An Unidentified Widow, known as Elizabeth Hardwick ('Bess of Hardwick'), Countess of Shrewsbury (c.1527-1608)
Cornelius Johnson (London 1593 - Utrecht 1661)
This picture is very overpainted, so very little remains of the original. What is clear is that the dress worn by the sitter postdates the death of Bess of Hardwick, so the portrait cannot represent her. It has been suggested that it could be of her daughter, Mary Cavendish, widow of the 7th Earl of Shrewsbury. Her mother was a resolute and ambitious woman, a collector and a builder on an almost unprecedented scale, and possessed wealth affording her every indulgence. Her supreme monument is the house that she built at Hardwick, perhaps the least altered and most atmospheric of all Elizabethan ‘prodigy houses’.
Oil painting on panel, An Unidentified Widow, known as Elizabeth Hardwick ('Bess of Hardwick'), Countess of Shrewsbury (c.1527-1608) by Cornelius Johnson (London 1593 - Utrecht 1661). Portrait of an old woman, bust to right, with grey hair, wearing black dress and headdress of a widow and white ruff. The figure is somewhat asymmetrically placed towards the left.
By descent until, following the death of Edward William Spencer Cavendish, 10th Duke of Devonshire (1895 - 1950), Hardwick Hall and its contents were accepted by HM Treasury in part payment of death duties and transferred to the National Trust, in 1959
Marks and inscriptions
Top left ELIZABETH/HARDWICK/Daughter/and Coheir/of John/ top right Hardwick of Hardwick/in the County of/Derby.married/toherfecod/Husband/Sr William/ bottom left Cavendishe/of Chatsworth/in the fame/County.She fettled her yt./ bottom right Son Charles/Cavendishe/at Welbeck in/the County of Nottingham
Makers and roles
Cornelius Johnson (London 1593 - Utrecht 1661), artist