HENRY BONE, R.A. (BRITISH, 1755-1834)
POSSIBLY KING CHRISTIAN IV OF DENMARK, OR HENRY SOMERSET, 5TH EARL OF WORCESTER
enamel on copper, three quarter length portrait standing by a table with a red cloth, the subject with a gold hoop earring, wearing a white satin doublet with lace collar and cuffs, a black cloak over his right shoulder, and black jewelled hat with white ostrich feathers, the Order of the Garter hanging on a blue satin ribbon around his neck and a sword at his waist, holding gloves in his right hand, signed, in a gilt and gesso frame
20cm x 16.5cm
Estimate £ 4,000-6,000
The subject of this flamboyant portrait of a Jacobean gentleman remains a bit of a mystery. Copied from the original oil painting at Knole House by Bone in the early 19th century, it was believed at that time to be of Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester. The handwritten label on the reverse, as well as those on the preparatory grid drawing now in the National Portrait Gallery of the same subject, indicate this. The original Knole oil portrait was attributed to Frederico Zucchero, a 16th century Italian Mannerist painter, who was commissioned by Dudley to paint portraits of himself and Elizabeth I. This attribution is now considered incorrect and the painter of the Knole portrait is currently listed as 'unknown' as is the identity of the subject.
Subsequent research now finds two other likely sitters for the portrait. The first is King Christian IV of Denmark, the other is Henry Somerset, 1st Marquess of Worcester. Both have portraits consistent with the Knole portrait but with some minor differences, in particular the fullness of the beard and the Cross of St George medal. It is a common occurrence that attributions from the 18th and 19th century have been changed or amended as more thorough research and comparisons with known portraits become available. Although Robert Dudley would have been a compelling subject for Henry Bone's series of Elizabethan portraits, it is unlikely this portrait, magnificent as it is, can firmly be said to be him.
Provenance: The Collection of Lady Lanesborough, previously at Swithland Hall, Leicestershire.
Henry Bone (1755-1834)
The son of a cabinet maker and carver, Henry Bone (1755- 1834) was born in Cornwall in 1755. Appointed Enamel Painter to George III, the Prince of Wales (later George IV), and William IV, and a Royal Academy Member, he became famous for the skill and scale of his works, his copies after oil paintings gaining him the reputation as the 'Prince of Enamellers'.
Starting as an apprentice at the Plymouth Porcelain Works, he moved on to the Bristol China Works in 1772. Over the following six years Bone developed his talent, dedicating himself to china decoration and artistic studies. Upon the closure of the Bristol China Works in 1779, he moved to London and found employment decorating fans and watches before his first Royal Academy Exhibition in 1781. Following the exposure he gained from these exhibitions he decided to focus solely on enamel painting, a regular feature at the Royal Academy. He exhibited A Muse and Cupid in 1789, at the time the largest enamel painting ever executed. He later went on to surpass himself in 1811 with his most famous piece, a work after Titian's Bacchus and Ariadne. Previous work in enamel had only been a few inches across, featuring in miniatures and jewellery. At the time the process involved bonding the enamel paint onto a metal sheet, usually copper, through a firing process. The firing would often last for several hours but as the colours would fuse at different temperatures, there was a risk that certain paints may crack and buckle while others were still setting. To reduce the risk of deformation artists would only enamel onto small pieces. Bone experimented with the firing process as well as with his enamel paint formulas and developed enamel paints that would fuse reliably within a narrow heat range and true to colour, enabling him to produce such large, high quality works.
Henry Bone's stature had grown so much that he received 4,000 visitors while exhibiting Bacchus and Adrianne at his house in Berners Street, eventually selling it for the large sum on 2200 guineas. It is now in the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art, who purchased it at auction in 2013 for £313,875. His next great projects included a series of eightyfive historical portraits of figures from the time of Elizabeth I, a series of Civil War cavaliers, and also a series of portraits of members of the Russell family. While the Elizabethan portraits were not a financial success for Bone they are considered among his greatest works.
The portraits in our sale are prime examples of Bone's prowess, skill and attention to detail. The extravagant portrait of a man wearing a white ostrich plume hat, originally believed to be Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester but now identified as possibly King Christian IV of Denmark or Edward Somerset, 4th Earl of Worcester, displays all the confidence and swagger of a gentleman at the top of his social and political world. Bone's annotated grid sketch for this large and fantastic portrait, a copy of an original at Knole House, survives and is also in the collection of National Portrait Gallery.
Suffering from failing eyesight and poor health, Bone offered to sell his collection of enamels to the nation but it was declined. After his death in 1834, it was dispersed and sold at auction by Christie's in 1836. It is believed these four came into the collection of the 5th Earl of Lanesborough, who was furnishing Swithland Hall at this time. It is a rarity to have four of Henry Bone's remarkable portraits available at one time and from one source.
Sold for £27,500 (buyer's premium included)