Drawn by Hans Holbein the Younger, c.1532-1543
Pendant, with a lady holding a stone, and three hanging pearls, one of three designs for jewellery with inscriptions, from the ‘Jewellery Book’; half-length figure of a lady facing front, her head turned slightly to right and wearing a head-dress, holding an inscribed rectangular tablet in front
Pen and black ink, with grey wash.
The drawing was acquired in 1753, bequeathed by Sir Hans Sloane. Transferred from the Dept. of Manuscripts to Prints + Drawings on 20 July 1860. For a history of the contents of Sloane 5308, see SL,5308.1.
Inscription Content: Rowlands 1993
Inscribed by an early hand, in brown ink on the stone, “WELL / LAYDI / WELL”
‘The Master of the Countess of Warwick’, ‘Portrait of a lady, aged 21, possibly Helena Snakenborg’, dated 1569. The brooch can be seen around her neck hanging from a gold chain.
‘Although there appears to be no surviving example of this type, as Sjögren has noted, the sitter in the painting, according to Strong, by ‘The Master of the Countess of Warwick’, ‘Portrait of a lady, aged 21, possibly Helena Snakenborg’, dated 1569 (R. Strong, ‘The English Icon’, London and New York, 1969, p. 113, no. 61, repr.) in the Tate Gallery (T400) is wearing a very similar pendant jewel, in which the half-length figure of a lady is depicted holding a large stone. This suggests that the inscription was a later, although probably still sixteenth-century, addition. Sjögren makes the tempting, not impossible, proposal that they are one and the same jewel and further conjectures that it was given to the sitter by William Parr (1513-71), the Marquess of Northampton, brother of Queen Katherine Parr, prior to her becoming his third wife in 1565. It is conceivable, if so, that the jewel had originally been ordered in the 1540s for Parr’s first wife, Anne Bourchier.’
By 1540, Parr’s marriage was already in trouble. It is doubtful Parr ordered this for his adulteress wife who ran away in 1541 with her lover. Helena also did not become Parr’s wife until the death of Anne Bourchier on 28 January 1571. Perhaps it was ordered for Elisabeth Brooke, Parr’s common wife by law.