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[Thomas Braythwait writing his will]
Alternate Title(s):
Thomas Braythwaite writing his will
Thomas Brathwait writing his will
Thomas Brathwaite writing his will
Thomas Braithwait writing his will
Thomas Braithwaite writing his will
England, ca. 1607.
Physical Description:
1 painting : pen and ink, gouache, and watercolor on paper, with gold ; image 24.0 x 15.8 cm, on sheet 33.3 x 22.1 cm
Rare Books and Manuscripts
BS170 1607+ Oversize
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund
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Copyright Status:
Copyright Information
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View the catalog record for the host volume: BS170 1607+
Drawings & Watercolors
Thomas Braythwait died childless on 22 December 1607, aged 31. His will assigned the residue of his property to his brother Gawen, after various books, paintings, and effects were given to other family. The sum of £10 pounds was given to George Preston, neighboring landowner at Holker Hall, Cark-in-Cartmel. The present Bible and its extra-illustrations also passed to Preston, although it is unclear whether the Bible was "given [to Preston] by legacie from Thomas Braythwait" (as the accompanying bookplate declares) or if Preston subsequently bought it. It is likely that Preston spent his £10 legacy on turning the Bible into a memorial to his friend.
Watercolor painting of Thomas Braythwait writing his will. The miniature is included in a set of preliminary leaves in Braythwait's copy of a Geneva-Tomson edition of the Bible (London: Robert Barker, 1607; STC 2199; YCBA: BS170 1607+). Also included in the preliminaries is a full-page rendering of Braythwait's coat of arms, and an elaborate dedication bookplate from Braythwait to George Preston.
Braythwait is depicted on his deathbed, writing his will in the presence of his friend and neighbor George Preston, of Holker Hall. Braythwait appears near death, with pallid skin and sunken eyes. He writes: "In te Domine speravi, In te nil disparavi, In te Domine vici, Scribit ultimu[m]" ("In you Lord I have hoped, In you I have despaired of nothing, In you Lord I conquered, Writ last."). Above Braythwait's headboard is written in gold (from the beginning of Psalm 71): "Qui nisi quod rectum est faciunt nihil, et sub aperto Pectore nil fictae simplicitastis habent hios amant, his bonus est deus." On the pillows is a quote from Psalm 73: "Yet God is good to Israel, yea to those which are pure of heart." The face of George Preston is painted in fine detail, most likely from life, whereas the painting of Braythwait's face is probably imaginary, or based on another painting. The degree of technical skill shown in the depiction of both figures suggests that they were painted by a trained miniaturist. The rest of the scene is less refined and was probably painted by another artist.
Sir Tobias Rodgers, a previous owner, claimed the miniature was the work of Nicholas Hilliard, but this is unlikely. John Murdoch (co-author of The English miniature, 1981) notes that the draftsmanship and calligraphy lack the delicacy of Hilliard's work. Graham Reynolds (author of English portrait miniatures, 1952) argues that it "shows strong marks of Hilliard's influence," so that it may be the work of one of his followers, perhaps Laurence Hilliard.
There exist two other versions of the present scene. The first, an oil painting on canvas (65.8 x 58.2 cm), was once in the same ownership as the present Bible, by descent from the Braythwait family to the Upton family of Ingmire Hall, West Yorkshire. It is now in the Abbot Hall Art Gallery and Museum, Kendal, Cumbria. The second version, commisioned by George Preston, is carved in wood in the panelling of the Brown Room at Holker Hall, which has since passed to the Cavendish family. The oil painting depicts the same scene in close-up, without the full bedclothes, hangings, and canopy over the bed, with quotations of the same Biblical text (in a different arrangement) and with the added coats of arms of Braythwait and Preston. The oil painting has been featured in several exhibitions, including "The Art of Death: Objects from the English Death Ritual, 1500-1800 (V&A, 1991); and "Death, Passion, and Politics: Van Dyck's Portraits of Venetia Stanley and George Digby" (Dulwich Picture Gallery, 1995). The precedence of the oil painting and the present miniature has not been established.
Directly opposite the deathbed miniature is a full-page illustration of Braythwait's coat of arms, featuring: quarterly, Gules, on a chevron argent three cross crosslets fitchée sable, and Or, a bugle horn and bandric sable; crest, a grehound couchant argent collared and lined gules; motto: "Vita ut Herba." The armorial is painted in red, black, blue, and gray watercolors, with prominent illuminations in gold and silver. It is probably the work of a professional painter of arms.
The volume is bound in contemporary gilt-tooled olive-brown morocco, with original bosses and clasps.
Provenance: George Preston (d. 1640) of Holker Hall; Gawen Brathwaite (1583-1653) of Ambleside Hall; Elizabeth Otway (née Brathwaite); Catherine Upton (née Otway), wife of William Upton, of Ingmire Hall; John Herbert Upton (1865-1930); Lt.-Col. John Trelawny Upton (1893-1967); Capt. Patrick John Upton (b. 1931); Sir Tobias Rodgers (1940-1997).
Llewellyn, N. Art of death, p. 38
Van Dyck, A. Death, passion and politics, 44
Harding, R. "The art of dying: the Braithwaite Bible miniature." In The British Art Journal, volume 1, number 1 (1999), p. 16-19
Subject Terms:
Braythwait, Thomas, d. 1607.
Death -- Religious aspects -- Christianity.
Death -- Social aspects.
Death in art.
Preston, George, of Houlker.
Textile fabrics -- England.
Wills -- England.
Miniatures (Paintings)
Coats of Arms.
Hilliard, Nicholas, 1547?-1619, attributed name.
Hilliard, Laurence, 1582-1648, attributed name.
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