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Circle of Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger
Pair of early 17th century Jacobean Portraits of William and Jane de Malbone




A pair of portraits of husband and wife William and Jane de Malbone, priced individually but sold as a pair. The first portrait is of William de Malbone aged 44 and dated 1621 with the inscription upper left 'Aetatis sua 44 : An Domini 1621' and family crest upper left. He is richly dressed wearing a black silk damask tunic with a fine white lace ruff and cuffs. He holds a scroll in one hand and his ruff band strings in the other, with a gold ring worn on his little finger. Oil on oak panel, in an ebonised wooden frame, with oak cradling to the reverse of the panel. Dimensions: height 87.5 x width 71.5cm (in frame) The second portrait features his wife, Jane de Malbone aged 38 and dated 1620 with the inscription upper left 'Aetatis sue 38 : AN 1620'. She wears a black gown and hat with white lace ruff and cuffs and sleeves lined with red silk. Her clothes are adorned with expensive jewels, gold chains and coral beads, demonstrating her wealth and high status. A gold locket, possibly containing a portrait miniature of a loved one or a timepiece hangs from a chain at her waist and as well as wearing a ring with a precious stone on one finger, she wears a second ring attached to the lace of her cuff. She holds a finely worked gold handle of a fan in one hand and there is a gold key attached to her skirt, suggesting either more riches locked away or perhaps referring to a position of responsibility she holds. Dimensions: height 103 x width 81cm (in frame) Provenance: The Right Hon. The Lord Stanley of Alderley Christies, London, 'Old Pictures', December 9, 1938, lot 28 and 29. Sold to Smedley-Aston Christies, London February 16, 1945, lot 129 Private collection, Isle of Wight The Malbones (or Malbons) were descended from the barons of Wich Malbank or Nantwich as it is known today in Cheshire, the first of whom came over from France in 1080AD. The barons were the owners of large swathes of land according to the Domesday Book. Following the end of the Barony, a line of Malbons are documented as living at Bradeley Hall, Haslington until 1726 and were there during the Civil War in 1642 when a Thomas Malbon recorded the events from the viewpoint of a Parliamentarian. According to the date and age inscribed on this portrait, the male sitter is probably a William Malbone (1584-1648), son of George Malbone and Matilda Leversage and brother of Thomas Malbone (1578-1658), a lawyer. The scroll in his hand indicates that he was probably a man of letters, perhaps a lawyer or politician. After several generations the Malbones clearly decided it was wise to leave national politics behind and to focus on managing their own land and business affairs. Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger was a Flemish artist working at the Tudor Court. He was born in Bruges and was brought to England as a child by his father, Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder, who was also a painter. He became a fashionable portraitist in the last decade of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I under the patronage of her champion and pageant-master Sir Henry Lee of Ditchley and painted the portrait of Elizabeth known as the 'Ditchley Portrait' in 1592 as well as the full-length of the Queen's favourite, the Earl of Essex c1596. He later became a favourite portraitist of James I's queen, Anne of Denmark. Gheeraerts' portraiture in the Jacobean era is said to be characterised by the 'quietness, pensiveness and gentle charm of mood', seen in his portraits of Catherine Killigrew, Lady Jermyn (1614) and Lady Scudamore (1615). Anne of Denmark died in 1619 and although Gheeraerts was part of her funeral procession as 'Queen's Painter', his popularity at court began to decline as a new generation of artists began to arrive from the continent and for the last twenty years of his life he was mainly employed by the country gentry and by academic sitters. Gheeraerts died in January 1636.


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