A knight’s tale: Her­bert of Cher­bury stays at home

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country - Edited by Kate Green

ONE of the most im­por­tant minia­ture paint­ings of the Ja­cobean pe­riod has been ac­quired for the na­tion through a fund­ing part­ner­ship between the Na­tional Her­itage Memo­rial Fund, the Art Fund and the Na­tional Trust (Let­ters, page 56). For many years, Isaac Oliver’s Ed­ward Her­bert, 1st Baron Her­bert of Cher­bury has been a star ex­hibit at its his­toric home, Powis Cas­tle, near Welsh­pool, Powys, which is now in the Trust’s care.

It will re­turn to its Welsh home af­ter con­ser­va­tion, fur­ther re­search and per­haps vis­its to other mu­se­ums and or­gan­i­sa­tions. The por­trait’s mar­ket value was as­sessed to be £5.2 mil­lion, but, af­ter tax con­ces­sions granted on sales to pub­lic col­lec­tions, it was se­cured in per­pe­tu­ity for £2.1 mil­lion, which may be a record price for a minia­ture.

The deal was ne­go­ti­ated by the Lon­don fine-art agent Om­nia Ltd on be­half of the pri­vate owner, who is un­der­stood to be a mem­ber of the fam­ily of the Mar­quesses of Powis, descen­dants of Lord Her­bert (about 1582–1648) through a fe­male line.

Ed­ward, Lord Her­bert of Cher­bury (1583–1648), a prom­i­nent courtier of the aged El­iz­a­beth I and her Stuart suc­ces­sors, was first cousin of Sir Wil­liam Her­bert, 1st Lord Powis. Oliver’s mag­nif­i­cent im­age presents him as the pat­tern of a ro­man­tic young knight, in a pose of fash­ion­able melan­choly, head on hand, ly­ing in a for­est glade, per­haps af­ter a joust.

The shield on his arm bears the motto Ma­gia Sym­pa­thiae (sug­gest­ing a bal­ance of good and evil and the at­trac­tion of affini­ties) and a burn­ing heart; in the back­ground are his squire, horses, ar­mour and, hang­ing from a branch, his Or­der of the Bath. It has been sug­gested that these may re­fer to the As­cen­sion Day jousts held by James I at White­hall Palace.

An­other sug­ges­tion is that the dis­tant city on a river could be Paris, which Her­bert first vis­ited in 1608.

His own life re­flected this Spense­rian im­age of the knightly ro­man­tic. He was a meta­phys­i­cal poet, mu­si­cian, soldier, diplo­mat, philoso­pher, his­to­rian and, by his own ac­count, as great a lover as he was a du­el­list.

Minia­ture in this sense does not nec­es­sar­ily mean small. It de­rives from the Latin miniare, to colour with cinnabar or red lead, by way of the tech­niques of man­u­script il­lu­mi­na­tion from which small water­colour or gouache por­traits evolved. This is a com­par­a­tively large cab­i­net minia­ture, mea­sur­ing 7½in by 9in and painted on vel­lum mounted on an oak board.

Isaac Oliver was born in Rouen and brought to Eng­land by his Huguenot par­ents in about 1568. He was the pupil and suc­ces­sor of Ni­cholas Hil­liard, the fore­most English-born minia­tur­ist of the first great pe­riod, and worked for the Royal Fam­ily, in par­tic­u­lar James I’s Queen Anne, of whom Her­bert was a favourite.

It has been sug­gested that the minia­ture was painted between 1602 and 1617, but, from the sit­ter’s ap­par­ent age, it must be at the early end of that es­ti­mate: af­ter July 1603, when he was cre­ated a Knight of the Bath, but be­fore 1614, when he left for the Con­ti­nent to fight for the Prince of Or­ange and travel to Italy.

For open­ing times at Powis Cas­tle, visit www.na­tion­al­trust.org.uk/powis­cas­tle-and-gar­den or tele­phone 01938 551944. Huon Mal­lalieu

The knight re­turns: vis­i­tors to Powis Cas­tle will be able to see Isaac Oliver’s mag­nif­i­cent minia­ture

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.