British School 17th centuryThe Cholmondeley Ladies c.1600-10

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Artwork details

The Cholmondeley Ladies
Date c.1600-10
MediumOil paint on wood
Dimensionssupport: 886 x 1723 mm frame: 1074 x 1914 x 100 mm
Acquisition Presented anonymously 1955
On display at Tate Britain
Room: 1540


The painting depicts two young women sitting up in bed, fully dressed, each holding an infant. They are traditionally said to be sisters, although the different coloured eyes of the ladies and children show that they are not identical twins. The babies are swaddled in red christening robes.

The painting was known to be in the collection of Thomas Cholmondeley (pronounced 'Chumley'), the third son of Sir Hugh (died 1601) and Lady Mary Cholmondeley, who was an ancestor of the last Lord Delamere of Vale Royal, Cheshire. George Ormerod, in his description of the former monastery of Vale Royal (History of Cheshire, 1882, II, pp.154-5), noted 'In the passage leading to the sleeping rooms ... an antient painting of two ladies, said to be born and married on the same day, represented with children in their arms'. Although Ormerod gave detailed information about the Holford and Cholmondeley family pedigrees he made no attempt to identify the sitters in this portrait. The style of the painting would seem to date it to c.1600-10, and it might represent daughters or nieces of Sir Hugh and Lady Mary Cholmondeley; there is nothing in the genealogical tables published by Ormerod either to support or refute the assumption that the sitters were twins… (read more)

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