Unknown artist, Britain

Portrait of Anne Wortley, Later Lady Morton


Not on display

Unknown artist, Britain
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 2057 × 1270 mm
Purchased with assistance from the Friends of the Tate Gallery, the Art Fund and the Pilgrim Trust 1980

Display caption

This typifies the British Jacobean portrait formula. The subject appears full length and almost facing the viewer, standing on a rich carpet or, as here, on rush matting, flanked by lustrously painted curtains. There may be an accompanying chair or table, but the artist shows no interest in conveying its spatial relationship to the figure. The costume is meticulously depicted, with an almost hallucinatory clarity.

Anne Wortley's face and hands are painted in a more shadowed manner, associated with Netherlandish-trained artists. The portrait may have been produced by painters collaborating in a workshop, rather than by a single artist

Gallery label, August 2004

Does this text contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would like to hear from you.

Catalogue entry


Inscribed ‘Lady Morton/by Vansomer’ above carpet, lower centre right, probably in eighteenth-century hand
Oil on canvas 81 × 50 (206 × 127)
Purchased (Grant-in-Aid), with contributions from the Friends of the Tate Gallery, the National Art-Collections Fund, and the Pilgrim Trust 1980
Prov: First recorded at Ditchley, Oxon in about 1726 by George Vertue; Lord Dillon sale, Ditchley, Sotheby's 24 May 1933 986), bt. by Francis Howard; Loel Guinness, by whom lent to the Tate Gallery from 1953 until purchased 1980.
Exh: Art Treasures, Manchester 1857 (22); National Portrait Exhibition, South Kensington, 1868 (673); Old Masters, R.A. 1902 (163) as ‘Frances Morton, Viscountess Wilmot’; period display, Metropolitan Museum, New York, 1966 (no catalogue).
Lit: Horace Walpole, Anecdotes of Painting in England, 1782, vol. iii, p.6, and R. Wornum edition, 1888, vol. ii, p.210; Vct. Dillon, Catalogue of Paintings...at Ditchley, Spelsbury, Oxfordshire, 1908, p.44, no.81, repr. pl.XXXIX; C. H. Collins Baker, Lely and The Stuart Portrait Painters, 1912, vol.i, p.28; L. Cust, ‘Marcus Gheeraerts’ in Walpole Society, III, 1914, p.37, repr. pl.XXIXa; Vertue Notebooks, II, in Walpole Society, XX, 1931–2, pp.14 and 76; Catalogue of Paintings at...Ditchley, 1933, p.30, cat.90; The Tate Gallery 1978–80, p.28, repr.in col.

The sitter wears a purplish dress with gold embroidery, and holds a fan in her right hand and a lace handkerchief in her left. Her corsage is covered with multiple strings of pearls; she wears pearl bracelets, a jewelled chain and earrings, and an unusually elaborate head-dress of pearls wired into oak-leaf and other decorative patterns. She stands on rush matting between two green looped-up curtains.

The identification of the sitter as Anne Wortley, Lady Morton can be traced as far back as 1726, when George Vertue saw the portraits at Ditchley (then owned by the Earl of Litchfield) and noted one of ‘Lady Morton...Seem of... the Dutch taste but well’ (Notebooks, II, p.14). Later, in 1730, when some of Lord Litchfield's pictures were ‘here in Town to Clean’, he describes it in recognisable detail: ‘7. Lady Morton purplish dress a fan in one hand and handkerchief in the other. the silks and ornaments well painted,...I guesse to be of the hand of Paul Vansomer’ (Notebooks, II, p.76). It is very likely that the inscription on the picture dates from roundabout this time. Anne Wortley was the sister-in-law of Sir Henry Lee (1571–1631/3), cousin of Queen Elizabeth's hononymous Master of the Armoury, from whom he inherited Ditchley in 1611.

There was a not dissimilar full-length identified as Eleanor Wortley, Lady Lee, at Ditchley (Ditchley sale, 24 May 1933 (87), repr. in Cust, 1914, pl.XXIXb) although it is not possible to tell from the reproduction whether it is by the same hand or not.

Anne, the daughter of Sir Richard Wortley of Yorkshire, married firstly Sir Rotheram Willoughby, and later, sometime after 1634, Sir George Morton of Clenson, Dorset. Thus, if one assumes the traditional identification of the sitter as being correct, then the probable dating of the picture on grounds of dress to 1615–18 suggests that Anne is shown here as Lady Willoughby, and that it could be a marriage portrait.

Stylistically the portrait keeps strictly to the ‘curtain-and-carpet painters’ formula so typical of the Jacobean period, in which the heiratic presence of a full-length figure is enhanced by placing it in a shallow niche between two curtains, the feet planted on matting or an Eastern carpet, with perhaps a chair or a table as the only prop, the latter usually drawn in very uncertain perspective. The hard, flat and brilliantly coloured style of painting which usually goes with it is, however, beginning to give way here to a broader, more shadowed Flemish style associated, as Vertue rightly observed, with Van Somer. The rather unimaginative composition, on the other hand, and manifestly awkward relationship between the figure and the chair, as well as the varying degrees of finish in the handling of the materials (for instance the embroidered bodice and the covering of the chair) suggests the work of several hands. The picture has certain similarities with the portrait, also without a firm attribution, dated circa 1615, of ‘Elizabeth Home, Countess of Suffolk’ at Rangers House, Blackheath (John Jacob and Jacob Simon, The Suffolk Collection Catalogue of Paintings, GLC, 1974, repr. cat. no.17), and it could be that both pictures are a product of the same workshop.

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

You might like