Sir Robert Shirley (1581-1628)
Sir Anthony Van Dyck (Antwerp 1599 - London 1641)
Art / Oil paintings
Oil on canvas
2140 x 1290 mm
Place of origin
RomeOrder this image
Petworth House and Park, West Sussex (Accredited Museum)
On show at
It is not known exactly when this portrait and its pendant of ‘Teresia Khan, Lady Shirley’ arrived at Petworth. The earliest record of their presence in the house is not until 1775. Shirley was an envoy from the Shah of Persia to several European countries. In 1607 he married a noble Circassian, Elizabeth or Teresia, the daughter of Ishmael Khan. Both this and the pendant of her were painted in Rome. Numerous sketches of the couple appear in Van Dyck’s Italian Sketchbooks. They tend to suggest that Van Dyck was originally just struck by the Shirleys and their suite as exotic phenomena, and that the portraits of Sir Robert and his wife were not commissioned until later. His training with Rubens had sharpened his eye for the enriching effect that colourful oriental dress could offer. He had also recently begun to absorb the lessons of Titian and the other great Venetian colourists.
Oil painting on canvas, Sir Robert Shirley (1581-1628) by Sir Anthony Van Dyck (Antwerp 1599 - London 1641). 1622. Full-length portrait, standing and wearing Persian dress with a turban and white tunic, rose bows down the centre and with a short skirt and cloth of gold cape with embroidered figures. There is a bow in his left hand, with the quiver on the ground at right. A red curtain is in the right background.
Neither this painting, nor its companion of Lady Shirley (NT/PET/P/97) appear in the inventories of 1671 and 1672 of the 10th Earl of Northumberland (1602-1668). It was in the collection of the 2nd Earl of Egremont (1710-1763) by the time of his death in 1763. By descent, until the death in 1952 of the 3rd Lord Leconfield, who had given Petworth to the National Trust in 1947, and whose nephew and heir, John Wyndham, 6th Lord Leconfield and 1st Lord Egremont (1920-72) arranged for the acceptance of the major portion of the collections at Petworth in lieu of death duties (the first ever such arrangement) in 1956 by HM Treasury.
Petworth House, The Egremont Collection (acquired in lieu of tax by HM Treasury in 1956 and subsequently transferred to the National Trust)
Marks and inscriptions
SIR ROBERT SHIRLEY (INSCRIBED IN YELLOW, BOTTOM LEFT)
Makers and roles
Sir Anthony Van Dyck (Antwerp 1599 - London 1641), artist of original
In Trust for the Nation, National Gallery, London, 1995 - 1996, no.2