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This great family piece is something of a puzzle. It apparently takes its inspiration from the elaborate dynastic tombs of the period, where the living and the dead are shown intermingled. Sir Richard Saltonstall draws back the red curtain round the bed that contains his deceased first wife, who gestures towards the couple’s two surviving children. He, meanwhile, gazes towards his second – living – wife, who sits holding her own Saltonstall baby. Des Granges, traditionally said to have produced this picture, mainly painted small-scale portrait miniatures.

May 2007