Four magnificent works from the collections of Castle Howard are installed at Sotheby’s London ahead of their sale in July 2015.


Paintings from the collections of Castle Howard are installed at Sotheby’s London ahead of their sale on 8 July 2015, including a rare Portrait of Henry VIII from the Workshop of Hans Holbein, and a portrait by Ferdinand Bol.

LONDON.- With half a billion pounds’ worth of art sold over the past fortnight’s momentous Impressionist & Modern and Contemporary Art sales in London, the summer sale season culminates next week, stepping back in history to offer an array of the finest Old Master & British Paintings and Treasures. 

As a new wave of collectors now descends on London to immerse itself in the finest treasures that the market has to offer,Sotheby’s unveiled some exceptional pieces not seen for decades, or even centuries – led by masterworks from the celebrated collections of Castle Howard, one of Britain’s greatest and most beautiful country houses, and also the legendary setting for Brideshead Revisited. 

Spanning a range of periods and media, from Roman antiquities to Old Master paintings and 17th century Italian furniture, nine carefully selected works from the magnificent collections of Castle Howard will be offered at Sotheby’s on 8th July. 

The full array of the works on offer are on public exhibition at Sotheby’s New Bond Street galleries in London from today (4th July) ahead of the auctions on 8th July. 

Among the highlights are a magnificent view of Venice by Bernardo Bellotto, one of the 18th century’s most talented view painters; a powerful portrait of one Britain’s most famous monarchs, King Henry VIII; and a striking depiction of a young boy by Dutch artist Ferdinand Bol. All of these works were commissioned or bought by the Howard family over the course of 300 years. 

Selected Works from the Collections of Castle Howard 





Bernardo Bellotto (1722 – 1780), Venice, A View of The Grand Canal Looking South From The Palazzo Foscari and Palazzo Moro-Lin Towards The Church of Santa Maria Della Carità, With Numerous Gondolas and Barges. Oil on canvas, 59.7 x 89.5 cm. Estimate: £2.5 – 3.5 million* / HK$28.8 – 40.3 million. Photo Sotheby's

One of the most critical eras in European cultural history was that of the ‘Grand Tour’. While the Grand Tour was undertaken almost de rigueur by 18th-century young men of social standing, for the 3rd and 4th Earls of Carlisle it was an experience that was ultimately to place them among the most important art patrons of their times. Sotheby’s Old Masters sale will include one of the great Venetian views acquired by the 4th Earl on his famous second Grand Tour in Italy in 1738-39. One of no fewer than 15 works commissioned or bought by the Earl from Bernardo Bellotto (1722 – 1780), Venice, A View of The Grand Canal Looking South From The Palazzo Foscari ranks, together with its companion paintings, among the earliest and most important examples of works by Bellotto purchased by a British patron. Painted when Bellotto was just 16 years old, at a time when he was working in the studio of his uncle Canaletto, this exceptional work bears witness to his remarkable precocity. It also constitutes a major contribution in our knowledge of the painter’s early career, showing that even while still in his teens Canaletto’s nephew had begun to develop his own distinctive approach to the vedutista’s art. 

Provenance: One of the Venetian views acquired by Henry Howard, 4th Earl of Carlisle (1694–1758), through his agent Antonio Maria Zanetti during or shortly after his stay in Venice in 1738–39;
Recorded as having arrived at Castle Howard before June 1740;
Thence by descent at Castle Howard.

Exhibited: Padua, Palazzo della Ragione, Luca Carlevarijs e la veduta veneziana del Settecento, 25 September – 26 December 1994, no. 85;
York, City Art Gallery, Venice through Canaletto's eyes, 1998 (informal loan).

Literature: W. J., Accounts of Travels throughout Britain, 1743 (Beinecke Library, Yale, Osborne MSc.480) p. 92: 'There are 24 views of Venice by Canaletto';
Account of the Visit of Henrietta Countess of Oxford to Castle Howard in April 1745 (Ms. at Welbeck Abbey), in the Drawing Room: 'several views of Venice by Caniletti lately put up there', and 'in my Lady's dressing room are several views of Venice';
4th Earl of Carlisle, Probate Inventory, Ms. 1759, p. 20, Blue Coffoy Drawing Room: '18 Views of Venice';
England Displayed, being a new, complete, and accurate survey and description of the Kingdom of England and Principality of Wales…By a Society of Gentlemen, 1769: 'Eleven views of Venice, &c. very fine, glowing and brilliant'; 'Nineteen views of Venice, &c. A capital collection, which displays the beautiful glow and brilliancy of this master's colouring in a very high manner';
H. Walpole, 'Journals of Visits to Country Seats', 1772, ed. Paget Toynbee, Walpole Society, XVI, 1928, pp. 72–73: 'Many views of Venice by Canalletti in his very best & clearest manner';
5th Earl of Carlisle, Probate Inventory, Ms 1825, p.2: 'Six views of Venice', Green Dressing Room; 'Nine views of Venice', Dining Room; 'Thirteen different views of Venice', Dressing Room, New Wing; 'Four Different Views of Venice', Dressing Room, New Wing;
Georgiana, Countess of Carlisle, Descriptive Catalogue of Pictures, Ms. 1837, p. 30, Dining Room, records 18 Venetian view pictures;
G. F. Waagen, Works of Art and Artists in England, London 1838, vol. III, p. 207, 'Pictures by Canaletto, some of them very excellent;
Descriptive Catalogue of the Pictures at Castle Howard, 4th edition, 1845, p. 17, nos 40–57, Dining Room: 'Canaletti, Views of Venice';
6th Earl of Carlisle, Probate Inventory, Ms. 1849, p. 125, nos 40–57, as in the Dining Room;
G. F. Waagen, Treasures of Art in Great Britain, vol. III, London 1854, p. 324;
7th Earl of Carlisle, Probate Inventory, Ms. 1865, p. 170, in the Little Breakfast Room, 18 Views of Venice;
Descriptive Catalogue of the Pictures at Castle Howard, 1874, nos 59–76, Dining Room, Views of Venice;
J. Duthie, Manuscript Catalogue of the pictures at Castle Howard, vol. I, 1878, inv. no. 501;
J. Duthie, Manuscript Catalogue of the pictures at Castle Howard, vol. II, 1880, inv. no. 482;
Hawkesbury, Catalogue of Portraits and Miniatures at Castle Howard and Naworth Castlec. 1904, p. 13, nos 208–31, The Old Dining Room or Canaletti Room, 24 views of Venice;
Rosalind, 9th Countess of Carlisle, Manuscript catalogue of pictures at Castle Howard, 1918, p. 25, no. 482;
L. Jones, Manuscript catalogue of pictures at Castle Howard, Castle Howard Ms., 1926, no. 482;
H. Brigstocke, in Masterpieces from Yorkshire Houses, Yorkshire Families at Home and Abroad 1700–1850, exhibition catalogue, Yorkshire, City Art Gallery, 29 January – 20 March 1994, p. 72, under cat. no. 32;
D. Succi, in Luca Carlevarijs e la veduta veneziana del Settecento, Padua, Palazzo della Ragione, 25 September – 26 December 1994, pp. 54 and 266, cat. no. 85, reproduced in colour p. 270;
J. G. Links, A Supplement to W.G. Constable's Canaletto. Giovanni Antonio Canal 1697–1768, London 1998, p. 33, under no. 334 (as a copy);
D. Succi, 'Bernardo Bellotto nell'atelier di Canaletto e la sua produzione giovanile a Castle Howard nello Yorkshire', in Bernardo Bellotto detto il Canaletto, exhibition catalogue, Mirano, Barchessa di Villa Morosini, 23 October – 19 December 1999, p. 52 et passim;
B. A. Kowalczyk, in Bernardo Bellotto and the Capitals of Europe, exhibition catalogue, Venice, Museo Correr, 10 February – 27 June 2001; Houston, Museum of Fine Arts, 29 July – 21 October 2001, p. 50, under cat. no. 3;
B. A. Kowalczyk, in Canaletto e Bellotto: l'arte della veduta, exhibition catalogue, Turin, Palazzo Bricherasio, 14 March – 15 June 2008, p. 62, under cat. no. 4;
C. Beddington, in Venice. Canaletto and his rivals, exhibition catalogue, London, National Gallery and Washington, National Gallery of Art, 13 October 2010 – 30 May 2011, p. 118, n. 8;
B. A. Kowalczyk, 'Bellotto and Zanetti in Florence', in The Burlington Magazine, vol. CLIV, January 2012, p. 31.

Note: This magnificent veduta of Venice’s principal artery originally formed part of a large group of over forty Venetian views by Bellotto, Canaletto, Marieschi and others that were commissioned by Henry Howard, 4th Earl of Carlisle in Venice during his second Grand Tour of Italy between 1738 and 1739. The paintings were assembled at the same time as other notable works of art, including a celebrated set of paintings by Panini, gems and antique sculpture. The picture is amongst the earliest and most important examples of works by Bellotto purchased by a British patron, and together with its companions that remain in situ at Castle Howard constitutes without question the most important single group of early Venetian works by him to have come down to us. Painted at a time when the young Bellotto was working in the studio of his uncle Canaletto, it bears elegant witness to the remarkable precocity and talent of the young painter.

The view depicts the Grand Canal looking south from the Palazzo Foscari to the church of Santa Maria della Carità. Ca’ Foscari is shown in the right foreground, the viewpoint being taken from the Volta del Canal in front of the Palazzo Balbi. Beyond the Ca’ Foscari are the Palazzo Giustinian and the Palazzo Nani, followed by the Ca’ Rezzonico, distinguished by its temporary pitched roof. After this comes the tower of the Palazzo Contarini degli Scrigni, and the façade and bell tower of Santa Maria della Carità, glimpsed through the sails and rigging of a ship. On the other side of the canal, bathed in bright sunlight, is the façade of the Palazzo Moro-Lin, built in 1671–73 by Sebasatiano Mazzoni for the painter Pietro Liberi, and called ‘dalle tredici finestre’ (of the thirteen windows) on account of its unusual width. Beyond it are the smaller buildings of the Campo San Samuele (now the Palazzo Grassi) and finally the Palazzo Malipiero.


Like its companion paintings at Castle Howard, the present canvas constitutes an important contribution to our knowledge of the earliest stage of Bellotto’s career. Bernardo Bellotto was only sixteen when he was accepted to the Venetian Painters’ Guild in 1738. After his concentrated apprenticeship with his uncle, Canaletto, to which a good number of related drawings and paintings bear witness, it seems that even before the end of the decade – and before he was even twenty years old – Bellotto was beginning to emerge with his own distinct style and interpretation of the vedutista’s art. His earliest documented views are the pair of The Entrance to the Grand Canal, looking West, with Santa Maria delle Salute, and a View of the Rialto Bridge from the North, which are recorded by James Harris MP (1709–80), father of the 1st Earl of Malmesbury in his Account of my Pictures begun in 1739. These were two of ‘Four views of Venice’, including ‘two... by Antonio Bellotti [sic]’, for which Harris paid 10 guineas.At this stage his work was naturally enough greatly dependent upon his uncle’s, but the pictures already display some of the characteristics that would eventually distinguish his style from that of Canaletto, notably their larger size, cooler tonality and larger and more awkward figures. Bellotto seems to have copied a large number of Canaletto’s compositions, and no doubt many of these were painted to help his uncle fulfil large commissions. The nature of his relationship to the older painter has caused many difficulties in disentangling their respective œuvres. Although Stefan Kozakiewicz in his 1972 monograph on Bellotto’s paintings and drawings published only six Venetian pictures which he considered could be certainly attributed to the young Bellotto,recent scholarship by Dario Succi, Charles Beddington and Bozena Anna Kowalczyk has now increased that to more than fifty Venetian vedute. In addition to Harris’s purchase there is other evidence to suggest that Bellotto sold work under his own name. In November 1740, the accounts of Count Johann Mathias von der Schulenberg record that he purchased four views, ‘two of San Marco and two of the Arsenal’ by ‘the nephew of Canaletto’.The price paid, a mere 9 zecchini, was, however, very modest. Count Francesco Algarotti, writing only a year later in 1741 records that that Zanetti was by now apparently asking 32 zecchini (8 pounds) apiece for works by ‘un pittore the imita estremamente la maniera di Canaletto’.4 The presence of Henry Howard, 4th Earl of Carlisle in Venice between 1738 and 1739, was therefore to be the greatest importance to Bellotto’s career, for his is perhaps the single largest body of his early work to have been purchased by a single patron.

This view of the Grand Canal is typical of the pattern set by these few documented early works. The composition is an adaptation of an earlier painting by Canaletto, painted around 1726–27 for the entrepreneurial British Consul Joseph Smith (1682–1770), and today in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle (fig. 1).5 


Canaletto, Venice, The Grand Canal from Ca’foscari to S. Maria della Carità, 1726–27, Royal Collection Trust © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 2015 (Bridgeman Images)

Bellotto would have known the design not only from Antonio Visentini’s engraving, plate II of his Prospectus Magni Canalis Venetarium published in 1735 (fig. 2), but also from the original painting itself, for this remained in the possession of Canaletto’s patron and agent Consul Smith in his house on the Grand Canal, the Palazzo Mangilli-Valmarana. Other paintings in Smith’s collection were also copied by Bellotto in his early years, among them, for example, a Regatta on the Grand Canal (present whereabouts unknown) and a Grand Canal at the entrance to the Cannareggio now in a private collection in the United States.6 The fact that the Castle Howard painting omits the roof and dormer windows on top of the Palazzo Moro-Lin led Links to suggest that the painter had based his design on Visentini’s engraving, where they are similarly absent, rather than the original.7 But Bellotto was no mere transcriber of his uncle’s work. One detail in the painting, the depiction of the tower of the Palazzo Contarini degli Scrigni is, in fact, more closely based on the original painting by Canaletto and quite dissimilar to the engraving. The awning on the Palazzo Malipiero, common to both the Canaletto and the engraving, has been removed. Neither did Bellotto scruple to follow every architectural detail, as witnessed by his own very curious rendition of the campanile of Santa Maria della Carità in the distance.


Antonio Visentini, The Grand Canal from Ca’Foscari, Engraving, 1735. 

Comparison between the Castle Howard painting and the Canaletto at Windsor Castle allows us to see clearly the difference in styles of the two painters. The former is rather larger than the original, something which is consistent in Bellotto’s works based on Canaletto. The viewpoint is the same, but upon the surface of the canal itself Bellotto has significantly altered the disposition of the various gondolas, retaining only the large covered ship which dominates the right foreground of both paintings as well as the engraving. The way it is painted is entirely characteristic of Bellotto in its grey-green intonation, which lends it what Beddington has termed his ‘colder, even wintry light’, and in the attention given to every detail of the reflection and surface ripples of the water. The figures, stiffer and less well realised than Canaletto’s, are picked out in cobalt blues and lilac, rather than the latter’s greens, blues and reds. The architecture and its textures are also rendered with extreme care, again a distinct feature of Bellotto’s approach, with its use of heavier strokes of the brush and thicker application of the paint. The sky, with the edges of the clouds rendered in creamy whites, uses the sloping diagonal strokes of the brush that are an immediately recognisable characteristic of Bellotto’s work. 

Other works by Bellotto from this period share a stylistic homogeneity with the Castle Howard canvas. Of particular importance in this respect is another much larger painting of the same view also to be found in this early group, today in the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm (fig. 3).8 


Bernardo Bellotto, The Grand Canal from Ca’Foscari, 1740 © Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, Sweden

As Kowalczyk has pointed out, the painting includes a depiction of the handicapped seventeen year old Prince Frederick Christian of Savoy (1722–63). Prince Frederick, who supposedly arrived incognito at the Palazzo Foscari on the 21 December 1739 for a six-month stay, is shown at the entrance to the Palazzo Foscari on the right of the picture, accompanied by two pages.9 This would strongly suggest that the painting itself must date to 1740. The stylistic relationship of the two paintings seems quite clear. The Stockholm version is much larger, and uses a higher viewpoint, and also extends the composition to the right to allow for greater prominence for the Palazzo Foscari itself. As Kowalcyzk notes, if we accept that the Castle Howard version was painted around 1738–39 then this would make it the prime version of the composition. It is interesting to observe that among the many differences between the two versions, Bellotto has painted each view as at a different time of day; here the Ca’ Foscari is in shadow, as it is in Canaletto’s painting at Windsor, indicating an afternoon setting, while the Stockholm painting shows the Palazzo in bright sunshine, as it would have been in the morning. Unusually, no preliminary drawing for this painting by Bellotto has survived, which was very often the case in those instances where his work was based closely upon that of his uncle Canaletto, such as another view still at Castle Howard, theCampo Santo Stefano.10 The present painting can also be compared to other works by Bellotto assigned by modern scholars to this early phase of his career and which also originally hung at Castle Howard. These include, for example, the superb view of The Grand Canal looking south from the Ca’ da Mosto to the Rialto Bridge, later in the Oppenheimer collection, whose handling closely parallels the present canvas and must surely date from a very similar moment around 1738–39.11 Such a dating would support the possibility that the present canvas may have been among the first of the Venetian vedutecommissioned by Lord Carlisle.


Lord Carlisle arrived in Venice by November of 1738, when he was met by his son, Charles, Viscount Morpeth (1719–41), who had joined him for reasons of health. In due course they went on to Rome and Florence before leaving Italy from Leghorn on the 26 July the following year. Although there is little by way of actual documentary evidence for Lord Carlisle’s acquisition of the group of vedute, we know that the pictures he had commissioned had arrived at Castle Howard by June of 1740. They are recorded in a letter of 3rd June of that year to the Earl from his agent in Venice, Count Antonio Maria Zanetti (1669–1767), who records his pleasure at the paintings’ safe arrival in England:

J’ay Plaisir que vous avez recu les Tableaux, et trouvez a votre gre: Je crois que vous les avez places dans votre Maison de Campagne, et que en regardant la ville de Venice vous vous souviendrez de moy: Si quelqu’uns de vos amis en est charme, come je l’espere, et qu’il les trouve a un prix onet de 6 livres, et qu’il en ait Plaisir d’en avoir, vous me fairez grande grace de m’en ordonner pour fair Plaisir au Peintre qu’il les a fait, qui est le plus bon homme du monde, et qui en est aussy abil queCanaletto, au quel presentement on paye seulement le nom, et la renomme.12

(‘I am pleased to learn that you have received the paintings and that they are to your liking. I hope that you have hung them in your Country House and that when looking at the city of Venice, you will be reminded of me. If any of your friends are charmed by them, as I hope they will be, and find that for the reasonable price of six livres they would like to have one, they would do me a great honour in ordering some more through me from the painter, who is the best there is, and who is as skilful as Canaletto, whom nowadays one is paying solely for his name and reputation’).

In all, a total of between forty and fifty paintings described as ‘Canaletto’ are recorded in various Castle Howard inventories. Although it is possible to trace the Venetian views in successive inventories, our understanding of the group is hindered by the fact that all early references to the pictures are collective and generic. Recent scholarship has shown that these were clearly the work of more than one artist. The Earl acquired five works by Canaletto, including one of the greatest of all eighteenth-century Venetian vedute, the Bacino di San Marco looking East of 1739, today in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (see introduction).13 This was followed by the signed pair of The Piazza San Marco looking South-east and theEntrance to the Grand Canal from the West end of the Molo, painted slightly later in 1742–43 and both today in the National Gallery of Art in Washington.14 Another two were destroyed by the great fire at Castle Howard in 1940. A handwritten list by Zanetti preserved in the Castle Howard archives records that eighteen of the paintings were by Michele Marieschi (1710–43). Another two have now been identified as the work of Giambattista Cimaroli (1687–1771).15 This would suggest that Bellotto’s work for Castle Howard consisted of perhaps as many as fifteen pictures, three of them of substantial size, and all painted in late 1738 or 1739. Six of these were among the views destroyed by fire in 1940. Of the nine that escaped the fire, a large pair which hung in the Dining Room in the 19th century showing the Entrance to the Grand Canal and S. Maria della Salute andThe Rialto Bridge and the Palazzo Camerlenghi, were sold by George, 9th Earl of Carlisle in 1895 to Colnaghi’s and are today in the Musée du Louvre in Paris;16 a further three paintings have also been identified by Succi with pictures now in private collections. These included two paintings that were later in the collection of Sir Max Michaelis: a view of The Grand Canal from the Palazzo Flangini to Palazzo Vendramin and a Campo Santa Maria Formosa.17 The third was the Grand Canal from Ca’ Mosto looking towards the Rialto, formerly in the Oppenheimer collection.18 Today only three other paintings from the original group of fifteen purchased by Lord Carlisle remain at Castle Howard. These are the View of the Campo Santo Stefano, a View of the Libreria and the Piazzetta of similar smaller format,19 and the much larger Bacino di San Marco on Ascension Day (fig. 4).20


Bernardo Bellotto, The Bacino di San Marco on Ascension Day, Circa 1738-39, Castle Howard.

Lord Carlisle’s employment of Zanetti as an agent for acquiring paintings was unusual, for most British visitors to Venice at this date would have engaged the services of Consul Joseph Smith, certainly if they actively sought works by Canaletto himself. The Earl’s relationship with Zanetti most probably grew out of their common interest in engraved gems, both antique and modern, of which both men were avid collectors. Nonetheless Zanetti also acted as a picture agent for a number of very distinguished collectors, among them, for example, Philippe d’Orléans (1674–1723) and Joseph Wenzel I, Prince of Liechtenstein (1696­–1772). It is possible that the paintings acquired by the Earl were commissioned directly from Canaletto himself, either by Carlisle or his agent. Zanetti’s letter implies that Lord Carlisle was being asked to order some more views, but who they were to be painted by, or by whom those already ordered were, remains unclear. The fact that Zanetti is clearly referring to another vedutista suggests strongly that many of these works were by at least one other painter, but whether he was referring to Bellotto or to his short-lived contemporary Michele Marieschi is impossible to determine. Given his known association with the latter, and the number of paintings by him that did reach Castle Howard, it seems most likely that his ‘bon homme’ was Marieschi.21 Links speculated that three of the four Bellottos still at Castle Howard, the Campo Santo Stefano, the Grand Canal from Ca’ Foscari and the Piazzetta and the Library were among those supplied by Zanetti, while theBacino di San Marco on Ascension Day may have been acquired from Smith, and the works now in Washington and Boston perhaps directly from Canaletto himself.22


When the paintings arrived at Castle Howard, it seems that the Venetian views were hung to complement the Roman views by Panini. A number of the Canalettos shared the same frames as the Paninis, which had been commissioned in 1740, and as we know that in April 1744 the 4th Earl paid his framer Paul Petit £64. ls. for a total of fifteen carved and gilt frames, it is probable that parts of both sets of Italian pictures were actually hanging at Castle Howard by this date or shortly thereafter.23 The painting remains in this frame to this day (fig. 5). The Countess of Oxford, visiting Castle Howard on the 27 April 1745 noted, ‘in the drawing room… several views of Venice by Canaletto lately put up there’.24 The Earl’s posthumous inventory of 1758–59 records, ‘16 Venetian and Roman views in carved gilt frames’ hanging in the ‘Blue Coffoy Room’ in the South-East Wing, and it is possible that the core group of the vedute were displayed there from the outset, probably as early as the summer of 1744.25 It is interesting to speculate whether in his choice of a room dedicated to the views of Italy, the 4th Earl was consciously emulating the major sequence of twenty four Venetian views commissioned a few years earlier in 1732from Canaletto by his wife’s half-brother-in-law John, 4th Duke of Bedford for Woburn Abbey, and completed by 1736.26


 Castle Howard, The Canaletto Room, showing the present painting, 1924.

Although it is not possible to identify specifically the present painting in the early inventories, it has probably always formed part of the core group of roughly nineteen vedute that have hung together since the mid-eighteenth century. The probate inventory taken in 1758 includes several references to ‘views of Venice’ including eighteen in the ‘Blue Coffoy Drawing Room’. In 1769, a total of thirty-seven views of Venice by Canaletto (and two by Marieschi) are recorded in the anonymous England Displayed of that year: ‘In the Drawing Room: ‘Canaletti. Nineteen views of Venice, & c. A capital collection, which displays the beautiful glow and brilliancy of this master’s colouring in a very high manner’.’27 A large portion of these was undoubtedly by Bellotto. Two years later, the 5th Earl (1748–1825) counted ‘between 30 and 40 views of Venice small’ and ‘10 views of Venice Canaletti’ in his ‘List of the best Pictures at Castle Howard not purchased by me’.28 The first printed catalogue of paintings at Castle Howard, published in 1805, only lists nineteen paintings worthy of mention (presumably those in the Blue Coffoy Drawing Room), but a later document of 1812 records forty-one once more, including a rare titled description of the View of the Bacino di San Marco on Ascension Day: ‘The Doge of Venice marrying the Sea’ (fig. 5), then hanging in the Gold Bedchamber in the South Front apartments. 

By the mid 19th century the collection had been split into two groups, divided between the Drawing Room (later known as the ‘Canaletto Room’) and the Green Silk Dressing Room on the first floor of the South Front, with a few others scattered throughout the house. Gustav Waagen, who visited Castle Howard in 1854, recorded eighteen ‘pictures by Canaletto, some of them very excellent’.29 The first detailed description of the pictures is afforded us by the Athenaeum of September 1876, which lists twenty-six ‘Canalettos’. Twenty of these were of ‘cabinet size’ and a further six described as ‘larger pictures’. Here we find a few more closely observed descriptions, notably, for example, of the large Bacino di San Marco on Ascension Day. In 1878 and again in 1880, the steward John Duthie listed each of forty one pictures individually with dimensions and locations, albeit without any specific titles. Only at this point can the View of the Grand Canal looking south be identified with any certainty. According to Browning there were in 1905, four large and nine smaller views by Canaletto in the ‘Canaletto Room’, as well as eleven smaller works by Marieschi. Three more, ‘hanging in the Music Room’ and in ‘Lady Carlisle’s Dressing Room’ were large pictures by Canaletto.30 Later archival photographs, taken before the fire in 1944, give a clearer indication of the hanging arrangement in the Canaletto Room, with the smaller works by Canaletto and Bellotto hanging above the larger views (fig. 6). The View of the Grand Canal looking south can be seen on the left hand end of the second row of smaller format works, one in a row of three works beneath their counterparts by Canaletto.

The Castle Howard Bellotto is thus of paramount importance in understanding the nature of the artist’s early career in Venice. Collectively the remaining paintings constitute one of the most important groups of works by Bellotto to have remained in the same family collection for which they were painted. They provide a vital point of reference in attempts to construct an understanding of his work in the city prior to his departure for Rome in 1742. Beyond this, they bear witness to the rapid evolution of his own distinctive style that, after his departure from Italy in 1747, would serve him so well for more than three decades in the great courts of northern Europe. Above all, they show that Bellotto can, in Beddington’s words, ‘be considered one of the geniuses of European view painting for the work of his Venetian period alone’.31



Circle Of - Studio Of Hans Holbein The Younger (1725 – 1815), Portrait of King Henry VIII, half-length, wearing a richly embroidered red velvet surcoat, holding a staff. inscribed on the staff: H and dated: 1542, oil with gold and silver on oak panel, 93 by 68 cm.; 36 1/2 by 26 3/4 in. Estimate: £800,000 – 1,200,000 / HK$9.2 – 13.8 million. Photo Sotheby's

This powerful portrait of one of England’s most famous monarchs was painted in 1542 in the studio of Hans Holbein, one of the greatest Western portraitists of the 16th century. Driven by a love of women and the desire for a male heir, King Henry VIII is renowned for having had no fewer than six wives. The work is dated 1542, the year when the King’s fifth wife, Catherine Howard, niece of the Duke of Northumberland, the ancestor of the Earls of Carlisle, was beheaded on the grounds of alleged adultery. 

Provenance: Possibly Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk  (1473–1554);
Thence possibly by descent to his great-great-grandson Thomas Howard, 2nd Earl of Arundel (1585–1646), and recorded as a portrait of Henrico octavo in the inventory of the estate of his widow, Alethea, Countess of Arundel in 1654;
Thence possibly by descent to her third son William, 1st Viscount Stafford (1614–1680), Tart Hall, London;
Henry Howard, 4th Earl of Carlisle (1694–1758), probably seen at Carlisle House, Soho, London, and in whose probate inventory of 1759 certainly listed as at Castle Howard;
Thence by descent.


Castle Howard.  Photo Sotheby's

Literature: Possibly the painting of 'Henrico octavo' listed in the Inventory of Pictures, etc., in the Possession of Alethea, Countes of Arundel, at the time of her death at Amsterdam in 1654, London, Public Record Office, DEL 1,7, ff. 693r.–705v.;
Possibly George Vertue, Note Books, Vol. IV, 1736, in Walpole Society, vol. xxiv, 1935–36, p. 117;
4th Earl of Carlisle, Probate Inventory, Ms., 1759, no.109, ‘Henry the 8th. A half Length in a Carv’d & Gilt Frame’;
England Displayed, being a new, complete, and accurate survey and description of the Kingdom of England and Principality of Wales… By a Society of Gentlemen, 1769, p. 147: ‘Holbein, Harry VIII’;
5th Earl of Carlisle, A List of the Best Pictures at Castle Howard not purchased by me, Ms., 1771, p. 7, no. 6;
H. Walpole, 'Journals of Visits to Country Seats', 1772, ed. Paget Toynbee, Walpole Society, XVI (1928) pp.72–73, ‘Henry 8 by Holbein’;
John Manners, 5th Duke of Rutland, Travels in Great Britain, London 1805, ‘...a Holbein of Henry VIII’;
Descriptive Catalogue of the Pictures at Castle Howard, 1st edition, 1805, no. xlvi;
J. Britton and E. W. Brayley, The Beauties of England and Wales, London 1812, vol. XVI, p. 256, no. 46;
5th Earl of Carlisle, Probate Inventory, Ms. 1825, p. 7, Little Breakfast Room;
Georgiana, Countess of Carlisle, Descriptive Catalogue of Pictures, Ms. 1837, p. 24, no. 46, as hanging in the Music Room;
G. F. Waagen, Works of Art and Artists in England, vol. III, London 1838, p. 206, no. 46; 'An old copy of the picture in Warwick Castle';
Descriptive Catalogue of the Pictures at Castle Howard, 4th edition, 1845, p. 10, no. 106, as hanging in the Music Room;
6th Earl of Carlisle Probate Inventory, Ms. 1849, p. 128, no. 106, Music Room;
G. F. Waagen, Treasures of Art in Great Britain, vol. III, London 1854, p. 323 (as a copy);
7th Earl of Carlisle Probate Inventory, Ms. 1865, p. 171, no. 106, Lower Saloon;
Descriptive Catalogue of the Pictures at Castle Howard, 1874, no. 34, Mabeuse Room;
J. Duthie, Manuscript Catalogue of the Pictures at Castle Howard, vol. I, Ms., 1878,  no. 28, Mabeuse Room, ‘purchased by Henry 4th Earl of Carlisle’, with the later note: ‘sent to Naworth’;
J. Duthie, Manuscript Catalogue of the Pictures at Castle Howard, vol. II, Ms., 1880, no. 24, as hanging in the Mabeuse Room;
Hawkesbury, Catalogue of Portraits and Miniatures at Castle Howard and Naworth Castlec. 1904, p. 73, no. 67, hanging at Naworth in the Music Room (attributed to Hornebolt [sic]);
Possibly M. L. Cox, ‘Inventory of the Arundel Collection’, in Burlington Magazine, vol. xix, no. 102, September 1911, p. 324;
Rosalind, 9th Countess of Carlisle, Manuscript catalogue of pictures at Castle Howard, 1918, p. 57, no. 24, as back at Castle Howard in the Dining Room;
L. Jones, Manuscript Catalogue of Pictures at Castle Howard, Castle Howard Ms. 1926, no. 24;
P. Ganz, 'Henry VIII and his court painter, Hans Holbein', in Burlington Magazine, vol. LXIII, October 1933, pp. 145–55, reproduced in colour and plates III and IV (as Holbein);
P. Ganz, `The Castle Howard Portrait of Henry VIII', Burlington Magazine, vol. LXIV, February 1934, pp. 80–86, reproduced (as Holbein);
H. A. Schmid, 'Kann man die Urheberschaft Holbeins den Jüngeren nur auf Grund von Photographieren ablehnen?', in Prussian Jahrburch, LV, 1934, pp. 126–38 (as not by Holbein);
P. Ganz, 'Holbein and Henry VIII', in Burlington Magazine, vol. LXXXIII, November 1943, p. 271 (as Holbein);
H. A. Schmid, Hans Holbein der Jüngere. Sein Austieg zur Meisterschaft und sein Englischer Stil, Basel 1945, pp. 376, 385 (as not by Holbein);
P. Ganz, The Paintings of Hans Holbein, London 1956, pp. 254–55, no. 119, reproduced plate 158 (as Holbein);
R. Strong, Tudor & Jacobean Portraits, London 1968, vol. I, p. 159, vol. II, reproduced fig. 313;
R. Salvini and H. W. Grohn, L'Opera Completa di Holbein, Milan 1971, p. 108, no. 135 (as largely workshop of Holbein);
J. Rowlands, Holbein, London 1985, p. 236, no. R. 37(a) (as follower of Holbein)

Note:  ‘I could make seven earls from seven peasants if it pleased me, but I could not make one Hans Holbein, or so excellent an artist, out of seven earls’ (Henry VIII)

This portrait has descended for nearly three hundred years or more in the possession of the Howard family, who were among the most powerful and influential families of the entire Tudor era. In the person of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk (1473–1554) they boasted one of the most important members of the court of Henry VIII, and in his nieces Anne Boleyn and her cousin Catherine Howard, two of Henry’s six Queens. Painted in 1542, perhaps for the 3rd Duke, this is considered the prototype of the last official image of the King, who was to die in 1547. It is based upon a likeness produced in the workshop of his most famous court artist, Hans Holbein the Younger, one of the greatest of all portrait painters in the 16th century. 

By the time this portrait was painted in 1542 Holbein had been in the service of the English crown for fifteen years and a Court painter for six. For all the vicissitudes of the reign of Henry VIII his position as the King’s painter was never undermined or challenged, and indeed he himself had adopted English citizenship in June of the previous year. Though he left no real pupils or worthy imitators, his influence upon portraiture at the English Court was profound, for it was in his time that the concept of the royal portrait as a potent image and symbol of the monarch was first truly developed. In Strong’s words ‘the reign of Henry VIII witnesses the birth of modern royal portraiture and sets the pace for the next 300 years’, and for this he was largely responsible.1 This likeness of the king was to be the last royal image to issue from Holbein’s studio, for the following autumn he himself had died from the plague in London. 

This imposing portrait of the king was also to prove the last official likeness of the King’s reign, for Henry himself was to die only a few years later in 1547. At this date the King was fifty-one, and he is shown at a time when he was increasingly beset by poor health, and when he would have been recovering from the end of his fifth marriage to Catherine Howard (c. 1523–42), whom he had had executed that same winter. Despite this the King’s presence remains formidable and he is unflinching in his gaze. He is shown at half-length in a full-frontal pose, clad in a vermilion velvet surcoat over a doublet of cloth of gold worked with silver, that Holbein has cleverly adopted as a means of disguising the King’s greatly increased weight, which had been brought on by his illness. In his left hand he holds a staff, which at this date he required to walk with, upon which the initial ‘H’ is inscribed and the date of 1542. There is no evidence that the King sat specifically to Holbein for this portrait type, but, as was usual with Holbein’s working methods, his likeness was undoubtedly evolved from an earlier drawing taken from life, which no longer survives. 

Despite his privileged position in the service of the Crown, portraits by Holbein himself of Henry VIII are extremely rare, and even those issuing from his studio in his lifetime uncommon. He is first recorded as the King’s painter in 1536, some four years after he had come to England for the second time, and he is recorded as salaried in the Royal Accounts from 1538 onwards. Even if Henry VIII gave him relatively few commissions, they were all highly important. The first and by far the most important surviving portrait of the King is that painted in 1536 when he was already forty-five (fig. 1).


Hans Holbein the Younger, King Henry VIII, oil on oak panel, Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Madrid, Spain / Bridgeman Images

Today in the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid, this remains Holbein’s undisputed masterpiece from his years in England, and probably the only portrait of Henry made from life, although the original ad vivum drawing which Holbein would undoubtedly have made of the King no longer survives.2 The likeness was re-used by Holbein for his famous mural of the King with his third wife Jane Seymour and his father Henry Tudor and his wife Elizabeth of York, executed in 1537 for the Privy Chamber of King’s Palace in Whitehall. Although the mural itself was destroyed by fire in 1698, its appearance is known from a seventeenth-century copy made by Remigius van Leemput for Charles II (Royal Collection) and also from the surviving left-hand side of Holbein’s own preparatory cartoon (London, National Portrait Gallery). The Whitehall likeness of the King remains the most potent image of the sovereign, and was copied and repeated in a number of replicas at half or full-length, and in these portraits of the King Holbein had already begun to develop a full-face image of the King’s features. It was used by him again, for example, in his group portrait of Henry VIII with the Barber Surgeons, painted between 1541 and 1543.3 The original (fig. 3) is still preserved in the Barber-Surgeons’ Hall in London, but has been badly damaged, and may have been largely the work of Holbein’s assistants. Holbein’s preparatory cartoon also survives, today in the collection of the Royal College of Surgeons. The fact that the King now looks directly at the viewer rather than to one side as in the Thyssen portrait suggests the possibility of a new sitting to Holbein around 1540–41, but this is unverified. The Castle Howard portrait, with its full-frontal depiction of the King, is most probably linked to this type, and was to be the final image associated with Holbein’s patterns. 


Hans Holbein the Younger, Henry VIII handing over a charter to Thomas Vicary, commemorating the joining of the Barbers and Surgeons Guilds,1541, oil on panel, Barber-Surgeons’ Hall, London, UK © Courtesy of the Worshipful Company of Barbers / Bridgeman Images.

Versions and dating

The Castle Howard portrait of Henry has long been considered to be the prime version of this last image of the King, and indeed has been considered by some scholars to be the work of Holbein himself. Paul Ganz, in his articles on this portrait type, and again in his monograph and catalogue of Holbein’s work, regarded it as the work of Holbein himself and ‘the prototype for the last group of portraits of the King’. This view was not, however, entirely shared by later scholars. Salvini and Grohn were inclined to see it as largely the work of the Holbein studio. Schmid thought the technique close to Holbein but the execution from his workshop at best. Strong considered it the key portrait in the group, and considered the possibility of Horenbout’s authorship. As the face-pattern coincides with that of the final head in the Whitehall Privy Chamber painting, he also discounted the likelihood of another sitting to Holbein. Rowlands, while accepting the primacy of the Castle Howard version, argued that none of the versions could be considered the work of Holbein himself, and indeed doubted whether they were sufficiently homogenous to be regarded as the products of a workshop pattern. The unique presence of the ‘H’ on the Castle Howard panel (fig. 2) has been much debated, and it has been interpreted to stand for both Henry and Holbein, and even led for a while to the panel’s attribution to Holbein’s fellow court painter the Flemish miniaturist Lucas Horenbout (c. 1490–1544).4


Detail of the present lot.

There are a number of versions of this last portrait of the King of varying quality. In addition to the present panel, the best of these include those at Warwick Castle, at Rothesay in the collection of the Marquess of Bute, and that from the collections of the Dukes of Manchester. Further examples of the composition are to be found at Knole, Melbury House, The National Portrait Gallery (fig. 4), the University of Cambridge, the Bethlem Royal Hospital in London, the Moores Foundation at Compton Verney, and at Seaton Delaval, which is dated 1545. A slightly larger pattern, dated 1544 but on canvas and not panel and probably of later date, is at St Bartholomew's Hospital, and a reduced head-and-shoulders copy is at Chatsworth.5In all, just over a dozen extant versions survive, but while most may have been painted during or very shortly after the King’s lifetime, in the present state of research only two or three can be shown to have been painted while Holbein was still alive. Of all these types, the Castle Howard panel appears to be the earliest reliably dated example of this composition. Recent dendrochronological analysis of its panels, undertaken by Ian Tyers, shows heartwood rings up to 1533, thus suggesting a felling date around 1540, implying a rapid but possible use of the panel from 1541 onwards, which fits with the date of 1542 inscribed on the picture. Similar analysis has also been undertaken on the Warwick, ex-Manchester, National Portrait Gallery and Seaton Delaval panels. This shows that two other panels could have an early date prior to Holbein’s death in 1543. These are that from the collection of the Dukes of Manchester, which has a likely use from around 1535 onwards, and that at Warwick, which has panels with an early heartwood date of 1487, but as the panels here are trimmed no more accurate dating can be arrived at, as they could have been re-used at any date. Those at Seaton Delaval and in the National Portrait Gallery date respectively from 1545 and 1547 onwards and so are likely to have been painted during the King’s lifetime or very close to it.  


Follower of Hans Holbein the Younger, King Henry VIII, oil on panel, early 17th century (circa 1542) NPG 496 © National Portrait Gallery, London

The fact that the portraits are of similar size, and that dated examples and recent existing dendrochronological evidence seems to point to a limited period of production, suggest that the final portrait type of the King was indeed produced from a pattern in Holbein’s workshop. The relatively small number of extant versions might similarly suggest that the type was limited, and ceased to be produced not long after the King’s death. However, the nature of Holbein’s workshop is not known, for no documentary source makes any mention of his apprentices or pupils, and the problem of whether Holbein himself organised the repetition of some of his English portraits is unresolved. That said, recent technical analysis suggests that contemporary versions of the Whitehall portrait type now in the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool and Petworth House were painted by artists who had either worked alongside him at Whitehall or who had access to his studio, its cartoons and designs.6 Holbein’s working technique of using tracings meant that copied drawings or traced patterns could be made of the original portraits of important clients such as the King. A drawing of the frontal facial pattern of the King, possibly connected  to the Walker Art Gallery portrait (fig. 5) inscribed by the otherwise unrecorded Hans Swartung survives in Munich, and such a drawing or tracing may have been used for the Castle Howard type of the King.7 Holbein certainly seems to have used studio assistants at this date to help him execute the very large panel of Henry VIII with the Barber-Surgeons and it is probable that they were entrusted with its completion after his death in 1543.


Workshop of Hans Holbein the Younger, Henry VIII© Staatliche Graphische Sammlung München, Inv. 12875 Z


Detail of present lot


The earliest provenance for the Castle Howard portrait remains unclear. It is first certainly recorded at Castle Howard in 1759, when it is listed in the Probate Inventory of Henry Howard, 4th Earl of Carlisle as: ‘Henry the 8th. A half Length in a Carv’d & Gilt Frame’. The portrait was then accompanied by a companion portrait of Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk: ‘Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk by H. Holbein in ditto frame’. This latter portrait remains in the collections at Castle Howard. The reverse is inscribed: Ex Col. Arund. H. Holbe. P., which would imply that one or both pictures may originally have come from the Arundel Collections.An unsourced note in an old picture catalogue in the Castle Howard archives suggests that both pictures were bought by the 4th Earl of Carlisle at the Arundel House sale in 1720. However, no records for this sale mention either painting, although it is possible that a member of the Howard family may have purchased them separately or afterwards. This provenance would seem to be supported by the fact that George Vertue records in his Note Books for 1736 'a ½ length K Hen. 8 in his great Coat and Staf in his hand Hollben – Thomas Duke Norfolk Hen. 8 time’ in the collection of Viscount Morpeth, as the future 4th Earl was then styled. Duthie, in his catalogue of the pictures at Castle Howard made in 1878, also records that the panel, then hanging in the Mabeuse room, had been, ‘purchased by the 4th Earl of Carlisle’. Such a purchase might seem slightly out of character for the 4th Earl, whose interests as a collector were more orientated to the paintings and antiquities of Italy, but neither he nor his father would have overlooked an opportunity to acquire portraits of their ancestors for the programme of decoration at Castle Howard. 

It is, of course, quite possible that this portrait of Henry VIII descended in the Howard family from the outset. The Howard family were without question one of the most powerful and important families at court during the reign of Henry VIII, particularly in the person of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk (1473–1554). Although it is improbable that a member of the family would have commissioned a likeness of the King in the same year that his Queen Catherine Howard – who was the Duke’s niece – was executed, at this critical juncture in the Howard family's fortunes the ever wily Norfolk may have done so to re-assert his loyalty to the King. It was also at this date that his son Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (1517–47) sat to Holbein for his portrait (Museu de Arte, Sao Paolo). Surrey’s portrait and another of his father (Royal Collection) both descended to his great-grandson Thomas Howard, 2nd Earl of Arundel (1585–1646).9 Arundel was an inveterate collector of Holbein’s work, owning no fewer that forty-four works by or attributed to him at the time of his death. Significantly, among the paintings in the inventory of the estate of his widow Alethea, Countess of Arundel, drawn up in 1654 before the dispersal of the collection, there is listed an unattributed painting of the King (‘Henrico octavo’), whose nature and whereabouts remain unknown.10 Such a painting is not recorded in the 1641 inventory of the Countess’ London residence at Tart Hall, nor in the Arundel sales in Amsterdam in 1684 or of the main London residence, Arundel House, in 1720.11 These inventories are, however, unlikely to have been complete – indeed one of the principal omissions are the family portraits – and such a work may easily have been sold or given to other family members. Following the court proceedings over the Countess' estate, Arundel House passed to her grandson Henry Howard, 6th Duke of Norfolk, while her residence at Tart Hall passed to her second son Sir William Howard, 1st Viscount Stafford. Sales from both houses continued in the following years. A part of the famous collection of Arundel marbles was, for example, sold privately in 1691 from Arundel House to Sir William Fermor. Similarly Van Dyck's famous portrait of the Earl of Arundel with his grandson (Arundel Castle) remained at Tart Hall until it was removed by the 3rd Earl of Stafford around 1743. It is very possible that the present portrait could have been sold in similar fashion, perhaps to a family member. Ganz notes that a portrait of the King in the possession of the Howard family was recorded by Karel van Mander in his Schilder-Boeck of 1604, but the evidence for this is unclear.12

1 Strong 1968, p. 157.

2 Panel, 28 x 20 cm. I. Lübbecke, The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection: Early German Paintings 1350–1550, London 1991, pp. 250–55, reproduced.

3 Exhibited London, Tate Gallery, Holbein in England, 2006–07, no. 129.

4 Horenbout had worked for the Crown since 1525 and became ‘King’s painter’ in 1531 at twice Holbein’s salary. He became an English citizen in 1534 and is regarded as the founder of the English school of portrait miniatures, but no documented or securely attributed panel portrait by him survives.

5 For the most detailed list see Strong 1968, p. 159 and Rowlands 1985, p. 236.

6 See X. Brooke and D. Crombie, Henry VIII revealed. Holbein’s Portrait and its Legacy, exh. cat. Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 2003.

7 Munich, Staatliche Graphische Sammlung. Black, red and white chalk on paper, 30.7 x 24.4 cm. Exhibited London 2006–07, no. 130, reproduced.

8 There is no record of such an inscription on this panel, which has since been cradled.

9 The portrait of Surrey then disappeared from view until emerging in the collection of George Herbert and later the Sheffield family, while that of Norfolk was seen by Vertue (Note Books, vol. III, p. 122) in ‘a sale of Pictures’ in London in 1744, where it was bought for Frederick, Prince of Wales.

10 Inventory of Pictures, etc., in the Possession of Alethea, Countes of Arundel, at the time of her death at Amsterdam in 1654, for which see L. Cust, ‘Notes on the Collections formed by Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel and Surrey, KG’, and M. L. Cox, ‘Inventory of the Arundel Collection’, in Burlington Magazine, vol. xix, no. 102, September 1911, p. 324.

11 See S. Foister, ‘'My foolish curiosity’. Holbein in the collection of the Earl of Arundel’, in Apollo, July 1996, p. 55, and E. Chew, ‘The Countess of Arundel and Tart Hall’, in ‘The Evolution of English Collecting. Receptions of Italian Art in the Tudor and Stuart periods, ed. E. Chaney, in Studies in British Art, 12, 2003, pp. 299–306.

12 Ganz 1950, p. 255.





Ferdinand Bol (Dordrecht 1616 – 1680 Amsterdam ), Portrait of a Boy, said to be the artist's son, aged 8, signed and dated lower left: bol.1652. and inscribed: ætatis 8. sua, oil on canvas, 170 by 150 cm.; 67 by 59 in. Estimate: £2 – 3 million / HK$23 – 34.5 million. Photo Sotheby's

Unlike his father, who was best known as a collector of Italian antiquities and paintings, Frederick Howard, 5th Earl of Carlisle (1748 – 1825) collected more broadly, embracing contemporary British pictures, as well as Dutch and Italian Old Masters. His acquisitions transformed the collection at Castle Howard into one of the most significant in Britain. A fine example of 17th century Dutch painting is to be found in Ferdinand Bol’s Portrait of a Boy. Bought from the Fagel family in 1801, this impressive work is surely the finest portrait by the artist, one of Rembrandt’s favourite and most talented pupils. It is without any doubt Bol's most original work, in which he finally steps out of the shadow cast by his teacher to establish his own independent style. 

ProvenanceThe Fagel family, The Hague;
By descent to Griffier Hendrik Fagel III (1765–838), The Hague and London;
The Griffiers Fagel sale London, Coxe, Burrell, Foster, 22–23 May 1801, lot 32;
There bought by Frederick Howard, 5th Earl of Carlisle (1748–1825) for 42 pounds for his London residence at Grosvenor Place;
Removed to Castle Howard by 1825;
Thence by descent at Castle Howard.


Castle Howard Photo Sotheby's

Exhibited: London, British Institution, 1821, no. 24;
London, Agnews, Loan Exhibition of Pictures by Old Masters, 1925, no. 17;
London, Royal Academy of Arts, Dutch Pictures 1450–1750, Winter Exhibition 1952–53, no. 268 (as a portrait of the artist's son);
Kingston-upon-Hull, Ferens Art Gallery, Dutch Painting in the Seventeenth Century, 1961, no. 8.

Literature: Inventory of Grosvenor Place, the London residence of the 5th Earl of Carlisle, Ms. c. 1812, no. 26;
Grosvenor Place Inventory, Ms. c. 1820, p. 5;
W. Buchanan, Memoirs of Painting, London 1824, vol. I, p. 304;
5th Earl of Carlisle, Probate Inventory, Ms. 1825, p. 11, Billiard Room, Castle Howard, ‘F. Boll, A Dutch Boy’;
Georgiana, Countess of Carlisle, Descriptive Catalogue of Pictures, Ms. 1837, p. 20, no. 114, Music Room;
G. F. Waagen, Works of Art and Artists in England, vol. III, London 1838, p. 210, ‘The portrait of a Boy holding a goblet. Very spirited, and carefully executed in a bright golden tone. The cover of a table is of a deep, glowing red. Whole length, the size of life’;
Descriptive Catalogue of the Pictures at Castle Howard, 4th edition, 1845, no. 90;
6th Earl of Carlisle, Probate Inventory, Ms. 1849, p. 127, no. 90, Music Room;
G. F. Waagen, Treasures of Art in Great Britain, London 1854, vol. III, p. 326;
7th Earl of Carlisle, Probate Inventory, Ms. 1865, p. 172, no. 90, Music Room;
Descriptive Catalogue of the Pictures at Castle Howard, 1874, no. 118, Music Room;
J. Duthie, Manuscript Catalogue of the pictures at Castle Howard, vol. I, 1878, inv. no. 127;
J. Duthie, Manuscript Catalogue of the pictures at Castle Howard, vol. II, 1880, inv. no. 114;
Hawkesbury, Catalogue of Portraits and Miniatures at Castle Howard and Naworth Castlec. 1904, p. 35, no. 514, Long Gallery;
A. Graves, A Century of Loan Exhibitions 1813–1912, London 1913, vol. I, p. 72 (as 'A Youth' by Bol);
Rosalind, 9th Countess of Carlisle, Manuscript catalogue of pictures at Castle Howard, 1918, p. 13, no. 114;
L. Jones,  Manuscript catalogue of pictures at Castle Howard, Castle Howard Ms., 1926, no. 114;
H. Avray Tipping, 'Castle Howard, Yorkshire', Country Life, 61, 25 June 1927, p. 1046;
A. Blankert, Ferdinand Bol 1616–80, Diss., Utrecht 1976, p. 247, no. A139;
A. Blankert, Ferdinand Bol, Doornspijk 1982, pp. 59, 67, 142, cat. no. 138, reproduced plate 149; 
W. Sumowski, Gemälde der Rembrandt-Schüler, Landau-Pfalz 1983, vol. I, p. 312, cat. no. 169;
M. Van der Meij-Tolsma, 'Ferdinand Bol', in the Grove Dictionary of Art, London 1996, vol. IV, pp. 250–51, reproduced fig. 2;
B. Haak, The Golden Age. Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century, London 1984, p. 365, reproduced fig. 769.

Note: Although not widely known, and only ever seen on the open market once before in its history, this hugely impressive depiction of a wealthy young boy, finely attired and at ease in an opulent interior, is surely Ferdinand Bol’s finest portrait. It is without any doubt his most original, for in it, he finally steps out of the shadow cast by his teacher, Rembrandt, to establish his own independent style, bolder and more colourful, and fully in accord with the new tastes and sensibilities of mid-century Amsterdam.

Ferdinand Bol was born in Dordrecht to Balthasar Bol, a prosperous surgeon, and is thought to have been apprenticed to Jacob Gerritsz. Cuyp (1594–1651), the father of the landscape painter Aelbert Cuyp, who was at that time the most prominent and versatile artist in Dordrecht. When Bol was nearly twenty years of age, he eschewed the customary trip to Italy expected of a young painter and left for Amsterdam, where he entered Rembrandt’s studio. Bol was apprenticed to his famous master between 1635 and 1641, and, unsurprisingly, this was to be a formative influence upon his subsequent career. Upon the death of his father and the ensuing receipt of some funds, Bol established himself as an independent artist at the age of 25, and his first signed and dated works appear from 1642 onwards.

Bol was certainly one of Rembrandt’s most talented pupils, and, it is said, was also his favourite. His early portraits were naturally executed in the style of Rembrandt and it was only in 1649, with his first major commission for the group portrait of the Four Regents of the Amsterdam Lepers’ House (Amsterdam, Historical Museum) that Bol began to break away from his master’s influence and develop a more individual style. By the time this portrait was painted in 1652, Bol’s career was in the ascendancy. He had recently become a Burgher of Amsterdam, and the following year in 1653 he was to marry Elisabeth Dell, whose family connections to the Wine Merchants Guild and Admiralty of Amsterdam would lead to prestigious commissions. By 1655, for example, he himself was head of the Wine Merchants Guild and among the painters commissioned to decorate the new Town Hall designed by Jacob van Campen. A highly popular and successful artist, due in no little measure to his efficiency, Bol was to receive more official commissions than any other painter in Amsterdam.

This portrait undoubtedly reflects the new found confidence in Bol’s work of the early 1650s. In its choice of format alone, it stands apart from most contemporary portraiture. The full-length portrait on the scale of life was seldom practised in Holland in the 17th century. Such works were disproportionate to the size of most houses and they were naturally very expensive. It was rare inside the Netherlands for any non-aristocratic sitter to be thus portrayed, but it may be that Bol's young sitter was drawn from the ranks of the increasingly affluent and influential merchant class. Although traditionally said to be Bol's son, his identity has never been satisfactorily resolved.

The format of the full-length portrait offered considerable opportunities for embellishment, and Bol has here seized the opportunity with both hands. Rembrandt’s influence is seemingly lessened, and instead Bol’s portrait is completely conversant with the prevailing new trends in Dutch art. Beginning to move away from the more sombre colours and chiaroscuro effects of his teacher, Bol has here adopted the increasingly modish light palette of the mid-century, with its brighter and stronger colours and more elegant figures. The boy’s relaxed, almost informal air recalls that of Bol’s Toper of 1650–51 now in the Wallace Collection in London (fig. 1), not just in its pose, but also in the resplendent scarlet of the toper’s coat and the magnificent rug draped across the table here.


Ferdinand Bol, The Toper, 1650-51, © The Wallace Collection, London.

Similarly the beautifully rendered still life that adorns the table appears to be unique in Bol’s oeuvre and adds a dramatic richness of colour. It is tempting to speculate whether this lovely passage of painting reflects the immediate impact made in Amsterdam in the early 1650s by the arrival of the still-life painter Willem Kalf (1619–1693) from Hoorn. Kalf’s interest in the lustre of metal and glass, displayed alongside or upon oriental carpets (fig. 3), was to prove enormously influential upon his contemporaries and is here paralleled in Bol’s rendition of the lemons upon their silver dish.2 


Willem Kalf, Still Life with the Drinking-Horn of the St. Sebastian Archers’ Guild, Lobster and Glasses, c.1653, oil on canvas, National Gallery, London, UK © Bridgeman Images

The table upon which they sit is draped with an oriental rug which Bol has clearly taken some delight in painting. Such carpets were to be a favourite device in Bol’s art and appear in at least fourteen of his works. The carpet here is comparable to that draped over the balustrade beneath the lovers hands in the Couple on a Terrace, painted two years later in 1654 and currently in the Louvre, Paris (fig. 2).3  Ydema identifies the type shown as being of Indo-Persian origin.4 It was following the founding of the Dutch East-India Company in 1602, and its monopoly of the eastern trade routes by 1620, that Indo-Persian rugs begin to appear in Netherlandish art. Such richly designed patters and curious ornaments strongly appealed to the taste of European painters and the value of such carpets was such that they were rarely subjected to the wear of use as everyday floor coverings; they were usually treated carefully and used as table-covers, as in this scene, or to cover other pieces of furniture such as chests.


Ferdinand Bol, Portrait of a Husband and Wife, 1654, oil on canvas, Louvre, Paris, France © Bridgeman Images

In his catalogue of Bol's work, published in 1982, Albert Blankert listed only six paintings in which children are the main focus. He observed that 'the artist felt more at ease when his models were children, that he could identify himself with them better perhaps than with their elders.'5 By this he probably meant that the faces in Bol’s child portraits often seem to express more personality than his adult sitters. The boy in the present painting is certainly sympathetically portrayed and also has an air of calm about him, a dignity and maturity of pose, that might usually be more expected in depictions of adults. His small collar, tasseled bandstrings, puffy shirt sleeves and petits oies, or ribbons, on the front of the breeches are all typical of Dutch costume around 1650.6 Bol arranges the interior behind the boy with a draped curtain of heavy gold brocade, on the right there is a tall, wide brimmed hat perched on the back of the folding X-chair. Since antiquity, this type of folding chair has served as a seat of honour for emperors and bishops. Usually, there was only one such chair in a room and it was reserved for a person of standing. Perhaps as a result of his subsequent wealth and popularity, Bol would never again quite recapture the bravura and assuredness that are the hallmarks of this, his finest likeness, and by contrast his later portraits lack the same conviction and sympathy.

The early history of this portrait is not yet known. In 1801 it was sold at auction in London by the Fagels, a prominent family from The Hague. Gaspar Fagel (1634–88) had been a diplomat, writer and statesman in the service of Willem III, Prince of Orange, and had been appointed Griffier – Secretary to the States General – in 1672. Following the death of King Willem III, both Francois Fagel (1659–1746) and his nephew Hendrick (1706–90) played important roles in securing Dutch mediation in the Spanish court and directing Holland's foreign policy throughout the years of the second stadtholderless period of Dutch government between 1702–47. Francois was a renowned collector of art and particularly of medals. The collection passed to his nephew Hendrik II (1706–90), who was visited by Sir Joshua Reynolds on his tour of the Low Countries in 1781.7 Whilst it is not yet clear at what time Bol’s portrait entered the Fagel collections, we know the sale of the family’s collection was orchestrated by Hendrick Fagel III (1765–1838), who was the sixth member of his family to hold the title of Griffier. At the height of the Napoleonic wars Hendrick was effectively exiled to London along with the supporters of the House of Orange, and his reduced financial circumstances led him to sell the family collection and library. Sold over 3 days in May 1801, the latter consisted of over 10,000 volumes, and was purchased by Trinity College, Dublin, where it remains today.

Frederick Howard, 5th Earl Carlisle (1748–1824), who bought this picture at the sale, was a collector of very considerable refinement, and it was he who was to be responsible for the acquisition of most of the Old Masters that hung at Castle Howard. He had first started collecting on an extravagant scale in the 1770s immediately following his return to England from the Grand Tour in 1769. His taste seems to have been more inclined towards the Italian and French School from the outset, and among his most remarkable purchases in this field were Guercino’s Tancred and Erminia of 1651, now in Edinburgh, Orazio Gentileschi’s Finding of Moses, now in the National Gallery in London, and Nicolas Poussin’s Inspiration of the epic Poet of 1631–32, now in the Louvre. Although briefly forced by his debts (over £290,000 by 1775) to halt his buying, the slump in the Paris art market as a consequence of the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars brought numerous opportunities, and he returned to collecting with a vengeance in the 1790s. In 1798, the syndicate he formed with his wife’s uncle the Duke of Bridgewater and Lord Gower famously purchased all the Italian and French pictures from the Orléans collection. As the portrait here by Bol indicates, he was not however averse to some very astute purchases of Dutch and Flemish pictures. In 1793 he acquired Van Dyck’s Portrait of the painter Frans Snyders, today in the Frick Collection in New York (fig. 4).8 Two years later, in 1795 he bought from the dealer Michael Bryan for 500 guineas Jan Gossaert’s Adoration of the Magi, today in the National Gallery in London.9


Anthony van Dyck, Portrait of Frans Snyders, c. 1620, © The Frick Collection.

1 When exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1952 the subject was described as ‘the son of the artist’, but as Bol was still unmarried in 1652 there seems no proof to support this assumption. In correspondence preceding the 1801 sale between Hendrick Fagel and his brother Jacob, the former doubts whether this was a family portrait. No boys were born into the Fagel family in the years 1644–45.

2 Although he had probably settled in Amsterdam by 1650–51, Kalf’s earliest dated work in the city is from 1653.

3 Blankert 1982, p. 153, cat. no. 174, reproduced plate 186.

4 Ydema 1991, p. 155, no. 356.

5 Blankert 1982, p. 67.

6 We see the same costume in Michael Sweerts' Portrait of Joseph Deutz, of about 1648–49, today in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

7 Sir Joshua Reynolds, A Journey to Flanders and Holland, ed. H. Mount, Cambridge 1996, p. 90. 

8 S. Barnes, N. de Poorter, H. Vey and O. Millar, Van Dyck. A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings, New Haven and London 2004, p. 100, no. I.106.

9 L. Campbell, 'Jan Gossaert. The Adoration of the Kings', in National Gallery Catalogues: The Sixteenth Century Netherlandish Paintings with French Paintings before 1600, London 2011.

Selected Works from Sotheby’s Old Masters Sale 






Lucas Cranach The Elder (1472 – 1553), La Bocca della Verità (The Jaws of Truth). Oil and tempera on red beechwood, 111 x 100 cm; 43 3/4  by 39 3/8  inEstimate: £6 – 8 million / HK$69 – 92 million. Photo Sotheby's

Painted in circa 1525–27, this rare masterpiece of German Renaissance painting can be counted amongst the most important works by Lucas Cranach the Elder remaining in private hands today and comes to auction for the first time in its history. The work depicts the rarely portrayed subject of the Bocca della Verità, the ‘Mouth of Truth’, and relates to an ancient stone mask of a river god in the porch of the Basilica of Santa Maria in Rome, in which anyone who did not speak the truth while placing their hand inside the open mouth of the river god would lose it.

Provenance: From the collection of Countess Hardenberg, Schloss Neuhardenberg;
Acquired by the father of the present owner.

Exhibited: Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, and Munster, Landesmuseum für Kunst- und Kulturgeschichte,Sammlung Heinz KistersAltdeutsche und altnierderländische Malerei, 25 June – 15 September and 6 October – 17 November 1963, no. 14;
Basel, Kunstmuseum, Lukas Cranach. Gemälde, Zeichnungen, Druckgraphik, 15 June – 8 September 1974, no. 481;
Hamburg, Bucerius Kunst Forum, Lucas Cranach. Glaube, Mythologie und Modernem, 6 April – 13 July 2003, no. 83;
Frankfurt am Main, Städel Museum, and London, Royal Academy of Arts, Cranach, 23 November 2007 – 17 February 2008 and 8 March – 8 June 2008, no. 96;
Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts de Bruxelles, L’univers de Lucas Cranach, 20 October 2010 – 23 January 2011, no. 122.

Literature: B. Kurth, ‘Das Zauberers Virgil Eherbrecherfalle auf Werkender nordischen Renaissance’, in Städel Jahrbuch, 1924/28, pp. 49–54;
M. J. Friedländer and J. Rosenberg, Die Gemälde von Lucas Cranach, Berlin 1932, p. 71, no. 229;
L. Ettlinger, ‘Ehebrecherfalle’, in Reallexikon zur deutschen Kunstgeschichte, 4, 1958 pp. 786–91;
P. Strieder and D. Stemmler, Sammlung Heinz Kisters. Altdeutsche und altnierderländische Malerei, exh. cat., Nuremberg 1963, p. 5, no. 14;
D. Koepplin and T. Falk, Lukas Cranach, Gemälde, Zeichnungen, Druckgraphik, exh. cat., Basel and Stuttgart, 1974, vol. II, p. 582, no. 481, reproduced plate 14;
M. J. Friedländer and J. Rosenberg, The Paintings of Lucas Cranach, London 1978, p. 124, no. 279, reproduced;
W. Schade, ‘Lucas Cranach’, in Malerei und Plastik. Meilensteine der bildende Kunst in Deutschland (Das Erbe der Deutschen), Stuttgart 1991, pp. 72–75, detail reproduced on cover;
W. Schade, Lucas Cranach. Glaube, Mythologie und Modernem, exh. cat., Hamburg 2003, p. 183, no. 83, reproduced p. 82;
B. Brinkmann, Cranach, exh. cat., London 2007, pp. 314–15, no. 96, reproduced and p. 110 (detail);
G. Messling, Cranach et son temps, exh. cat., Brussels 2010, pp. 216–17, no. 122, reproduced, and p. 237.

Note: This masterpiece of German Renaissance painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder can be counted amongst his most important works remaining in private hands today. It was painted in Wittenberg around 1525–28 and depicts the rarely illustrated subject of the Bocca della Verità or the ‘Mouth of Truth’. This unusual story relates to an ancient stone mask of a river god that remains to this day in the porch of the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome (fig. 1), of which it was said that anyone who did not speak the truth while placing their hand inside the open mouth of the river god would lose it. Over the centuries the Bocca’s legendary fame as a lie detector made it a must-see for visitors to Rome.  


La Bocca della Verità, Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome. 

Still an object of fascination today, the Bocca even featured in a scene from the 1953 Hollywood film Roman Holiday that starred Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn (fig. 2).     


 Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday (1953).

The stone mask of the Bocca della Verità is originally believed to have been employed as a drain cover during Roman times, but by the Middle Ages it had become the subject of a popular story and legend that illustrated the duplicity of women. A woman accused of adultery was required to place her hand inside the mouth of the ancient mask in the presence of her husband and a judge. In the present scene, the Bocca is represented not by the mask of the river god but by the fearsome sculptural form of a lion. 

Cranach depicts the story of an accused woman who conceived a cunning plan when brought before the statue by dressing her lover up as a fool and instructing him to embrace her just before she reaches her hand into the statue’s mouth, thereby saving herself from exposure and humiliation by announcing: 'I have never been touched by a man other than my husband and by this Fool here beside me'. On the right of the scene Cranach has depicted the cuckolded husband in a sombre black coat, his intense gaze fixed on the lion in anticipation of the verdict. The adulteress confidently places her hand inside its mouth, not with a look of fear, but rather in the assurance that she will come to no harm, thanks to her clever deceit of disguising her lover who, dressed in blue as a fool, grasps her around the waist, seemingly to no concern to the husband. To the left of the scene two judges confer to affirm that the woman’s hand has remained unharmed, whilst on the right two elegant court ladies, presumably supporters of the accused, appear pleased with the outcome. 

Cranach has devised a wonderfully balanced composition within the almost square format of the work, with the arrangement of figures and the colours of their costumes imparting a polished sense of rhythm to the narrative. In the blue cloak, the fool in the centre of the composition is flanked by paired figures of the judges and ladies depicted in black and red draperies, whilst the fur coat of the husband on the right of the scene echoes the mane of the lion on the left margin. In a delightful touch, on the right margin Cranach includes the face of a man looking out to the viewer and engaging us ourselves as witnesses to the highly theatrical and juristically flawed episode. 

This panel has generally been dated by scholars to around 1525–30. Friedländer and Rosenberg initially suggested a dating of around 1530, correctly surmising that the finer execution and quality pointed to a date prior to another version of similar design from Cranach’s studio painted in 1534 and today in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg (fig. 3). Dieter Koepplin and Tilman Falk, at the time of the ground-breaking exhibition on Cranach in 1974, suggested a slightly earlier dating to around 1528, specifically comparing the fluid and crisp handling of the panel to the Lot and his daughters in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, as well as to the Unequal Lovers in the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Munich, both of which are dated to that year.1 The design of the room setting, with the scene lit by leaded windows from above, they also compared to a slightly earlier work of 1526, the Judgement of Solomon in a Brussels private collection.2 Brinkmann, in the catalogue of the Frankfurt–London exhibition of 2008, also proposed a slightly earlier dating to around 1525–27. 


 Attributed to Hans Cranach, The Mouth of Truth, 1534, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg, Bridgeman Images

Cranach’s depiction of the actual Bocca della Verità as a lion on a pedestal is not, of course, strictly accurate. It is not, however, unusual within the context of other treatments of the subject in northern European and specifically German art of a similar date.3 It recurs, for example, in a drawing of 1512 by Albrecht Altdorfer (1480–1538) today in the Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin (fig. 4);4 and in an impressively large woodcut by Lucas van Leyden (1494–1533), generally dated to around 1514 (fig. 5).5 Two decades later Georg Pencz offers another interpretation of the subject with his engraving of the Mouth of Truth (fig. 6). It appears again, of course, in the inferior version of the present work of 1534 now in Nuremberg.  


Albrecht Altdorfer, The Mouth of Truth, 1512, Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin. Photo Joerg P. Anders © 2015. Photo Scala, Florence/bpk, Bildagentur für Kunst, Kultur und Geschichte, Berlin


Lucas van Leyden, The Mouth of Truth, c. 1514 


Georg Pencz, The Mouth of Truth, c. 1533-34, Cleveland Museum of Art

The Nuremberg panel is of more rectangular format and differs in the composition in that the figures are shown at half-length and brought very much to the forefront of the picture plane. The panel, however, quite lacks the brilliant characterisation of the figures and clarity of narrative that exists in the present work, and as Kurt Löcher has suggested, may possibly have been the work of Cranach’s eldest son Hans, who died a few years later in 1538.6 Such a notion is supported by the existence of a drawing by Hans Cranach of the same subject in a sketchbook, today in the Kestner-Museum in Hannover (fig. 7). Here the woman places her hand in the mouth of a male bust, clasped by the fool and watched by three women. The design is not a repeat of the present painting, but in its depiction of the figures at full-length rather than half-length, it would certainly seem to suggest that Hans Cranach had some knowledge of it.7


Hans Cranach, Page from a sketchbook, c. 1536-37, Kestner Museum, Hannover.

The legend of the Bocca della Verità and its tale of female cunning seems to have appeared in travellers’ descriptions of the sites of Rome from the fourteenth century onwards. However, it also appears in Germany at a similar date in an anonymous fourteenth-century poem, which relates the medieval legend of the magician Virgil and his miraculous powers. This Virgil (72–19 BC) was none other than the famous classical author, who in medieval legend had been endowed in the popular imagination with magical powers. The story runs along similar lines and again involves a case of possible adultery and use of a sculpture, in this case invented by the magician himself, to serve as the Bocca della Verità.8 The stories were later joined and more widely spread in a German publication of the Latin Mirabilia Urbis Romae, the Mirabilien Blockbuch of around 1475:

Zu unser frawen Scola graeca do stet noch der stayn der len lewtten die vinger ab pays so sie unrecht gesworen hetten. Der stayn hayst welsch, la buca de la veritate. Den stain hat Vergilius gemacht. 

This text appears to be the first time that the original poem and the legend of the stone in S. Maria in Cosmedin were linked, and it is probably this conflation of the two sources that Cranach seems to have used.Significantly, the stone in S. Maria in Cosmedin is not mentioned in the earlier text, and therefore Cranach’s introduction of the lion into the composition is quite probably a development of this idea of a different form of sculpture.

The Bocca della Verità shares certain key elements with a parallel medieval legend, the story of Tristan and Isolde: a guilty woman who escapes punishment thanks to her own cunning; her lover as accomplice; a sworn testimony; and a final reckoning. Isolde, accused by her husband King Mark of adultery with Tristan, is called in judgement before God and is tried but the couple use trickery to preserve their pretence of innocence. The only difference is that the moment of truth takes place not before a sculpture with magic powers but in a sacred place. There the ultimate test involved burning iron pressed against flesh – painlessly, as it turned out, because Isolde was able to claim that she had never had relations with any man besides her husband and a peasant (played by Tristan) who had ‘accidentally’ fallen on top of her on the way to swearing the oath. His disguise chimes with that of the fool in the German interpretations of the Bocca

Already in the twelfth century the legend of the Bocca was linked to the Tristan and Isolde cycle. Its transmission to Germany in the fourteenth century saw the substitution of Virgil with another magician, Merlin, his counterpart in the Arthurian romance. It was only in the second half of the fifteenth century that the lie-detecting sculpture became identified with the Roman Bocca. From thereon, the entertaining story of female cunning featured in innumerable guidebooks to the Eternal City and became a source of inspiration for sixteenth-century poets and painters.10

Friedländer and Rosenberg describe the sculpture in the Nuremberg panel as a stone lion but in fact the beast is depicted with life-like colours (its coat is golden brown; its tongue pink), more akin to a living animal than to carved stone. This is one of the striking features of the picture under discussion: that Cranach should have chosen to give his depiction of the lion sculpture a tonality that is closer to bronze than stone. Moreover, his lion is raised up on a pedestal. Rarely before the 1520s is the lion given comparable prominence. Altdorfer’s drawing is a rare exception, a sheet that Cranach is unlikely to have known. In the other graphic treatments mentioned above the lion statues are small and placed on the floor beside the throne of judgement, more closely allied to the commonly held notion of lions as emblematic of fortitude. Most surprising of all, is the appearance of the motif as part of a mural decoration on the façade of the house ‘Zum Weißen Adler’ in Stein am Rhein, a medieval town in Switzerland, where various allegories of Virtues and Vices were painted by Thomas Schmid (c. 1490–1556/60) in around 1520. Cranach’s Bocca della Verità is the first large painting on panel to elevate the leonine sculpture to such impressive form. 

In its detailed attention to the facial features – especially its gaping mouth – and to its mane, Cranach’s lion shares striking similarities with the ‘Lion of Braunschweig’ (fig. 8). It is more than likely that Cranach had first-hand knowledge of the Braunschweig Lion, the greatest work of medieval casting north of the Alps. Made in a spectacular single cast, the Lion was commissioned by Henry the Lion (1129/30– 95), Duke of Saxony, in the mid-twelfth century and refers to its patron’s name.11 To this day this iconic sculpture has remained in the city of Braunschweig in front of Dankwarderode Castle and the Cathedral.12 This prominent symbol of ducal authority and jurisdiction cannot have been lost on the various dynastic lines of the House of Welf that reigned after Henry the Lion.


The Lion of Braunschweig, 12th century, bronze. Burg Dankwardrobe, Braunschweig, Bridgeman Images.

Cranach is known to have painted a portrait (now lost) of Ernest I the Confessor (1497–1546), Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg.13 The latter’s connections to Cranach’s employers at the Wittenberg court were strong: the two successive Electors of Saxony, Frederick the Wise and John the Steadfast, were both uncles of his. Moreover Cranach’s work for the Dukes of Brunswick-Lüneburg was not limited to portraiture. For instance, recorded at Schloss Blankenburg, a castle once owned by the House of Welf not far from Braunschweig, was a painting by Cranach, also on the theme of the duplicity of women, Hercules and Omphale, now in the collection of the Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum, Braunschweig.14 Its subject illustrates an episode from the life of the hero of classical mythology. As punishment for murder, Hercules was sold as a slave to Omphale, queen of Lydia. She humiliated him by requiring him to wear women’s clothes and perform women’s work. Cranach depicts him spinning yarn. The composition exists in a number of closely related versions produced by Cranach and his workshop in the 1530s. Among the most exceptional versions of the theme, and of the same date as the Braunschweig panel, is a picture of 1537, sold in these Rooms and now in the Fondation Bemberg, Toulouse (fig. 9).15 As in the Bocca, the mock-serious tone of the narrative is made all the more engaging for the viewer by its fashionable contemporary setting.


Lucas Cranach the Elder, Hercules and Omphale, 1537, Fondation Bemberg, Toulouse 

The later medieval texts would have been of particular interest to Cranach, for they formed part of a group of stories illustrating the theme of Weiberlist or the ‘cunning of women’. Just as Lucas van Leyden before him, whose woodcut of this subject had formed part of a larger cycle of similar subjects, Cranach linked the tale of the Bocca della Verità to the larger theme of Weibermacht or the power of women. This theme, which had enjoyed great popularity in medieval art and literature, formed an extremely important part of Cranach’s œuvre, where he treated it in a number of related subjects from classical or biblical sources, notably Hercules and Omphale, discussed above, David and Bathsheba, Samson and Delilah and Phyllis and Aristotle. This latter would, for example, have been familiar to Cranach and his contemporaries from Jacques de Vitry's thirteenth-century text Sermones feriales et communes and from the popular German fifteenth-century play Ain Spil von Maister Aristotiles, as well as engravings by Lucas van Leyden, Hans Baldung Grien and others. In a panel from 1530, Cranach shows how the famous courtesan Phyllis succeeds in seducing and humiliating the ageing philosopher Aristotle, in revenge for the latter having warned his pupil Alexander the Great against forsaking study for indulgent pleasures (fig. 10).16


Lucas Cranach the Elder, Phyllis and Aristotle, 1530. 

Such subjects clearly enjoyed considerable popularity. It is far more likely that they appealed to Cranach’s patrons more on account of the humorous associations of the Weiberlist theme and its attendant moral warnings than, as some scholars have suggested, any principles of Anti-Aristotelian thought. Although the comic or erotic undertones in such works are never far from the surface, Cranach always strives to strike a balance with a suitable erudite moralising tone appropriate to the tastes of the Wittenberg court. The importance of such works lies in the fact that Cranach was the first – and usually the only – artist to take such ‘moral’ or ‘erotic’ themes which had previously been the preserve of graphic or decorative work and use them in the higher form of panel painting. 

1 Inv. nos 9589 and 1465, respectively. Friedländer and Rosenberg 1978, p. 110, no. 206 and 1932 ed., no. 235g.

2 Friedländer and Rosenberg 1978, pp. 110–11, no. 211, reproduced. Related versions are recorded in the Royal Collection, London, and in the Deutsches Museum, Berlin.

3 See C. S. Wood, ‘La Bocca della Verità’, in C. Wagner and O. Jehle ed., Albrecht Altdorfer. Kunst als zweite Natur,Regensburg 2012, pp. 55–70.

4 Inv. no. 24; see E. Bock, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. Die Deutschen Meister, Berlin 1921, Vol. I, p. 4, cat. no. 112, reproduced Vol. II, plate 4, fig. 112.

5 An impression is in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, inv. no. 23.16.3; see G. Messling in Cranach et son temps, exh. cat., Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, 2010, p. 216, reproduced fig. 121.

6 Inv. no. Gm. 1108, panel, 75.5 by 117.4 cm. See K. Locher, Germanisches Nationalmuseum Nürnberg, Die Gemälde des 16. Jahrhunderts, Nuremberg 1997, pp. 151–53, reproduced.

7 Reproduced in the catalogue of the exhibition, Cranach, Gemälde, Zeichnungen, Druckgraphik, Basel and Stuttgart 1974, no. 482, fig. 301.

8 See B. Kurth, ‘Des Zauberers Virgil Ehebrecherfalle auf Werken der nordischen Renaissance’, in Städel Jahrbuch, vol. 3–4, 1924, pp. 49–54.

9 Friedländer and Rosenberg additionally cite as a possible source for the subject the Florentine poet Giovanni Boccaccio (1313–75); see Friedländer and Rosenberg 1978, p. 124, under no. 278. However, although many of the tales in theDecameron explore themes of adultery and duplicity, there would appear to be no exact counterpart to the episode shown here, where a perjurer is tested by a truth-telling automaton.

10 E. Cerulli, ‘Leggende medievali romane in Oriente e leggende orientali nella Roma medievale’, Bullettino dell’Istituto Storico Italiano per il Medio Evo e Archivio Muratoriano, 79, 1968, p. 25. See also pp. 13–25.

11 Bronze, 178 x 279 cm.

12 Since 1989 a replica has stood on the Burgplatz in order to protect the original, which is on display in Dankwarderode Castle.

13 A portrait drawing executed in oil on paper is in Reims; see Friedländer and Rosenberg 1978, p. 27, fig. 13 and p. 132, under no. 323.

14 Friedländer and Rosenberg 1978, p. 123, no. 274, reproduced fig. 274.

15 Sold 6 July 2000, lot 24.

16 Panel, 57.5 by 37.9 cm. Sold New York, Sotheby's, 24 January 2008, lot 78, for $4,073,000.