after Anthony van Dyck, Archbishop William Laud

Photo courtesy of Dave Penman (All rights reserved)


Country House
Archbishop William Laud
? 1660s
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
Overall height: 92 cm, Overall width: 92 cm
after Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641)
Catalogue Number
  • ‘Aeta: 60./ Guil: Laud/ Archiepiscopi/ Cantuarie/ Ensis 1633 Laudari/ A Laudato/ Laudatissi:mum Sagax Humilitas Eligens viros probos/ Atq Evehens bonum facit facundius/ Quam si irse solus omnia interverteret/ Suamo in alijs possidet prudentiam'


William Laud (1573–1645) was an influential divine who rose to become Archbishop of Canterbury, the most senior clergyman in the Church of England, in 1633. With the support of Charles I, Laud championed the enforcement of uniform High Church worship, which met with opposition from puritans across the kingdom. He experienced a rapid fall from grace on the eve of the Civil War in 1640, when he was impeached, imprisoned and, five years later, executed on Tower Hill.1 Royalists subsequently regarded him as a martyr.

In the Trewithen portrait, Laud is portrayed in the manner of a living bust in a trompe l’oeil architectural roundel of stone decorated with gilded and inscribed Baroque scrolling and his coat of arms. The style of the clothing and pose suggest the portrait was based on a well-known earlier likeness of Laud by the Principal Painter to Charles I, Sir Anthony Van Dyck (fig. 1). However, the Trewithen portrait differs from the Van Dyck in a number of ways: in the elaborate surround, the head-and-shoulders square format, the frontal pose, the omission of the column and drape and, perhaps most noticeable, Laud’s expression and his averted gaze. The picture is masterfully painted and is clearly by an artist adept at both decorative and portrait painting; or else was a collaboration. Nor is the likeness of Laud a slavish copy after Van Dyck but is by an artist with a distinctive and individual style. The portrait has in the past been attributed to William Dobson (1611–1646) but this is no longer accepted.2 A more likely candidate might be Isaac Fuller (1606/20?–1672), who specialised in decorative painting worthy of the Trewithen picture’s feigned sculpted cartouche, but was also renowned for his charismatic portraiture. The versatile painters Robert Streater (1621–1679) or possibly, if the portrait was made prior to 1665, Emanuel de Critz (1608–1665) might also be considered. All three artists worked for periods in Oxford – a centre of royalism during the Civil Wars and a place to which Laud had strong links.

circa 1635–7. Oil on canvas, 121.6 × 97.1 cm. The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (2043).

Figure 1.
Sir Anthony Van Dyck, Archbishop Laud, circa 1635–7. Oil on canvas, 121.6 × 97.1 cm. The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (2043).

Digital image courtesy of The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. (All rights reserved)

The Latin inscriptions either side of the figure commemorate Laud’s appointment as Archbishop of Canterbury at the age of sixty in 1633, along with a playful pun on his surname and a maxim cited by Cicero: Laudari A Laudato [viro] (to be praised by a man of praise).3 The lower inscription is more unusual: it is a contracted version of the Latin poem ‘Bonus Civis’ (‘The Good Citizen’) by the Anglican clergyman and poet George Herbert (1593–1633), which can be translated as:

Shrewd humility, picking out

And making prominent the good

Man, makes that good one richer

Than if he alone

Were appropriating everything. She shows

Her prudence through another’s acts.4

The unusual iconography and inscriptions indicate that the artist was accommodating the demands of a patron who was Anglican and most probably Royalist. The commemorative nature of the portrait suggests the work was made after Laud’s death in 1645, most likely after the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, when the reputations of Laud and other prominent Anglicans and Royalists were salvaged.5

The setting of the portrait within a faux architectural relief with heraldry and inscription similar to that of a sculpted tomb monument gives the portrait a monumental presence and commemorative air. It is possible that the painting was intended to fit a particular architectural setting, possibly as part of a set of bishops or Royalist martyrs. It is perhaps more likely that the bust-in-roundel format derived from a print after the famous Van Dyck portrait; this would also explain the reversed light-source. The portrait most closely corresponds to a print after Van Dyck by Wenceslaus Hollar (1607–1677) of 1641 (fig. 2). It also bears similarities to later prints by David Loggan (fig. 3) and Robert White (fig. 4),6 whose dating has not been secured and could have been produced from c.1663 right up to the end of the seventeenth century.7

circa 1641. Etching, 19.9 × 14 cm. The British Museum (P,3.5).

Figure 2.
Wenceslaus Hollar after Sir Anthony Van Dyck, William Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, circa 1641. Etching, 19.9 × 14 cm. The British Museum (P,3.5).

Digital image courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum. (CC BY-NC 4.0)

circa 1684. Engraving, 35.1 × 24.2 cm. The British Museum (P,3.4).

Figure 3.
David Loggan after Sir Anthony Van Dyck, Wilhelmus Laud, Archiepiscopus Cantuariensis, circa 1684. Engraving, 35.1 × 24.2 cm. The British Museum (P,3.4).

Digital image courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum. (CC BY-NC 4.0)

circa 1684–1700. Engraving, 24.5 × 14.8 cm. The British Museum (P,3.6).

Figure 4.
Robert White after Sir Anthony Van Dyck, William Laud Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, circa 1684–1700. Engraving, 24.5 × 14.8 cm. The British Museum (P,3.6).

Digital image courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum. (CC BY-NC 4.0)

The picture has rarely been exhibited, and little is known of its provenance. It was recorded in the collection at Bignor Park, West Sussex, in 1832 shortly after the property had been rebuilt by John Hawkins (1760–1840).8 It was subsequently exhibited in London in June 1846 as the property of J. H. Hawkins,9 presumably John Hawkins’s son, John Heywood Hawkins (1802–1877), who inherited Bignor Park on his father’s death in 1841.10 The picture has since passed through the family from Bignor Park to Trewithen, probably around the time of Viscount Mersey’s purchase of Bignor Park in 1926, as the first record of the portrait being at Trewithen is an inventory of 1928.11

For a more detailed study of this portrait, see Emily Burns, ‘Laudari A Laudato Laudatissimum: Trewithen’s Portrait of William Laud’ in this project.

by Emily Burns


  1. Anthony Milton, ‘Laud, William (1573–1645)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004, online ed. David Cannadine, May 2009, (accessed 12 March 2018).

  2. John Woodward, Assistant Keeper at the Ashmolean Museum, to Christopher Hussey, 24 April 1953, stated: ‘it cannot be by Dobson. I have shown this photograph both to Mr. [David] Piper and to Mr. [Oliver] Millar, and they can suggest nothing more exact’: sitter notes, ‘Laud’, Heinz Archive and Library, National Portrait Gallery, London.

  3. Cicero’s source was Naevius. A phrase similar to that in the Trewithen inscription occurs three times in Cicero, the closest in form being that in Epistles, V, xii, 7.

  4. The Trewithen inscription is taken from George Herbert, ‘XIII: Bonus Civis, from ‘Lucus’, in F. E. Hutchinson, The Works of George Herbert, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1941, p. 412; translation from George Herbert, with Mark McCloskey and Paul R. Murphy (trans.), ‘13. The good citizen’, in The Latin Poetry of George Herbert: A Bilingual Edition, Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 1965, p. 91.

  5. Laud’s body was re-interred at his alma mater St John’s College, Oxford, in 1663; Peter Heylyn’s heroic life of Laud, Cyprianus Anglicus, was first published in 1668.

  6. Fig. 3 may be earlier than 1684 since Michael Jaffé has dated Loggan’s three-quarter-length mezzotint to c.1663–7.

  7. The British Museum and National Portrait Gallery give the date c.1684 for Loggan’s prints and c.1684–1700 for White’s, but Michael Jaffé asserts that the prints are likely to have been published between 1663 and 1667: Michael Jaffé, 'Van Dyck Studies I: The Portrait of Archbishop Laud’, The Burlington Magazine, October 1982, p. 600 n. 3, p. 603 n. 13, p. 604.

  8. William Laud Sitter Box, Heinz Archive and Library, National Portrait Gallery, London

  9. The portrait, listed as the property of ‘J. H. Hawkins, Esq.’, was exhibited as by ‘Dobson’ in the Catalogue of portraits of illustrious and eminent persons in history, literature and art, with which the proprietors have favoured the institution, British Institution, Pall Mall, June 1846, London: William Scott, 1846, p. 12, no. 105.

  10. Will of John Hawkins of Bignor Park, Sussex, proved 11 October 1841, NA PROB 11/1955/807.

  11. Here it is listed as hanging in the ‘Main Corridor, Landing and Staircase to Ground Floor’, Inventory and Valuation, W.E.F. March 1928. The picture’s change of location and ownership might also explain attempts to find out more about the work: the art historian C. H. Collins-Baker responded in May 1953 to an enquiry of 29 April about ‘Archp Laud from Bignor: now at Trewithen Cornwall’, ‘Laud’, Heinz Archive.


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