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



40,000 - 60,000 GBP

Property from The Weiss Gallery, London




40,000 - 60,000 GBP

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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The painting appears to be in good condition, with no extant damages or loss of paint, and is ready to hang. The pigments remain strong, though there is some natural wear to small areas of dark paint in her costume. The panel is constructed of four vertically joined planks, in the central two of which there has been some historic splitting. The panel has been trimmed on all sides and it is likely that the painting was originally a full length. However the panel appears stable and remains uncradled, and is only very slightly bowed on the vertical axis. Examination under ultraviolet light reveals extensive retouching in the background. That is also retouching to the vertical panel joins and scattered areas of retouching in the costume. In addition there is an amount of finely worked, minor retouching in the flesh tones of the neck and face, which appear to be consolidating areas where the paint surface has become dry in the past. The painting does not require any further restoration or conservation.

The lot is sold in the condition it is in at the time of sale. The condition report is provided to assist you with assessing the condition of the lot and is for guidance only. Any reference to condition in the condition report for the lot does not amount to a full description of condition. The images of the lot form part of the condition report for the lot. Certain images of the lot provided online may not accurately reflect the actual condition of the lot. In particular, the online images may represent colors and shades which are different to the lot's actual color and shades. The condition report for the lot may make reference to particular imperfections of the lot but you should note that the lot may have other faults not expressly referred to in the condition report for the lot or shown in the online images of the lot. The condition report may not refer to all faults, restoration, alteration or adaptation. The condition report is a statement of opinion only. For that reason, the condition report is not an alternative to taking your own professional advice regarding the condition of the lot. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS ONLINE CONDITION REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE/BUSINESS APPLICABLE TO THE RESPECTIVE SALE.

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.

London, New Gallery, Exhibition of the Royal House of Tudor, 1890, no. 479 (lent by Mrs A.C. Hyde).

"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