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Gilbert Jackson c.1595/1600 - after 1648
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Gilbert Jackson c.1595/1600 - after 1648

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Three-quarter length portrait of Jane, nee Savage, Countess of Winchester (1606-1631) wearing a red embroidered décolleté dress, standing by a green-upholstered chair decorated with gold stitching,


Oil painting on canvas, 50 x 36 inches.


Signed and dated 1632 and inscribed in an early hand with the identity of the sitter


Provenance: by descent from the sitter's son, Charles, 1st Duke of Bolton, to Mary Henrietta, the eldest co-heir of Harry, 6th Duke of Bolton, who married (1772) John, 5th Earl of Sandwich; their son George, the 6th Earl of Montagu who married (1804) Mary-Anne Lowry-Corry, daughter of the 1st Earl of Belmore; her half-sister Amelia Anne who married Robert Stewart, 2nd Marquess of Londonderry; by descent to the 4th Marquess of Londonderry by 1857 and thence at Powerscourt House, County Wicklow, until acquired by a private collector in Northamptonshire from whom acquired by us.


Gilbert Jackson was an itinerant portrait painter whose origins are unknown; he is documented as painting from about 1620 to about 1650 from recorded commissions and signed and dated paintings. His Art is purely English, and little influenced by the arrival in England of such painters as Paul van Somer, Daniel Mytens or Anthony Van Dyck. His work looks back to the flat hieratic style of the late Elizabethan Court, and he devotes infinite care to the rendition of surfaces, colours and textures whilst seeming to be indifferent to the niceties of perspective. The result is a mixture of sophisticated painterly technique allied with a naiveté of drawing which it at once deeply old-fashioned in the new world of the Baroque, and infinitely charming and unselfconscious. Given his flat and linear retartdataire style but polished painting technique, it is reasonable to surmise that he was trained in London by one of the older generation of portraitists such as Robert Peake (d.1619) whose work finds echoes in Jackson’s. Given the typical length (7 years) of apprenticeships and his first independent signed work of 1621 (Edward Somerset, 4th Earl of Worcester; collection of Lord Dormer), it is unlikely that Jackson was born after 1600, and perhaps 5 or so years before that. His portrait of Thomas Egerton, Earl of Ellesmere 1540-1617 as an old man (formerly Stoneleigh Abbey Warwickshire) would – assuming that this is not a post-mortem portrait – push Jackson’s earliest work back to at least 1617.

After an early career of painting such grand aristocratic notables as Worcester and Ellesmere (which would suggest commissions coming via an established London studio or painting-master) Jackson seems soon to have worked principally for the higher gentry and for academics (there is a notable collection of his work spread around various Oxford Colleges) and rather more rarely for the higher levels of the aristocracy. He seems not to have worked at Court, although he was made a Freeman of the Company of Painter-Stainers in London in December 1640, when he was already probably in his 40’s. It is much more likely that he was itinerant, settling in one area to paint the local Squirearchy before moving on to another area where he would have no competition from the smart London painters.

Unusually for the period, Jackson often signs and dated his paintings, and we have a clear idea of his development (or, more truthfully, lack of development: his style varies little over 30 years). His technique is particularly sound, and a surprising number of paintings (such as the present example) survive in remarkably good state.

The present painting displays Jackson’s ravishing painting of lace and cloth, and the sweet and pert characterisation of the sitter which is so typical of him. She sits rather uncomfortably in the pictorial space, and the perspective of the upholstered chair is amiably dotty: this, too, is a Jackson hallmark, as is the way the sitter seems to lean backwards at a slight angle to what one would expect (cf. the full-length “Lord Belasyse” in the National Portrait Gallery).

Jane, Marchioness of Winchester was the daughter of Thomas Savage, 1st Viscount Savage and his wife Elizabeth suo jure countess Rivers, 1st daughter and co-heiress of Thomas D’Arcy, 1st Earl Rivers. She married on 16th December 1622 John Paulet, Marquess of Winchester (1598-1674), an ardent and valiant Royalist who suffered great privations during the Civil War. Although said to be 26 when she married (her husband was 24), she cannot in truth have been much more than 20 years old since her parents were not married until 14 May 1602. She died “of an impostume of the throat” a little after 16th April 1631 whilst heavily pregnant. Jane Winchester was a noted Court Beauty and Wit, and her passing was noted in verse by verses by Milton and Jonson. The present painting was commissioned to mark her demise, and finished the year after her death. Another version, full-length and with numerous variations in the costume, is noted in the collection of her son Charles’s descendants: he was created Duke of Bolton in 1689.





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