The sitter, Elizabeth Panton (d.1700), was the eldest daughter of Colonel Thomas Panton, a member of Charles II's life-guards and foot-guards. Panton's success at gambling enabled him to buy property in Herefordshire and London's west end, where he built what is now Panton Street. In July 1681 Elizabeth, with her mother and brother, left England, claiming health reasons but in actuality to escape the persecution they faced as Roman Catholics. The exiled Catholic court of James II at Saint-Germain-en-Laye in France became a natural focal point for English papists abroad. Gennari followed the Stuart court into exile in 1689, and his notebook records that this was the first work he produced from there.
Elizabeth Panton is portrayed, in a statement of her Catholicism, as St Catherine of Alexandria, holding a martyr's palm and the spiked wheel on which, according to legend, St Catherine's body was broken. This theme is seen in portraits of Charles II's queen, Catherine of Braganza, some twenty-five years earlier. It was a popular subject with English court sitters, even used by Lely in paintings of Charles's mistress, Barbara, Lady Castlemaine. Elizabeth returned to England in October 1690, presumably taking her portrait with her. In 1691 she married Henry, fifth Lord Arundell of Wardour. Gennari's combination of French and Italian influences sets him apart from his British contemporaries, and is exemplified in this portrait by the Italianate colouring and strong lighting.
Tabitha Barber, 'The Arundells of Wardour: Roman Catholic patrons of art in late seventeenth-century England', Apollo, vol.143, no.410, April 1996, pp.12-17, reproduced pl.6
Dwight C. Miller, 'Benedetto Gennari's Career at the Courts of Charles II and James II and a Newly Discovered Portrait of James II', Apollo, vol.117, no.251, Jan. 1983, pp.24-9, reproduced pl.8
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Technique and condition
The painting is on plain-woven linen canvas with a slightly open mesh. It has a twentieth-century glue or glue-paste lining and a modern stretcher. It has a smooth, pink, oil-based ground.
The paint layers, which vary in number from one to three, are in oil and are generally opaque. There are no significant damages. The varnish is a natural resin, applied thinly. It has yellowed slightly.
Benedetto Gennari 1633–1715
Elizabeth Panton, later Lady Arundell of Wardour, as Saint Catherine
Oil on canvas
1270 x 1016 mm
Inscribed in a later hand ‘ELIZABETH DAUGHTER of THOS PANTON | ESQR WIFE of HENRY 5TH LORD ARUNDELL | DIED 1708’ bottom left.
Purchased (Grant-in-Aid) with assistance from the Patrons of British Art through the Tate Gallery Foundation 1994
The Panton family; …; the Arundells of Wardour Castle by 1797 (recorded by William Musgrave1); by descent to Lord Talbot of Malahide, from whom acquired by Tate 1994.
Italian Art and Britain, Royal Academy, London, 1960 (33).
D.C. Miller, ‘Benedetto Gennari’s Career at the Court of Charles II and James II’, Apollo, January 1983, pp.28–8, fig.8; Prisco Bagni, Benedetto Gennari e la Bottega del Guercino, Padua 1986, pp.114, 163, no.72; Karen Hearn,‘Focus on British Art: Elizabeth Panton ...’, tate, no.6, Summer 1995; Tate Report 1994–96, 1996, p.42, reproduced in colour; Tabitha Barber, ‘The Arundells of Wardour’, Apollo, April 1996, pp.16–17, fig.6; Karen Hearn, ‘Acquisitions of Seventeenth-Century Painting at the Tate Gallery’, Apollo, December 1996, pp.21–2; Karen Hearn, ‘Rewriting History on the Walls’, Country Life, 22 May 1997, p.55, fig.5.
This work was formerly attributed to Sir Godfrey Kneller until the mid-twentieth century, when it was recognised by Sir Oliver Millar as a work by Gennari.2 This was confirmed by the fact that it appears at the beginning of the list that Gennari made of the paintings that he had produced at Saint-Germain-en-Laye as: ‘1. Un ritratto di Madam Panton mezza figura figurata in Santa Cattarina per mandarlo in Ingliterra.’3
Following sixteen months in France, at the court of Louis XIV, Gennari – the nephew and pupil of the Bolognese painter Guercino – had crossed the Channel to England in 1674. Almost immediately he gained the patronage of the court, and remained in Britain for the next fourteen years. He received commissions from both Charles II and his queen, Catherine of Braganza, and subsequently from James II and his queen, Mary of Modena. For them, and for other Catholic members of court, he produced not only portraits but also religious paintings. Following the deposition of James II in 1688, Gennari joined his court in exile at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, outside Paris, in 1689. There he resided for three years before returning to Bologna.
The sitter, identified by the later inscription on the stone ledge, lower left, was the daughter of Colonel Thomas Panton (died 1685). A celebrated gambler and a Catholic convert, he owned valuable property in the West End of London (including present-day Panton Street) which he was to be profitably involved in developing.4 Elizabeth’s date of birth is not recorded, but in July 1681 she left England for France with her mother and brother, possibly for reasons of religion, and did not return until October 1690.5
Portrayed while resident at James II’s Catholic court in exile, she is seen in the guise of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, holding a martyr’s palm and part of the spiked wheel on which the saint’s body was broken for refusing to abandon her Christian faith. This mode of portrayal had long been fashionable at the English court. Jacob Huysmans had used it in 1664 for a portrait of the devout Catherine of Braganza, for whom it was an appropriate allusion to her name saint, as well as to her faith.6 It was soon adopted for other court ladies’ portraits – whatever their Christian name. Even Barbara Villiers, a principal mistress to Catherine’s husband, Charles II, had Sir Peter Lely paint her in this guise, and it was also the format chosen by Samuel Pepys for the portrait of his own wife Elizabeth, which he commissioned from John Hayls.7
Gennari’s elegant depiction, combining French and Italian influences, is quite distinct from that of his artist contemporaries and rivals in Britain, as exemplified by the rich Italianate colouring and strong lighting of the present portrait.
Gennari’s entry indicates that the painting was to be sent back to England. In August 1691 Elizabeth, who was a considerable heiress, married Henry, the future 5th Lord Arundell (died 1726), with whom she was to have three children; she died in 1700. The portrait could have been sent back to England in connection with her availability on the marriage market. It may however initially have remained with her own family, for in her will, dated 1722, Elizabeth’s mother, Dorothy Panton, bequeathed to ‘the Right Honourable Elizabeth Countess of Castlehaven my Grand daughter her Mothers Picture and to the Honourable Thomas Arundell my Grand son another Picture I have of his Mother’.8 Elizabeth’s namesake daughter (1693–1743) married James Tuchet, 6th Earl of Castlehaven in 1722. The Thomas Arundell referred to here was the Arundell’s second son, born in 1696, who died without legitimate heirs in 1752.9
A group portrait said to depict the present sitter and her husband with their children Henry, Thomas and Elizabeth also descended in the Wardour Castle collection.10
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