Unknown Artist, Called Sir Roger Townshend Kt (1544–1590)

Photo courtesy of Tom St Aubyn (All rights reserved)


Country House
Raynham Hall
Called Sir Roger Townshend Kt (1544–1590)
Date Unknown
The Morning Room
Medium and support
Oil on panel
Overall height: 94 cm, Overall width: 71 cm
Unknown Artist
Catalogue Number


The portrait has been identified traditionally as Sir Roger Townshend (1544–1590) who served in the fleet that repulsed the Spanish Armada and whose portrait was included in the tapestries made to commemorate this victory. This portrait shows the sitter carrying a baton of command in his right hand and a ship bearing the English flag seen through an aperture in the upper right of the picture. Stylistically, this picture does not readily fall into any group of portraits made in England in the late sixteenth century and its attribution remains an enigma. Oliver Millar, in an annotation to Singh’s catalogue of 1928, stated ‘Copy of a Pourbus school picture (?)’. On a visit to Raynham in 1995 Millar noted that it was ‘slightly reminiscent’ of St William, the warrior saint, by Dosso Dossi (c.1490–1542) in the Royal Collection Trust (RCIN 405775). He also considered the head to be ‘rather un-English’.

A closely similar portrait of the same sitter but identified as William Strickland was sold at Sotheby’s, London, on 29 November 1978 (144). It once hung at Boynton Hall, Yorkshire, home to a cadet branch of the Strickland family whose fortunes were founded by William Strickland (d. 1598), who was an MP for Scarborough in Elizabeth I’s reign.1 By tradition he sailed across the Atlantic as one of Cabot’s lieutenants and is credited as introducing the turkey to England. When hanging at Boynton the picture was described as being ‘Dressed in white with an embroidered scarf’. It bears a cartelino that reads: ‘William Strickland who accompanied/ Sebastian Cabot on his voyage of/ discovery to America in the naval/ uniform of the period’. Both the History of Parliament and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography agree on the death date of Strickland being 1598, making it highly unlikely that he was the same man who sailed across the Atlantic in the first decade of the sixteenth century, if indeed any member of this family did travel with Cabot.2

The present portrait was exhibited at the National Portrait Exhibition, South Kensington, London, 1868. It was included the Townshend Heirlooms sale of 1904 and passed into the collection of Colonel Vere Ferrers Townshend, whose widow sold it at auction in 1946, where it was called ‘Mytens’. There, it was purchased by Spink and brought back subsequently to Rayham Hall.3

by Edward Town


Prince Frederick Duleep Singh, Portraits in Norfolk Houses, ed. Rev. Edmund Farrer, vol. 2, Norwich : Jarrold and Sons, 1928, vol. 2, p. 215, no. 109 (‘ADMIRAL SIR ROGER TOWNSHEND’)

Paul Mellon Centre Archive, Oliver Millar, 'Notes on a Visit to Raynham Hall', ONM/1/22, 8 April 1995, p. 19


  1. Lord Hawkesbury, ‘East Riding Portraits: Portraits at Boynton Hall in the Possession of Sir Charles W. Strickland’, Transactions of the East Riding Antiquarian Society, vol. 10, 1903, pp. 33–40.

  2.; (both accessed 1 February 2020).

  3. Townshend Heirlooms sale, Christie’s, London, 5 March 1904 (23); Christie’s, 3 May 1946 (50).


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