Laudari A Laudato Laudatissimum: Trewithen’s Portrait of William Laud
Essay by Emily Burns
Among the collection of predominantly Georgian pictures at Trewithen House in Cornwall can be found a curious portrait of the influential seventeenth-century divine William Laud (1573–1645; TN61). Laud is portrayed in the manner of a living bust in a trompe l’oeil architectural roundel of stone decorated with gilded and inscribed Baroque scrolling and his coat of arms. Until now, the picture has received little critical attention and has rarely been exhibited.1 The style of the clothing and pose suggest the portrait was fashioned after a well-known earlier likeness of Laud (fig. 1) by the Principal Painter to King Charles I, Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641). Yet it differs in many respects and represents an important juncture in the iconography of Laud and the artistic legacy of Van Dyck. By unpicking the meanings found within this complex portrait, the present essay aims to throw light on why and when such a picture might have been created, and by and for whom.
Born the tenth child and only son of a wealthy Reading clothier and educated at St John’s College, Oxford, William Laud rose to be the most senior clergyman in the Church of England. Laud was a forceful personality whose High Church views courted controversy from early in his career, but he was protected by influential figures such as the royal favourite, George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham (1592–1628). After Buckingham’s death, Laud secured the patronage of Charles himself, which led to a series of senior roles, such as Chancellor of Oxford University in 1630, Archbishop of Canterbury in 1633 and Lord Treasurer from 1635 to 1636. Laud was devoted to Charles I and was associated with the unpopular policies that led to the monarch’s downfall and, ultimately, his own. In particular, Laud championed the enforcement of uniform High Church worship across the kingdom, which met with opposition from puritans in England and Scotland. He experienced a rapid fall from grace in 1640, shortly after publishing controversial canons, when he was branded a papist, impeached, imprisoned and, five years later, executed on Tower Hill.2
As befitted his senior position, Laud sat for the leading artists of the Caroline court, notably Daniel Mytens, Hubert le Sueur and Van Dyck.3 There is no contemporary record of a portrait comparable to that at Trewithen, and its similarity to Van Dyck’s picture makes it most likely to be an adaptation of that well-known likeness. The Trewithen portrait nevertheless deviates from the Van Dyck prototype in a number of significant ways. In the Trewithen version, as in the Van Dyck, Laud wears the monochrome episcopal robes, ruff and Canterbury cap of his office. However, only his head and shoulders are shown and the column to the left is missing, as is the red and gold drape to the right. Van Dyck has Laud turning to his right, his languid eyes connecting with the viewer, but the Trewithen Laud is positioned, somewhat unusually, square on and glancing to his right. The pose, coupled with the wateriness of the eyes, raised eyebrows and furrowed brow, gives an expression of apprehension. Laud’s face, with his sunken eyes and papery, wrinkled skin, also arguably appears more aged in the Trewithen version. The cartouche above his head bears a coloured medallion displaying his coat of arms; to the left, right and below are Latin inscriptions that have been painted as if embossed onto the scrolls (figs. 2, 3 and 4). The effect is curiously reminiscent of a sculpted tomb monument.
Why might Laud have been shown in this different way, and when might such a work have been executed? Unfortunately, there is little known provenance to help answer these questions. There is no mention of the portrait before it was recorded at Bignor Park, Sussex in 1832, three years after the property had been rebuilt by John Hawkins (1761–1841; TN46), the younger brother of Sir Christopher Hawkins (1788–1829) of Trewithen.4 The portrait was recorded subsequently when exhibited in London in June 1846 as the property of J. H. Hawkins, Esq,5 John Hawkins’s son, John Heywood Hawkins (1802–1877), who inherited Bignor Park on his father’s death.6 The portrait stayed at Bignor until 1925, when it was sold by the executors of the will of Mrs Heywood Johnstone, the wife of John Heywood Johnstone (1850–1904).7 It was purchased subsequently for Trewithen by her son, George H. Johnstone (1882–1960),8 and features for the first time in a Trewithen inventory of 1928.9
John Hawkins was a wealthy polymath who evidently purchased pictures to furnish his residence at Bignor Park, among which may have been the Laud portrait. Alternatively, he could have inherited the work through his wife, Mary Esther Sibthorp of Lincoln. It is also possible that the portrait originated from the Hawkins family collection at Trewithen and was moved to Bignor Park after Hawkins inherited Trewithen from his brother in 1829. An inventory of the Library at Trewithen of 1768 suggests the family had been stoutly High Church for generations, with some Tory leanings, which would be in keeping with a commission of a portrait of Laud.10
One other possibility is that the picture came to Trewithen in the eighteenth century from Stowe, in Kilkhampton, Cornwall. The house, built by a close ally of Charles II, John Granville, contained a notable collection of Royalist images. When it was demolished in 1739, the collection and parts of the interior found their way into other Cornish houses.11 Among the former Stowe pictures, a portrait of Charles II by Kneller (TN55) was acquired by the Hawkins family and was at Trewithen by the early 1790s. Perhaps the portrait of Laud was another such acquisition?
Even though the circumstances surrounding its creation are unknown, the unusual iconography and inscriptions suggest that the artist was accommodating the specific instructions of a patron. The side inscriptions commemorate Laud’s appointment as Archbishop of Canterbury at the age of sixty in 1633, with a pun on his surname and a maxim cited by Cicero: Laudari A Laudato [viro] (to be praised by a man of praise).12 The lower inscription is a contracted version of the Latin poem Bonus Civis (The Good Citizen) by the Anglican clergyman and poet George Herbert (1593–1633), which can be translated as:
Shrewd humility, picking out
And making prominent the good
Man, makes that good one richer
Than if he alone
Were appropriating everything. She shows
Her prudence through another’s acts.13
Evidently, whoever commissioned this painting was sympathetic to Laud’s and Herbert’s religious beliefs and Laud’s actions as archbishop. It is, perhaps, a little odd that the characteristics of humility and prudence are picked out as particular traits to associate with Laud. At best, he has been described as ‘A man of great parts, and very exemplary virtues’ (according to the Royalist Earl of Clarendon);14 at worst, he was ‘a little, low red-faced man’ (so said the puritan Sir Simonds d’Ewes), ‘combative, eloquent and intractable’ and of undisguised ‘exopthalmic irascibility and . . . intransigence’.15
The combination of this encomiastic text with the honorific heraldry and monumental setting suggests that the painting was made to commemorate Laud sometime after his execution in 1645. That the portrait is posthumous might also explain his apprehensive expression, as if in anticipation of his fate, which elicits empathy from the viewer. Likenesses of Laud in the years directly following his death are mostly in the form of vituperative satirical prints.16 It is, therefore, more likely that this painting was made after the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, when Laud’s reputation had begun to revive.17 This factor might explain also why Laud appears older than in Van Dyck’s painting: perhaps because the artist wanted to update the likeness to resemble the sitter’s age of seventy-two at the time of his death.
There are a few moments in the 1660s when the commission of a commemorative portrait of Laud might have been opportune: one was when Laud’s body was re-interred at his alma mater St John’s in 1663, having initially been buried at All Hallows, Barking; another was in 1668, the year Peter Heylyn’s heroic life of Laud, Cyprianus Anglicus, was first published.18 Herbert’s popularity also continued into the Restoration, with Izaak Walton publishing The life of Mr George Herbert in 1670: hence the inclusion of lines from his poem in the portrait would be in keeping with a post-Restoration date.19 There is a chance that the portrait is from even later in the century, as imagery of Laud, mostly prints based on the Van Dyck portrait type, as well as books on him and Herbert’s writings continued to be published in the late seventeenth and into the eighteenth century.20
The design of the Trewithen portrait may also offer clues about the original display of the work. Rather than adopting the rectangular format more common in portraiture, the canvas is square, which suggests it might have been planned to fit in a specific space. Similarly, the feigned ornamental roundel around the bust may have been designed to complement a particular architectural scheme. The formal qualities and the choice of sitter also lend themselves to being part of a portrait set – perhaps featuring other Caroline martyrs such as Lord Strafford or leading Anglican divines such as William Juxton – that might have been displayed above doors or windows on four sides of a room. Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon had one such set of eleven portraits of bishops, which included a portrait of Laud.21 However, to date, no such similar portraits have been identified.22
Regardless of the circumstances surrounding its display, the trope of a portrait set in a roundel was common in prints of the time, so it is possible that a print of Laud after Van Dyck was used as the basis for Trewithen’s portrait.23 This was also possibly the case with at least one other post-Restoration portrait of Laud – a bust length in a feigned oval – which was last recorded at Capesthorne Hall, Macclesfield.24 The possible link to print sources may also help to explain why the direction of light is reversed from the Van Dyck original but the same as several printed copies after it, and the high ratio of text to image. Van Dyck’s portrait of Laud was first etched in half length by Wenceslaus Hollar (1607–1677) in 1640,25 followed in 1641 by another version framed in an oval (fig. 5). Other, later versions after the Van Dyck type in an oval include engravings by David Loggan of c.1663–84 and Robert White of c.1663–1700 (figs. 6 and 7).26 It appears that the Trewithen portraitist might have consulted Hollar’s design of 1641 in particular for his likeness of Laud. Indeed, of all the prints of Laud in a roundel, Hollar’s shows the shadow by the archbishop’s head in the greatest – albeit inverted – contrast, similar to the shadowing in the Trewithen Laud. Other closely corresponding details include the pronounced gap at the base of the ruff and the black band below it, and Laud’s distinctly shortened and raised left eyebrow, none of which are evident in Loggan’s and White’s fashionably updated versions. Furthermore, the Trewithen inscription celebrates Laud’s appointment as archbishop, as was common in prints long after the prelate’s death, while Loggan’s image was the first print to proclaim him a martyr in its inscription: ‘Martyrio Coronatus’. Nevertheless, the inclusion of coats of arms with Laud’s portrait does not seem to have occurred until Loggan’s and White’s prints, which might indicate a date later than the 1660s for the Trewithen work.
In the seventeenth century, painters were required to carry out a wide range of tasks, including portraiture, decorative painting and copying the work of old masters and contemporary artists. Therefore, it is quite likely that a single versatile artist was responsible for all aspects of the portrait. In the past, the picture has been attributed to the English portrait painter William Dobson (1611–1646), although this suggestion has been dismissed on stylistic grounds by leading scholars.27 Moreover, Dobson died just after Laud so he could not have created a post-Restoration portrait, as the Trewithen work seems to be. Several artists of a later generation, known both for their portraiture and decorative work, who may be considered in Dobson’s stead are Emanuel de Critz (1608–1665), Robert Streater (1621–1679) and Isaac Fuller (1606/20?–1672).
De Critz painted decorative schemes, such as that at Wilton House, Wiltshire, as well as portraits. One early portrait attributed to him, of John Tradescant the Elder, shows the sitter in an elaborate oval surround (fig. 8). He also worked as a copyist and would have been familiar with copies after Van Dyck, which were much in demand in the years following the artist’s death. Robert Streater (or Streeter) appears to have had a Royalist allegiance, travelling in Italy during the Commonwealth and becoming Serjeant-painter to Charles II after the Restoration. A versatile painter, he specialised in large-scale architectural and decorative allegorical and history paintings, such as Truth inspiring the Arts and Sciences in the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford (1668–9) and much work in churches, mostly lost, but also portraits, such as that of Sir Francis Prujean (fig. 9). Streater was particularly noted for his mastery of perspective and imitation, which are both qualities that are displayed in the Trewithen portrait.28
Isaac Fuller was a painter and printmaker, who is thought to have trained in France under François Perrier (1584/90–1640) in the late 1640s, but was back in England by 1650 when some of his etchings were published. He spent periods of time in the 1650s and ’60s working in Oxford – a place with strong links to Royalism and Laud. Fuller is best known for his religious paintings in Oxford college chapels, such as All Souls, and secular decoration of London taverns and theatres, now lost, but he is also notable as a painter of arrestingly original portraits and self-portraits.29 One of his self-portraits is set in a cartouche (fig. 10) and two other portraits in even more elaborate settings, comparable to the Trewithen picture, have been attributed to him (figs. 11 and 12). Laud’s striking visage in the Trewithen portrait is characteristic of the sort of charged expression found in Fuller’s faces, while details such as the slightly backlit head, the rendering of the nose, eyelids, mouth and modelling of cheekbones and the ridges of the stone surround are comparable to Fuller’s work of the 1660s.
Ultimately, the enigmatic portrait of William Laud at Trewithen stands apart from the numerous representations of the archbishop made during his life and after his death. It is argued here that Van Dyck’s well-known likeness of Laud at the height of his powers was adapted and its meaning augmented to meet the demands of an Anglican – and possibly Royalist – patron in the years after the controversial prelate’s death, most likely after the Restoration. The high quality of the painting indicates an artist adept at decorative painting, portraiture and copying, who apparently drew inspiration from reproductions of the celebrated Van Dyck portrait type and also, possibly, tomb sculpture. Circumstantial evidence suggests that the artist in question may be Isaac Fuller, although the attribution, like many other issues relating to this mysterious picture, remains a matter of speculation.
The portrait, listed as the property of ‘J. H. Hawkins, Esq.’, was exhibited as by ‘Dobson’ in the Catalogue of portraits of illustrious and eminent persons in history, literature and art, with which the proprietors have favoured the institution, British Institution, Pall Mall, June 1846, London: William Scott, 1846, p. 12, no. 105.1
Facts of Laud’s biography have been taken from Anthony Milton, ‘Laud, William (1573–1645)’, in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004; online ed. David Cannadine, May 2009, http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/16112 (accessed 8 March 2018).2
For an almost complete list of known portraits of Laud, see John Ingamells, The English Episcopal Portrait, 1559–1835, London: Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 1981, pp. 265–72. Michael Jaffé added one other portrait type: Michael Jaffé, ‘Van Dyck Studies I: The Portrait of Archbishop Laud’, The Burlington Magazine, October 1982, p. 605 n. 31. Multiple other copies and versions of the Van Dyck portrait were made, including those at the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg; Lambeth Palace, London; and St John’s College, Oxford. There was some disagreement by scholars over which version was Van Dyck’s original, until conservation of the Fitzwilliam portrait (no. 2043) by the Hamilton Kerr Institute in 1981 revealed that it was the prime. For discussion of the various Laud portraits by and after Van Dyck, see Jaffé, 1982, pp. 600–7; Karen Hearn, Van Dyck in Britain, London: Tate Publishing, 2009, p. 104; Oliver Millar, ‘Van Dyck in England’, in Susan J. Barnes et al., Van Dyck: A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings, New Haven and London: Yale University Press for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2004, pp. 549–50. See also David Piper, Catalogue of Seventeenth-Century Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery, 1625–1714, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press for the Trustees of the National Portrait Gallery, 1963, p. 194; H. Gerson and J. W. Goodison, Catalogue of Paintings, vol. 1, Cambridge: Syndics of the Fitzwilliam Museum, 1960, pp. 37–8.3
James Dallaway, The Parochial Topography of the Rape of Arundel, in the Western Division of the County of Sussex, new edn by Edmund Cartwright, 2 vols, London: John Bowler Nichols and Son, 1832, vol. 2, pt 1, p. 249 n. a. The picture is described as ‘a remarkable fine portrait of Archbishop Laud, by Dobson’.4
See n. 1.5
Will of John Hawkins of Bignor Park, Sussex, 11 October 1841, NA PROB 11/1955/807.6
The picture is listed, as by Van Dyck, in a Christie’s auction of the collection of ‘Mrs Heywood Johnstone, deceased, late of Bignor Park’, 20 February 1925, p. 15 (101).7
George H. Johnstone inherited the estates of Bignor Park and Trewithen, among others, from his father, John Heywood Johnstone. He settled at Trewithen and sold Bignor Park to Charles Bigham, second Viscount Mersey (1872–1956) in 1926. A handwritten note on the back of a photograph of the Laud portrait in the Heinz Archive and Library, National Portrait Gallery, London, reads: ‘This picture . . . was one of a representative collection of pictures at Bignor Park, Sussex . . . the pictures at Bignor Park were not left to me and were all sold. This one of Abp. Laud I bought at the sale. The house at Bignor Park was sold by me[?] to Lord Mersey who now lives there’. The note is unsigned, but ‘Mrs G. H. Johnstone’ is written in a firmer hand below.8
The Trewithen Inventory and Valuation, W.E.F. March 1928 lists it as hanging in the ‘Main Corridor, Landing and Staircase to Ground Floor’. The picture’s change of location and ownership might also explain attempts to find out more about the work: the art historian C. H. Collins-Baker responded in May 1953 to an enquiry of 29 April about ‘Archp Laud from Bignor: now at Trewithen Cornwall’, sitter notes – ‘Laud’, Heinz Archive and Library, National Portrait Gallery.9
‘The Library’, Inventory of Household Goods and furniture, Trewithen, 31 December 1768, CRO J/1/1691, ff. 11–28. I am grateful to Dr Ayla Lepine and Fergus Butler-Gallie for their opinion on the religious leanings of the Trewithen library. The Hawkins family were not at Trewithen until Philip Hawkins (1700–1738) bought it in 1728; one Hawkins branch lived in Trewinnard near St Erth from 1650 (John, d. 1676, and Thomas, d. 1716) and the other in Grampound, first at Penbethan (Henry) and then Pennans, or Pennance.10
Michael Trinick, ‘The Great House of Stowe’, Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall, vol. 8, part 2, 1979, pp. 90–108.11
Cicero’s source was Naevius. A phrase similar to that in the Trewithen inscription occurs three times in Cicero, the closest in form being that in Epistles, V, xii, 7.12
The Trewithen inscription is derived from George Herbert, ‘XIII: Bonus Civis’, from ‘Lucus’, in F. E. Hutchinson, The Works of George Herbert, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1941, p. 412; translation from George Herbert, with Mark McCloskey and Paul R. Murphy (trans.), ‘13. The good citizen’, in The Latin Poetry of George Herbert: A Bilingual Edition, Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 1965, p. 91.13
Clarendon, Selections, 1955, p. 103, cited in Millar, 2004, p. 550.14
Sir Simonds d’Ewes, Autobiography and Correspondence, ed. J. O. Halliwell, 2 vols, London, 1845, vol. 2, p. 100; Jaffé, 1982, pp. 603 and 606.15
Satirical prints of Laud include an etching featuring Mr Henry Burton of 10 January 1645, British Museum (1861, 1214.427), and an allegory published by John Hancock in 1646 showing Royalists including Laud drowning in a flood while the ‘Ark of England’ is safely floating, British Museum (Y,1.17). For a study of print satire on Laud, see Helen Pierce, ‘Anti-Episcopacy and Graphic Satire in England, 1640–1645’, The Historical Journal, vol. 47, no. 4, December 2004, pp. 809–48. However, some prints after the Van Dyck portrait did continue to be made, such as a line engraving made in 1654 by an unknown engraver (National Portrait Gallery, NPG D21583). Painted portraits were also still in circulation: a copy after the Van Dyck Laud was bought in 1656 as part of a set of the artist’s portraits for Philip, fourth Baron Wharton: Jaffé, 1982, p. 605 n. 29.16
This return to favour is evident in prints such as that made in the 1660s which depicts portraits of Charles and his adherents, including Laud, as well as the frontispiece to Winstanley’s ‘Loyall Martyrology’, 1665, which gives Laud’s portrait a prominent position: National Portrait Gallery, NPG D22672 and D26783. Jaffé also describes how a version of the Van Dyck portrait in Reading (Ingamells, 1981, no. C9), inscribed ‘King Charles the Martyr’, was presented in 1667 by Dr Peter Mews when he returned to St John’s College as president: Jaffé, 1982, p. 603.17
Milton, 2009, http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/16112 (accessed 22 March 2018).18
Helen Wilcox, ‘Herbert, George (1593–1633)’, in http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/13025 (accessed 8 March 2018).19
Portraits of Laud in these years include an engraving of Charles I and William Laud in prayer, c.1660–99 (British Museum, 1981,U.3025), and an engraving by George Vertue after Van Dyck, illustration to Ward’s ‘The History of the Grand Rebellion’ (1713; British Museum, P,3.11). The popularity of Herbert’s writings in the late 17th century can be exemplified by the fact that The Temple went through thirteen editions by 1709. Heylyn’s Cyprianus Anglicus was also republished several more times in the late 17th and early 18th century, and Laud’s surviving papers were published by Henry Wharton in 1695.20
Ingamells, 1981, type C27, recorded as in the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry: Jaffé, 1982, p. 604.21
John Woodward, Assistant Keeper at the Ashmolean Museum, letter to Christopher Hussey, 24 April 1953, states, ‘there is no evidence that it was ever at the Bodleian, though its frame reminds one of the recently uncovered frieze; nor was it ever in the early collections of portraits belonging to this Museum’: sitter notes – ‘Laud’, Heinz Archive and Library, National Portrait Gallery.22
Collins-Baker suggested the reverse, that the portrait was the basis for a new print. He thought ‘it is (most likely) the working painting made by such a craftsman for the production of an engraving presently after Laud’s death’: letter, May 1953, ibid.23
Jaffé states that the portrait (oil on canvas, 31 x 25 cm) was painted ‘presumably’ for Speaker William Bromley (1663–1732) of Baignton, Worcestershire, from whom it descended to Colonel Sir Walter Bromley-Davenport at Capesthorne Hall. He proposes that the picture might have been based on an engraving by R. White: Jaffé, 1982, p. 605 n. 31.24
Etching of Laud by Wenceslaus Hollar after Van Dyck, 1640 (British Museum, 1850,1109.167). See also Richard Pennington, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Etched Work of Wenceslaus Hollar, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982, p. 252. Hollar’s prints are after the Fitzwilliam Museum portrait type.25
British Museum, P,3.4 and P,3.6. The Loggan version follows the Wharton portrait type. The British Museum and National Portrait Gallery give c.1684 for Loggan’s prints and c.1684–1700 for White’s, but Jaffé asserts that the prints are likely to have been published between 1663 and 1667: Jaffé, 1982, p. 600 n. 3, p. 603 n. 13, p. 604.26
For the attribution to Dobson see n. 1. Woodward stated in 1953, ‘it cannot be by Dobson. I have shown this photograph both to Mr. [David] Piper and to Mr. [Oliver] Millar, and they can suggest nothing more exact’: letter to Hussey, 24 April 1953, sitter notes – ‘Laud’, Heinz Archive and Library, National Portrait Gallery. Catharine MacLeod, curator of 17th-century portraits at the National Portrait Gallery, agreed with the above in correspondence, 14 August 2013, ibid.27
Edward Croft-Murray, Decorative Painting in England, 1537–1837, vol. 1: Early Tudor to Sir James Thornhill, London: Country Life, 1962, p. 226.28
Ibid., p. 202.29
- by Emily Burns
- 20 November 2020
- House Essay
- CC BY-NC International 4.0
- Cite as
- Emily Burns, "Laudari A Laudato Laudatissimum: Trewithen’s Portrait of William Laud", Art and the Country House, https://doi.org/10.17658/ACH/TNE501