Mary Boleyn – Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh, Scotland
Called Portrait of a Woman
«Description: A version of a portrait apparently once thought to represent Anne Boleyn, although later associated with her elder sister Mary. Other versions are at Warwick Castle and Longford Castle. This Royal Collection painting was certainly produced in the seventeenth century, although the sitter's costume dates from c.1535. Provenance: Possibly acquired by Queen Anne.»
Sylwia, in a post on her blog the Queen Anne Boleyn, undertook research for this painting:
«I did a research about this and in this article I am going to write more about this portrait. I was looking for information about provenance of the portrait of ‘Mary Boleyn’ and confirmation of Alison Weir’s claim that there were ‘at least 6 versions of this portrait’.
I contacted Anna L. Splender who is a Deputy Head Steward at the Hever Castle. She kindly replied that;
“I am afraid that I am unfamiliar with the claim that there are 6 versions of Mary Boleyn’s portrait. We only have one portrait at Hever Castle – Warwick Castle is its provenance (purchased by William Waldorf Astor in the early twentieth century).”»
Ann Etheridge, to whom it seems that we are all greatly indebted for the discovery of this beautiful portrait, replied to Sylwia's blog post, saying: «As far as I know, I am the person who discovered that this copy of the better known painting of Mary which hangs at Hever. I was touring Holyrood Palace in 2009 and saw it hanging in one of the rooms there, identified as “unknown woman.” When I returned home, I searched the online database of the royal collection and found a small jpg of it, labeled again as “unknown woman.” I placed a copy of that jpeg online here:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/60861613@N00/3640331106/in/set-72157615695933178, labeled as Mary Boleyn, as it is clearly a second copy of the portrait at Hever. I searched for the image as Mary Boleyn online extensively before I did this and it was not on the Internet under her name.
Since I have placed it online identified as Mary, it has been appearing in more and more locations. My personal view is that this is indeed Mary, and is probably a pendent to the known portrait of her husband, Henry Carey, as both this second image and the one of Carey are set done in vignette style and are facing inward at each other. The vingette was not preserved in the Hever Mary, but is preserved in the Holyrood copy.»
It really takes a village.
Portrait of Mary Bublen [sic], wife of William Carey.
English School of the 17th century
Photo Artcurial Oil on board of oak, a board.
31.50 x 27 cm (12.29 x 10.53 inches)
Lot 1. Estimate : 2 500/3 500 €
Carries an inscription 'Mary Bullen Wife to Wm Carey Esq.' in the top.
Provenance: Chez André Gombert, Paris, 1994; Acquired from the latter by the current owner; Private Collection, Paris.
Knowing what we now know, after Ann Etheridge's shrewd observation, it is easy to see the hint of a vignette at both sides but particularly on the right of the bottom of the private collection painting of Mary Boleyn. The colour of the preserved part of the vignette even matches that in the painting of William Carey.
«BRITISH SCHOOL, 16th century, portrait of a Lady, traditionally known as Mary Boleyn (d.1543), 147/8 x 12, formerly described as after Holbein. Traditional attribution "after Stretes".»
Again I am indebted to Lisby1 for my discovery of this portrait. She has this to say about the Rockingham Castle portrait of Mary Boleyn:
«This portrait of Mary Boleyn hangs in the great hall of Rockingham Castle. Alison Weir's recent argrument against this portrait type being genuinely Mary Boleyn is not compelling to me. I find the dark eyes in this copy of the lost original to be interesting. Was the artist lending Mary that noted characteristic of her sister Anne: the "eyes that are black and beautiful"? On the other two versions of Mary's portrait, the eyes are also dark, but not as dark or luminous as in this version. Just speculation...»
Alison Weir has this to say about the Rockingham Castle portrait:
«This portrait, which hangs in the Great Hall, is labelled as 'Jane Seymour (after Holbein)' in Sotheby's insurance inventory of the Castle's contents in 2002; but Basil Morgan noticed a version in a biography of Anne Boleyn some years ago, and Sotheby's have now gone along with the idea that it is Mary.
It was bought for Commander Sir Michael Culme-Seymour (a distant connection of the Seymour family), who inherited the Castle in 1925, since 'it seemed right that we should have something to record the new Seymour connection in the house'! The dealer, Jack Spink, bought it for Sir Michael in 1946. Sir Michael thought it had been sold as 'Jane Seymour - a minor copy' for about £25.
An inventory of the Castle's pictures by the Courtauld Institute in 1992, in consultation with Sir Oliver Millar, the National Portrait Gallery and the Paul Mellon Center at New Haven, U.S.A.,reads: 'BRITISH SCHOOL, 16th century, portrait of a Lady, traditionally known as Mary Boleyn (d.1543), 147/8 x 12, formerly described as after Holbein. Traditional attribution "after Stretes'".
The Courtauld did not know where the traditional Rockingham identification of the sitter with Jane Seymour originated. It was Millar who, correctly, thought that the traditional attribution to Stretes should be abandoned in favour of 'British School'.
I am intrigued to see that the face is a different shape from the other versions, in which the sitter has a round face. To my knowledge, none of the versions - Rockingham, Hever Castle, two in the Royal Collection, Southside House at Wimbledon, Hendon Manor in Kent, Warwick Castle, and the one reproduced in my book, which is now lost after having been stolen from a private collection, as the owner informed me - have been the subject of detailed investigation, so it's hard to say which, if any, is an original from life. My belief, given the ermine sleeves and the proliferation of copies (which may, however, post-date the identification as Mary Boleyn), is that the sitter is royal. The costume is that of the mid-1530's. The pearls are similar to those worn by Jane Seymour in two portraits, but I'm sure that similar pearls would have been worn by many women of rank. The other jewellery is indistinct. I did consider Jane Seymour when originally trying to identify the sitter, given that she is wearing ermine, which was restricted to royalty or the higher nobility, and that the costume is right for Jane Seymour; but in the other versions with the rounder face the sitter looks so unlike Jane in her portraits by, or after, Holbein and in the Society of Antiquaries collection. Yet a version after Holbein at Hever Castle also has dissimilar features, as do other later portraits, so one cannot go on likeness alone. Possibly it is Jane Seymour, and these versions are all later copies of a lost original, with the copies being taken from a version with a rounded face. A historian friend is doing research on Frances Brandon, mother of Lady Jane Grey, and thinks it's possible that this portrait may be of Frances, as I suggest in my book. But it's impossible to say for certain, without further research being done on the portraits.»
However, according to this quote, it would be appear to be eight known versions of this portrait:
«To my knowledge, none of the versions - Rockingham, Hever Castle, two in the Royal Collection, Southside House at Wimbledon, Hendon Manor in Kent, Warwick Castle, and [...] one [...] in [...] a private collection»
The Rockingham Castle Portrait, the Hever Castle portrait, the Holyrood House portrait in the Royal Collection, the Warwick Castle portrait, and the one in a private collection, are all displayed on this page.
That however leaves one more portrait in the Royal Collection, one at Southside House at Wimbledon, and one at Hendon Manor in Kent.
However, if we look at the description of the painting in the Royal Collection, it says that: «Other versions are at Warwick Castle and Longford Castle.»
Unless the one at Longford Castle is the other painting in the Royal Collection, we could be looking at a total of nine known versions of this portrait.
Some have used the great number of portraits to argue that the lady in them must have been somebody important, i.e., somebody not Mary Boleyn.
However, I and my family have a great number of copies of pictures of my great-grandmother and even great-great-grandmother.
Does that mean that she was somebody important?
Well, she was important in her circle. She was of great importance to her children and through that to the rest of her descendants.
From the left: The Private Collection Portrait – ? – The Rockingham Castle Portrait – The Warwick Castle Portrait – The Holyrood Palace Portrait
I am not sure if the first two are the same portrait, otherwise we have another one very close to the Private Collection Portrait.
Jennifer S. Alexander
What a lovely find! My husband is a direct descendant, like the other guest. My daughter resembles her, though I'm sure that's a coincidence considering she's a 13th great-granddaughter. :)
How exciting! I am really loving your site! Mary Boleyn is my grandmother through Henry Carey to Robert and then Robert's daughter Philadelphia. Keep up the great work!
Thank you so much! That is so lovely to hear! 😊 Oh, that must be so fun! I would love to be descended from Mary Boleyn! How great to hear from you! Thank you so much for your great feedback 😊