Unknown artist, Britain

Gertrude Sadler, Lady Aston


Not on display

Unknown artist, Britain
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 2273 × 1334 mm
Purchased with assistance from the Friends of the Tate Gallery, the Art Fund and the Pilgrim Trust 1980

Display caption

Gertrude Sadler was the wife of Sir Walter Aston, Lord Forfar, who was appointed
as James I's ambassador to Spain in 1620. Two versions of this portrait are known
to exist (the other is in the National Gallery of South Australia). It is possible that both versions were produced when Sir Walter was appointed an ambassador. However, it is not always possible to be certain
of the identity of the person shown in
a portrait, and it may be that the woman shown here is another Lady Aston: Magdalena, wife of Sir Thomas Aston
of Aston Hall, in Cheshire.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

T03030 LADY ASTON c.1620–3
Oil on canvas, 89 1/2 × 52 1/2 (227 × 133)
Purchased (Grant-in-Aid), with contributions from the Friends of the

Tate Gallery, the National Art-Collections Fund and the Pilgrim Trust 1980

Prov: ...; according to a letter to the compiler from R. G. Williams, purchased by Williams & Son of Grafton Street at the sale of Brig. -Gen. Hervey Talbot of Aston Lodge, Warrington, Brown & Co., Chester, 27 April 1927 (but it is not possible to identify it in the catalogue); Leggatt Bros. by May 1931, from whom probably bought by Capt. Loel Guinness; lent by him to the Tate Gallery from 1953 until purchased 1980.
Lit: R. Strong, The English Icon, 1969, p.303, no.312 for repr. of version at Adelaide; The Tate Gallery 1978–80, p.29, repr. in col.

This full-length of a lady wearing a silver brocade dress, standing on a ‘turkey’ carpet beside a table covered with red velvet, in a niche of hangings of the same material, conforms very much to the Jacobean pattern for formal full-length portraits as displayed in works ascribed to Larkin, Van Somer, Gheeraedts and others. Her deep décolletage, high waist and falling ruff belong to the early 1620s, as does the black twist decoration in her ears, around her wrists and on her bosom which had became fashionable at court under Queen Anne.

A slightly more elaborate version of this portrait, where a leaded window with two broken panes of glass replaces the curtain in the background and a chair the table beside her, is in the National Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide. Its provenance goes back no further than its sale by Mrs Otto Khan at Christie's, 27 May 1938 (Strong, op. cit., misprints the year as 1935), so that a confusion with the Tate version before this date cannot be ruled out.

Strong accepts the traditional identification of the sitter as Gertrude Sadler, wife of Sir Walter Aston, Lord Forfar (1584–1639), James I's ambassador to Spain in 1620–5, and later also under Charles I. The ambassadorial appointment and court connections could well account for the production of more than one formal full-length at about this time. However, the suggestion that this could be Lady Magdalena Aston (d.1635), wife of Sir Thomas Aston (1600–45) of Aston Hall, Cheshire, cannot be ruled out in view of the picture's apparent provenance, even though both families were connected, and the presence of portraits of distant but prominent members of the family would not be unusual.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1978-80: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1981


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