possibly Mary Beale, Unknown Man

Photo courtesy of Tom St Aubyn (All rights reserved)


Country House
Raynham Hall
Unknown Man
The Red Saloon
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
Overall height: 70 cm, Overall width: 60 cm
possibly Mary Beale
Catalogue Number


The present portrait, set in in a tromp l’oeil roundel, has been identified in the past as a likeness of James Butler, 2nd Duke of Ormonde (1665–1745) by Mary Beale (1633–1699). However, it does not look like any known portraits of the 2nd Duke by Kneller and Dahl, nor could it be him, on grounds of the proposed date. The portrait bears no resemblance to his father, the 1st Duke (1611–1688), who had the same name.

RN8 has the immediacy of other portraits that have been attributed to Beale, such as a portrait of Thomas Coventry, 1st Earl of Coventry of c.1675 (St Edmundsbury Museums, Bury St Edmunds). Other painters of the period, such as Lely and John Michael Wright, were also creating similarly arresting likenesses in elaborate roundels, such as Lely’s portrait of an unknown man belonging to York Museums Trust (YORAG 766) and Wright’s portrait of John Dryden in the National Portrait Gallery (NPG 6854).

by Emily Burns

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