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Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, 1561–1635

Catherine Killigrew, Lady Jermyn

Materials & Techniques:
Oil on panel
30 3/4 x 23 inches (78.1 x 58.4 cm)

Dated in yellow paint, upper right: "AEtatis Suae 35 | Anni 1614"

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Paintings and Sculpture
Subject Terms:
aristocrat | brocade | collar | earrings | floral pattern | headgear | Jacobean | lace | portrait | red | ring | Tudor | woman
Associated People:
Killigrew, Catherine, Lady Jermyn (ca. 1579–1640)
Not on view
IIIF Manifest:

This is one of the finest examples of the work of the Flemish-born artist Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, who was the preeminent artist at the late Elizabethan and early Jacobean court. Having trained under his father and namesake, Gheeraerts brought a sophisticated Flemish style to his wealthy patrons, offering an alternative to the stiff linear painting practiced by many native artists. It is one of the earliest examples of a portrait in a feigned oval, a trompe l’oeil stone or marble aperture through which the subject is seen. Catherine Killigrew (ca. 1579–1640) married Sir Thomas Jermyn of Rushbrooke in 1600. In 1614, Jermyn inherited Rushbrooke Hall in Suffolk, and this portrait may have been commissioned to celebrate the event.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2016
The sitter in this portrait is traditionally-and probably quite correctly-identified as Catherine Killigrew (?1579 -1640), daughter of William Killigrew, Groom of the Privy Chamber to Elizabeth I. In 1559 she married Sir Thomas Jermyn of Rushbrook, who inherited Rushbrook Park in Suffolk from his father in 1614, and it is possible that he commissioned Gheeraerts to paint his wife on this occasion. In the upper right corner of the portrait an inscription, painted by Gheeraerts himself,1 reads Aetatis Suae 35 Anno: 1614 [in the year 1614 at her age of 35]. The portrait was sold from the family collection at Rushbrook in 1919.
Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger moved to London with his family in the late 1560s in the wake of religious persecution in the Netherlands. He was trained as a painter by his father, a printmaker and painter himself, and by Lucas de Heere, another Netherlandish painter who worked for a time in London. Gheeraerts became well known in Elizabethan court circles, primarily through the patronage of Sir Henry Lee, and his most important commission came from Sir Henry in 1592: a full-length portrait of Elizabeth I to mark the occasion of her visit to his estate, Ditchley Park in Oxfordshire. Gheeraerts's portrait of Elizabeth, now known as the Ditchley Portrait (National Portrait Gallery, London), sealed his reputation, and he enjoyed court patronage throughout Elizabeth's reign. After the accession to the throne of James I in 1603, Gheeraerts continued to benefit from royal favor in part because the king's wife, Anne of Denmark, chose to sit to him. His full-length portrait of Queen Anne, painted c. 1611-14, ensured his enduring success at court throughout that decade.
The present portrait of Lady Jermyn displays Gheeraerts's virtuosity in rendering not only the weaves of different fabrics, such as translucent lace, smooth silk, and embroidery, but also the various textures of ?esh.It is the sumptuous fabrics of Lady Jermyn's clothing that convey her wealth and status; she wears little jewelry (only a small diamond-set thumb-ring, possibly her wedding ring, and two plain gold loop earrings), which is noteworthy given the Elizabethan and Jacobean predilection for displaying one's ?nest jewels in one's portrait. In its relative lack of pomp and its attention to the particularity of the sitter's features (such as the line of her nose), Lady Jermyn stands in contrast to the hieratic and iconic full-length images typical of late Elizabethan and Jacobean portraiture, as seen in van Somer's Elizabeth, Countess of Kellie (no. 2). The directness of Lady Jermyn's gaze, combined with the minute detail of her clothing and face, imparts to the painting a remarkable sense of closeness to and communication with the sitter. In its jewel-like precision the painting resembles a miniature portrait blown up to life-size; indeed, it is possible that Gheeraerts may have been in?uenced, in both the format of his portraits and their technique, by the work of his brother-in-law Isaac Oliver the miniaturist, who became limner to Anne of Denmark in 1605. The intimacy of the format and the delicacy and detail of the painted surfaces make this work a prime example of Gheeraerts's later style and also of the more private strains of Jacobean portraiture.

1. Millar 1963, 534.

Julia Marciari-Alexander

Julia Marciari-Alexander, This other Eden, paintings from the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1998, p. 24, no. 1, ND1314.3 Y36 1998 (YCBA)

This Other Eden : British Paintings from the Paul Mellon Collection at Yale (Art Gallery of South Australia, 1998-09-16 - 1998-11-15) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

This Other Eden : British Paintings from the Paul Mellon Collection at Yale (Queensland Art Gallery, 1998-07-15 - 1998-09-06) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

This Other Eden : British Paintings from the Paul Mellon Collection at Yale (Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1998-05-01 - 1998-07-05) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

Dynasties - Painting in Tudor and Jacobean England (Tate Britain, 1995-10-12 - 1996-01-07) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

British Art at Yale, Apollo, v.105, April 1977, pp. 238-40, fig. 3, N1 .A54 + OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Malcolm Cormack, Concise Catalogue of Paintings in the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1985, pp. 102-103, N590.2 A83 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Lena Dahren, Med kant av guld och silver, en studie av knypplade bêarder uddar av metall, 1550-1640 , 2010, pp. 202-3, fig. 264, TT805 D34 2010A (YCBA) [YCBA]

English pictures prints and drawings, c. 1650 - c. 1950 , Christie's, London, November 22nd, 1963, p. 13, lot no. 39, Sales Catalogues (YCBA) [YCBA]

Edmund Farrer, Portraits in Suffolk houses (West), B. Quaritch, London, 1908, pp. 297-98, no. 28, N7598.2 F37 + (YCBA) [YCBA]

Karen Hearn, Dynasties, painting in Tudor and Jacobean England, 1530-1630 , Tate Publishing, London, 1995, no. 132, N6765 D95 1995 + (YCBA) [YCBA]

Julia Marciari-Alexander, This other Eden : Paintings from the Yale Center for British Art, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1998, pp. 24-25, no. 1, ND1314.3 Y36 1998 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Sir Oliver Millar, Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger: A Sequel Through Inscriptions, Burlington Magazine, vol. 105,no.729, December 1963, pp. 534-6, fig. 12, N1 B87 + (YCBA) Available online through JStor. [YCBA]

Paul Mellon's Legacy : a passion for British art [large print labels], , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, v.3, N5220 M552 P381 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Aileen Ribeiro, Fashion and fiction, dress in art and literature in Stuart England , Yale University Press, New Haven, 2005, p.69, no. 34, NX650 C663 R53+ (YCBA) [YCBA]

Roy C. Strong, The English icon, Elizabethan & Jacobean portraiture , Paul Mellon Foundation for British Art, London New York, 1969, p. 285, no. 278, ND1314 S77 + (YCBA) [YCBA]

Ian Tyers, The tree-ring analysis of 23 panel paintings from the Yale Center for British Art , New Haven : dendrochronological consultancy report 470, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 2011, pp. 13, 14, 16, 69-71, fig. 40, CC78.3 .T94 2011 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Ellis Waterhouse, An Impressive Panorama of British Portraiture, Apollo, v. 105, no. 182, April 1977, pp. 238-40, fig. 3, N1 A54 + (YCBA) Another copy of this article may be found in a separately bound and catalogued copy of this issue located on the Mellon Shelf [call number : N5220 M552 A7 1977 + (YCBA)] [YCBA]

Ellis Waterhouse, The Dictionary of 16th & 17th Century British Painters, Antique Collectors' Club, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1988, p. 106, ND464 W38 1988 (LC) (YCBA) [YCBA]

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