Portrait of Elizabeth Wandesford 1608; English School

By Roy Precious From United Kingdom

Price £38,000.00
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Oil on panel in 'cassetta' frame.
A child of the Wandesford Family of Kirklington and Pickhill, North Yorkshire.
Inscribed 'AETATIS SUAE 3. ANNO DNI . 1608'

Painted less than 70 years after the first recorded English portrait of a child (two -year old Edward VI, painted in 1539) this rare and charming portrait is all the more remarkable for the fact that it is one of a set of 13 children of Richard and Muriel Wandesford, who were members of an ancient Yorkshire family which had estates at Kirklington since at least the early 14th century.

All fifteen portraits were painted in the same year, 1608, when the subject of our portrait, Elizabeth, was just three years old.
Hitherto the expense of commissioning a portrait of a child, even among wealthy members of the aristocracy, was thought too great to bestow on recording the likeness of a youngster whose survival into adulthood was by no means assured.

However the emergence of individual child portraits reflected a new belief in the importance of this phase of life. Thus the portrait of three-year old Elizabeth shows her wearing an apron in which she holds a posy of wild flowers, which represent innocence and the transience of youth.
Also in the portrait of her father Richard there is the inscription 'Pro Me Meis/ Laus Tibi XPE'; For myself and my (children)/praise to Christ', while her mother's portrait is inscribed 'Why these or this/Judge not amisse' which appears to appeals to the viewer not judge her too harshly for choosing to raise a family rather than choosing to devote her life to God.
Sadly and inevitably this rare collection of pictures were dispersed some time ago, but four of the 15 Wandesford portraits appeared as a group in the 1987 Lane Fine Art Catalogue entitled 'A Perfect
Likeness'. This consisted of mother and father, Muriel and Richard, and Elizabeth's older sister Frances (aged 10) and brother Rowland (aged 4).

The artist of this charming portrait is (and is likely to remain) unknown. We may surmise that the artist was a provincially trained itinerant centred on one of the main cities in the North of England (York would be an obvious choice). Little has been published about early English provincial painting, but we do know, for instance that there was a flourishing school of painting in Chester (artists such as Randle Holmes and his pupil John Souch). It seems likely that there would be a similar school in York.