Lot 18
  • 18

Sir Anthony van Dyck

400,000 - 600,000 GBP
662,500 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Anthony van Dyck
  • Portrait of Frances Devereux, Countess of Hertford, and later Duchess of Somerset (1599–1674)
  • oil on canvas


By descent from the sitter to her grandson-in-law, Thomas Thynne (1640–1714), later 1st Viscount Weymouth;

Possibly acquired by Lady Elizabeth Percy (1667–1722), widow of Thomas Thynne, cousin of Viscount Weymouth, who married the 6th Duke of Somerset in 1687;

By descent to her grand daughter who married Sir Hugh Smithson, later 1st Duke of Northumberland (1714–1786);

Thence by descent.


London, Royal Academy, 1906, no. 101;

London, Royal Academy, Exhibition of 17th Century Art in Europe, 1938, no. 90;

London, Royal Academy, Flemish Art 1300–1700, 1953–54, no. 222.


C. H. Collins Baker, A Catalogue of the Pictures in the Collection of the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland, London 1930, no. 183, reproduced pl. 49 (when at Syon House);

E. Larsen, L'Opera completa di Van Dyck, 1980, vol. 2, no. A.86 (as attributed to Dobson);

E. Larsen, The Paintings of Anthony Van Dyck, 1988, vol. II, no. A214 (as attributed to Dobson);

O. Millar, et. al., Van Dyck. A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings, New Haven and London 2004, p. 592, no. IV.208, reproduced (as Van Dyck).

Catalogue Note

Probably painted circa 1636, at the height of van Dyck’s career during the halcyon years in London before the English Civil War; this beautifully restrained portrait conveys a sober dignity seldom seen in the artist’s work. The smooth surface and soft tonality of the face is typical of van Dyck’s very finest female portraiture, whilst the auburn curls of her hair are panted with a fresh, lively touch. Van Dyck came to England in 1632, as ‘Principalle Paynter in Ordinarie’ to King Charles I, and the portraits he produced over the next decade would include some of his most powerful and inventive work. The series of royal portraits he painted of Charles, his wife Queen Henrietta Maria, and their children, are unsurpassed in the history of European royal portraiture, and perhaps only rivalled by those painted by Velázquez, over a much longer period, for Philip IV of Spain. More importantly, however, he revolutionised portraiture in England with his brilliant draftsmanship, masterly composition and the wonderfully subtle modulation in the fall of light over large areas of canvas. As with all his very best portraits of the leading aristocrats and courtiers of the Caroline era, this sensational painting conveys with subtlety his sitter’s noble bearing, and an air of well-bred courtly gentility. Her consciously pared down and simplified dress glows with the rich texture of satin, whilst the details of her jewellery are painted with a crisp, accurate touch. She is the embodiment of modest nobility, dignity and grace.  

Frances was the daughter of the great Elizabethan courtier, Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex (1565-1601), and his wife Frances, the only daughter of Sir Francis Walsingham (c.1532-1590). Frances's father had been one of the old Queen's favourites, but despite serving in the Armada campaign and distinguishing himself at the capture of Cadiz in 1596, he had a chequered career at court and was eventually beheaded for treason in 1601 for his part in the Essex rebellion, when Frances was still in infancy. In 1617 she married, as his second wife, William Seymour, Earl of Hertford (1588-1660). Seymour was later created Marquess of Hertford in 1641, and in 1660, following the Restoration of the Monarchy, he was restored to the titles of his great-grandfather, Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset (1500-1552), Lord Protector of England, which had been made forfeit in 1552, as the 2nd Duke of Somerset.

A devout supporter of the King, William was one of the leading Royalist commanders during the Civil War, though he remained in informal contact with his brother-in-law, Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex, who was Captain General and Chief Commander of the Army of Parliament until 1644. The couple had seven children, including John Seymour, 4th Duke of Somerset, who inherited the title from his nephew in 1671. Painted circa 1636, versions of the composition, probably painted in the studio and with some variations, are at Plas Newydd, Helmingham Hall and Badminton House. The lock of hair, which hangs over Frances's shoulder, beside her pearl necklace, is said to have been her father's.    

This portrait probably served as the model for the bust of the Duchess on her Mmonument, which was was erected by her granddaughter, Frances Finch, in 1706 at St Mary's Church, Great Bedwyn.