Catalogue entry


Oil on oak panel 39 3/8 × 31 1/4 (924 × 806)
Purchased (Grant-in-Aid) 1983
Prov: ...; ? at Clearwell Court, Gloucestershire, by the nineteenth century, and by descent to the Earl and Countess of Dunraven, Adare Manor, Limerick; Dunraven sale, Christie's 9 June 1982 (78, repr., as by unknown follower of Custodis) bt Wilkins and Wilkins, from whom bt by the Tate Gallery

The sitter in this unusually well-preserved and strongly-drawn portrait remains unknown. The tall hat, narrow sleeves and open double collar of his costume can be dated to the first decade of the seventeenth century; the focal point is a finely embroidered sword belt and an additional dagger or short sword at his right side, partly covered by a blue tassel. Attached to the back of the panel is a nineteenth-century label stating that the ‘Unknown’ sitter comes ‘From Clearwell Court’. If correct, this would suggest that the painting was once at Clearwell Court or Castle in Gloucester-shire, one of the properties of the Wyndham family. The already distantly related Wyndham and Dunraven families merged when Caroline, only daughter and heir of Thomas Wyndham of Clearwell, married Windham Henry, 2nd Earl of Dunraven, in 1810.

Although Segar's heraldic career is fairly well charted, from his appointment as Portcullis Pursuivant in 1585, to Garter King of Arms in 1603 and the granting of a Knighthood in 1617, his oeuvre as a painter of life-size portraits has to be reconstructed from a few contemporary references and one documented work, the portrait of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, 1590, now in the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin (repr. Roy Strong, The English Icon, 1969, fig. 175). The attribution of this painting to Segar or his circle has been suggested by Strong on grounds of a similarity of style which it shares with a group of slightly earlier portraits seen as related to the Dublin portrait.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986