flowers in front of them. I said at the time that Marcus Gheeraerts the artist traditionally painted a receding landscape behind the subject.

I’m, sure you have already realised what I am going to say next. The structure depicted on the skyline is a building. This is not an artefact. It can be seen even on the original photograph. We can see a vertical wall and what appears to be a domed roof. Before considering what it might be, let’s look at the combination of these differences between the two paintings.

Here is the upper right quadrant of the Hampton Court Palace picture. There is a row of glass beads along the lower edge of the Hampton Court version, which I always thought was odd. In the Tring version they are at the top of the veil.

Here I have superimposed a tracing of the veil of the Tring painting.

Now I have added the outline of the extent of the leaves on the tree in the Tring painting.

And lastly I have added the skyline from the Tring painting. If we make the assumption that the Tring copy is at least reasonably accurate, the extent of the overpainting is as shown. The chaffinches are an addition along with the seemingly gravity defying walnuts which I discussed in an earlier presentation.

Vertue tells us about flying birds, these have been obliterated by removing their airspace. Why would that be?

Well I did discuss this in my original study. The lone walnut tree, a songbird in the top of the tree, the phoenixes on the Queen’s dress and birds flying in at the behest of the songbird, all point towards Shakespeare’s poem The Phoenix and the Turtle (dove). A tale of the death of two lovers after an unspecified failure. It is a reasonable conclusion that the overpainting was to remove the birds. Just as the songbird has been overpainted, but mercifully still visible.

So let’s turn to this curious building.

All we have is a silhouette. There is a rising skyline, then what appears to be foliage, leading to an abrupt vertical wall.

The wall is either curved, or the top of the structure is domed. There are no crenelations.

If we enlarge even further, I just wonder if there is a separation of the top of the structure into two elements.

The part on the left has a pointed top, with a rising curve beside it.

Those of you who have watched my presentations on Nonsuch Palace will know that there were extraordinary gardens, containing statues of the Goddess Diana and her encounter with Actaeon the hunter. If you haven’t had a chance to watch them please do it is a fascinating story.

Nonsuch was a party palace where Elizabeth 1st entertained her courtiers. The design of the gardens was an expression of her dual personality, that of the caring monarch and that of the Goddess Diana who would stop at nothing to avenge wrongs against her.

One element of the gardens was the Grove of Diana. Standing in this was the temple of Diana. No images exist, but it was described by Anthony Watson sometime after 1582. “Further on we came to a small vaulted temple, where was a
fine marble table where inscribed here thus on the nearest wall.” “The goddess of chastity gives no unchaste counsels: she does not counsel disgrace, she avenges it; they are the fruits of an evil mind and an evil spirit.”

On the right was written: “From an impure fountain, impure springs, from an unpleasant mind a sight defiled”

On the left was written:“Shade for the heated, a seat for the weary; in the shade though shalt not become shady, nor sitting grow serpent eyed”

So what does all this mean? In 1991 Michael Leslie writing on the Gardens of Eloquence gives us an explanation. Nonsuch offers a series of experiences, as the visitor follows his path. At the heart of the garden there is a challenge to the onlooker.

The visitor is asked to read the scene and apply the moral. It seems to me that the moral is pretty clear: If you are involved in any sort of vice, you will be punished.

So could this be the building in the photograph?

Temple of Diana Nimes, France

The definition of vaulted means an arched roof.

There are many ancient temples to Artemis (Greek) and Diana (Roman). This one is from Nimes in France painted in the 18th century, much larger but showing a vaulted roof. There is no doubt the building in the photograph of our painting is of importance, otherwise it would not be there.

Without any reference as to scale its size is hard to judge, It does however stand on a rise.In Watson’s description

“The Grove is approached by a gentle slope leading down from a garden path hidden in the shade of the trees Wooden steps nearby and post and rail fencing guided the visitor to a woodland palace just past the fountain, in the form of a small vaulted temple.”

Another element of the gardens was the banqueting house, which was quadrangular. It was a two story wooden structure built on a brick base with 4 rounded corners clad in lead with windows giving wide ranging views. It was surmounted by a lantern. It was a big structure being 50 metres across and stood on a small rise.

Yo can se the plan view here.

Interestingly the lie of the land at Nonsuch is such that the banqueting house would be visible from the Grove of Diana and perhaps such a view would show one of the corner towers in profile.

In my opinion it strengthens my argument that the painting of Elizabeth is set in the Gardens of Nonsuch, her most favourite palace.

If we move down the photograph the black thumb ring is clearly visible. I am pretty sure that we can make out the stag’s eye, nostrils and the outline of the nose.

Dugdale tells us that in the Tring portrait the poem is within a scroll below the tree. Crawley says that it was in the corner immediately after writing about the stag. This might suggest that it was in the left hand corner. Unfortunately there is no sign of it on the photograph. We do know however that the text of the poem is identical in both portraits

The dress itself can be compared which may give a clue to the quality of the workmanship. The row of 5 birds, two perched and 3 flaming phoenixes are present, in corresponding positions

The position of the roses in the upper part of the robe is consistent, but further down there is very little similarity. In addition the folds in the overlying wrap, so beautifully rendered in the Hampton Court Palace version are entirely absent from the Tring Park Mansion one.

The fact that the pattern is less complex might seem to indicate that the copyist lacked the requisite skill to achieve the finer points of the work.

I know that some of you have expressed doubts about the figure being pregnant, or indeed saying that if pregnant it cannot be a portrait of Elizabeth. It is important to remember that this is an allegory. If at some stage she had been pregnant she was never painted as such. She is depicted here as Diana, always portrayed as a young woman.

Here is the relevant part of the picture. Unfortunately the detail under the left arm is blurred, but the left hand side of the robe bulges out even more than the Hampton Court version.

What have we learned?

Well, the portrait was probably copied during the period the original was absent from the Royal collection. The recovery from a painter points to this.

It was most likely to have been brought o the house by Henry Guy around 1700. The copy was fairly accurate in the depiction of the figure, but lacks some detail. There are distinct differences in layout between the two pictures which confirm my original observations in 2018.

The presence of a building in the background calls into question the original scene behind the figure in the Hampton Court Palace version of the painting, and further adds weight to the argument that the painting was altered in order to hide something.

The nature of the setting, and the theme of Diana together with the building in the background is consistent with the scene being in the gardens of Nonsuch Palace. Further supporting my assertion that the subject is Queen Elizabeth because of her close association with the palace.

Where is it?

I know what you are thinking, why didn’t he just look at the Tring Park painting. Well here’s the problem, I don’t know where it is.

The Rothschild family were great collectors of art, but tended to concentrate on German and European artists, reflecting their ancestry. They did not neglect Elizabeth 1st as they had another painting of her. It seems likely that Nathaniel either sold the painting of Elizabeth and the stag around 1885 or moved it to another residence. This was not a painting you could tuck away in a corner and presumably the Gainsborough was more to his liking

It was certainly not at Tring by 1915.

Nicola Pickering wrote a PhD thesis in 2013 on the Rothschild properties in the vale of Aylesbury and it is not mentioned there.

The Rothschild Archives does not hold records of the sales of paintings and the family used a variety of agencies to sell or auction belongings. Neither Sotherbys, Christies and Bonhams have records of such a sale.

I am awaiting information from the Witt library at Somerset House which keeps records of works of art, along with known copies.

If the painting changed hands privately then locating it would be impossible.

Can you help?

It is hard to exaggerate the importance of being able to compare these two paintings. Such a comparison would either confirm or refute what I have deduced from the photograph, and may well uncover more of the mysteries of the original painting.

So if anyone out there has any information as to its whereabouts I would be very grateful to hear from you.

I doubt that it has been destroyed. It could however be anywhere in the world.

It is not easy to miss at over 2 metres tall. So please look out for it on your travels.

David Shakespeare June 2021


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