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The Dealer's Eye | London

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 66. SIR WILLIAM SEGAR  |  PORTRAIT OF ELIZABETH ‘BESS’ THROCKMORTON, LADY RALEIGH (1565–C. 1647).

Property from The Weiss Gallery, London


Lot Closed

June 25, 02:04 PM GMT


40,000 - 60,000 GBP

Lot Details


Property from The Weiss Gallery, London


Unknown c.1564 - 1633 Richmond


inscribed and dated upper left: Anno Domo 1595 

oil on panel

unframed: 110 x 79 cm.; 43⅜ x 31⅛ in.

framed: 125.5 x 96 cm.; 49⅜ x 37¾ in.

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Mrs A.C. Hyde, by 1890;

By descent to Raymond Robert Wentworth-Hyde (c. 1860–1918);

Anonymous sale, London, Christie’s, 22 February 1924, lot 136 (as Zuccaro) to Greenstreet; 

With F.B. Greenstreet (d. c. 1927), an art dealer based at 47 Duke Street, London;

Private collection, UK, by the 1940s;

By descent until sold, London, Bonham's, 5 July 2017, lot 65 (as circle of Marcus Gheeaerts the Younger), where acquired. 

H.A. Grueber, Exhibition of the Royal House of Tudor, exh. cat., London 1890, p. 141, no. 479;

A. Graves, A Century of Loan Exhibitions, 1813–1912, 3 vols, London 1913, vol. II, p. 1424.

"If there is one thing the Weiss Gallery is known for, it is the very best in early English portraiture, particularly from the Elizabethan era. This portrait of the beautiful Bess Throckmorton – the lady who stole the heart of the great explorer Sir Walter Raleigh and defied a Queen – sumptuously bedecked in more peals that you could point a Spanish treasure galleon at, is a wonderful example. And if you’ve never come across Segar before, see the famous portrait of Queen Elizabeth I with an ermine at Longleat."

Julian Gascoigne

Bess Throckmorton, Lady Raleigh was the daughter of the diplomat Sir Nicholas Throckmorton (c. 1515–1571) and his wife Anne Carew, both of whom served at the court of Queen Elizabeth I. Through both her parents Bess was intimately connected to the late Tudor court. Her father was the cousin of Catherine Parr, King Henry VIII’s sixth wife; and her mother Anne, was the daughter of Nicholas Carew, a close friend of King Henry’s from childhood and a Royal favourite. Said to have been intelligent, forthright, passionate and courageous, Bess served as a Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber to the Queen and it was at Court that she met and fell in love with the famous poet, soldier, spy and explorer Sir Walter Raleigh. In 1591 Bess became pregnant and she and Raleigh, who was eleven years her senior, were married in secret without the Queen’s permission. Their first son, Damerei, was born in March 1592. Although they had married without royal permission, significantly, another of the Queen’s favourites, Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, nonetheless acted as godfather to the child, though he died of the plague during infancy. The Queen discovered the marriage in May and placed the couple under house arrest, sending them both to the Tower of London in June. Raleigh was released in August and Bess in December, after which she joined her husband at Sherborne Castle, his Dorset estate. The Queen expected the couple to sue for pardon, but they refused, and Raleigh would remain out of favour for a further five years.

The couple’s second son, Walter (who later died on one of his father’s expeditions to South America in 1617), was born in 1593 at Sherborne, and a third, Carew, was born in January 1605, by which time Raleigh was again a prisoner at the Tower of London. The child was born within the walls of the Tower and christened in the church of St Peter ad Vincula. Following Raleigh's execution in 1618, Bess worked tirelessly to re-establish her late husband’s reputation and, in 1628, saw a Bill of Restitution restore the Raleigh name ‘in blood’, which allowed her one surviving son to inherit.

Bess is said to have had her husband’s head embalmed and to have carried it around with her for the rest of her life, although the only documented reference to Raleigh’s head is from the day of his execution, when it was noted that Lady Raleigh and her ladies left the scaffold carrying Sir Walter’s head in a red bag. An account from 1740 claims that, after her death, the head was returned to his tomb in St Margaret’s, Westminster.

This portrait was included in the Royal House of Tudor exhibition of 1890 at the New Gallery in Regent Street, as a Portrait of Lady Raleigh and there is no reason to doubt this traditional attribution. Indeed, Segar also painted a three-quarter-length portrait of Bess’s husband, Sir Walter Raleigh, dated 1598, in which he wears a costume of bejewelled doublet and hose in a similar palette of silvers and blacks to this portrait of his wife and could almost have been conceived as a pendant (National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin).1