Elizabeth Knollys, Lady Leighton (b.1549)

attributed to George Gower (c.1540 – London 1596)
National Trust Inventory Number 597954

Category Paintings
Date 1577 (inscribed)
Materials Oil on panel
Measurements 610 x 451 mm (24 x 17 3/4in)
Place of origin
Collection Montacute House, Somerset (Accredited Museum)
On show at Montacute House, Somerset, South West, National Trust

Summary description

Oil painting on panel, Elizabeth Knollys, Lady Leighton (b.1549), attributed to George Gower (c.1540 – London 1596), inscribed in far top left: 'Ano DNI 1577'. Above her to the top left is a coat of arms, above which are her initials, EK, flanking the family crest, an elephant. Daughter of Sir Francis Knollys and Katherine Carey; married Sir Thomas Leighton. Portrait of Landy Leighton as a young woman, head and shoulders, turned slightly to the left, gazing at spectator, reddish tightly curled hair, wearing an elaborately decorated and slashed dress of black and orange, high ruff and a tall-crowned black hat with a hat-band of jewels and a pink (?ostrich) feather fastened to the right with an elaborate jewel in the form of a starfish and corals. Among her many jewels are a Renaissance pendant at her breast in the form of a dove and snake, emblems of mildness and prudence respectively, another is of a parrot, all suspended by ropes of pearls forming a sash worn over her righ shoulder and disappearing under her left arm.

Provenance

According to label on the back, owned by Charles Fairfax Murray in 1912; according to a letter in Country Life, 1 June 1961, bought at Christie's in March 1935 by Francis Howard; bought by Sir Malcolm Stewart; bequeathed by Sir Percy Malcolm Stewart (1871-1951) to the National Trust in 1951 (transferred to Montacute House, 1960 after the death of Lady Stewart)

Credit line

Montacute House, The Sir Percy Malcolm Stewart Collection (The National Trust)

Marks and inscriptions

Recto: Top left, inscribed: Ano DNI 1577
Recto: Inscribed just above centre left in front of and behind an image of an elephant: E K
Recto: Gilt tablet affixed to the bottom of the frame, inscribed in black paint:
Verso: Label stuck to back: Inscribed as owned by Charles Fairfax Murray in 1912

Makers and roles

attributed to George Gower (c.1540 – London 1596), artist
previously catalogued as after François Clouet (Tours c.1516 – Paris 1572), artist

References

Country Life, 1 June 1961, According to a letter in Country Life, 1 June 1961, bought at Christie's in March 1935 by Francis Howard.
Gore 1969: F. St John Gore, 'Pictures in National Trust Houses', supplement to Burlington Magazine, Vol.cxi, No.793. April 1969, pp.239-58, p.248. "Montacute House, Somerset (Montacute, Nr.Yeovil) Ownership. In 1960 a collection of pictures (marked *) was bequeathed by Sir Malcolm Stewart. Gower, G. (attd) Elizabeth Knollys* (1577) 24 x 17 3/4 in."
Montacute House, Somerset, 1976 [The National Trust; Dudley Dodd] 1976, THE DINING ROOM Paintings and Tapestry (South Wall (left to right) Portrait of Elizabeth Knollys, attributed to George Gower, inscribed 1577. Sister of Lettice Knollys, who married the Earl of Leicester in 1578."
Country Life, 1 June 1961, Letter stating that painting was bought at Christie's in March 1935 by Francis Howard
Ashelford, Jane 1988, Jane Ashelford Dress in the Reign of Elizabeth I, Batsford 1988, Illus p.28. Caption to illustration: "12 Lady Knollys. Attr. Clouet, 1577. (Present location unknown). p.26: "At about this time [1576] it weas the fashion to wear a ribbon across the bodice from which was suspended a piece of jewellery....A rather more elaborate version appears in a portrait of Lady Knollys of 1577 (12), where one loop of twisted braid is trheaded through a jewelled parrot and a further chain of pearls comes across the right shoulder to be attached to the jewel and then disappears at the left side."
Montacute House, Somerset, 1997 [The National Trust; Malcolm Rogers] 1991, revised 1997 , p.53. "THE DINING ROOM. PAINTINGS Elizabeth Knollys, Lady Layton Wife of Sir Thomas Layton of Guernsey; maid of honour to Elizabeth I; sister to Lettice, who married as his second wife Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester in 1578. Among many jewels, in her hair is one in the form of a starfish and corals; at her breast is a pendant with a dove and snake, emblems of mildness and prudence respectively. Above her coat of arms (left) are her initials, flanking the family crest, an elephant. (Stewart Bequest.) Attributed to George Gower (c.1540?-96, 1577."
Jane Ashleford, The Art of Dress. Clothes and Society 1500-1914, The National Trust, 1996, p.32, illus. Caption: "23. Elizabeth Knollys, Lady Layton, one of the Queen's Maids of Honour, showing outdoor clothing for a wealthy lady. Her short-sleeved gown is decorated with aglet-trimmed bows and tasselled bands of braid. The liberal display of jewels, commensurate with her position in society, consists of a rope of pearls and gems draped across the chest, and a pendant of a dove and a snake - emblems of mildness and prudence - attached to a loop of twisted braid. Her high-crowned hat has a magnificent jewelled hatband, ostrich feather and large jewel in the form of a starfish and coral. (after George Gower, 1577, Montacute."
Montacute House, Somerset, 2004-2006 [The National Trust; Malcolm Rogers] 2000, revised 2004, reprinted 2005, 2006, p.41. "THE DINING ROOM. PAINTINGS Elizabeth Knollys, Lady Leighton Wife of Sir Thomas Leighton of Guernsey; maid of honour to Elizabeth I; sister to Lettice, who married as his second wife Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester in 1578. Among many jewels, in her hair is one in the form of a starfish and corals; at her breast is a pendant with a dove and snake, emblems of mildness and prudence respectively. Above her coat of arms (left) are her initials, flanking the family crest, an elephant. (Stewart Bequest.) Attributed to George Gower (c.1540?-96, 1577."

Related items

Place of origin
Materials Oil paint (8301)
Wood (126852)
Category Paintings (12642)
Collection Montacute House, Somerset (Accredited Museum) (1840)
Periods 16th century (6236)
Maker George Gower (c.1540 – London 1596) (7)
François Clouet (Tours c.1516 – Paris 1572) (11)
Subjects Elizabeth Knollys, Lady Leighton (b.1549) (1)
Portrait (1081)
Object Type Oil painting (12640)

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