1602 - after 1660
|Oil on canvas
50 x 40 inches; 1270 x 1015 mm
Signed and dated: W Sheppard 1650
By descent in the family of the sitter’s mother to
Sir Peter Killigrew, 2nd Bt;
Frances Erisey, daughter and heiress of the above;
John & Mary West, son-in-law and daughter of the above;
The Hon Charles Berkeley, son-in-law of the above;
Sophia Berkeley, daughter of the above;
John Wodehouse, 1st Baron Wodehouse of Kimberley (1741-1834), husband of the above;
John Wodehouse, 3rd Earl of Kimberley, by descent to 1947;
Margaret, Countess of Kimberley, sale Christie’s 28th February 1947, lot 29 (30 gns);
4th Earl of Kimberley, reacquired at the above sale;
and by descent
George Scharf, A descriptive and historical catalogue of the collection of pictures at Woburn Abbey, 1877, p. 101;
David Piper, Catalogue of 17th Century portraits in the National Portrait Gallery, 1963,
Michael J H Liversidge, ‘A Drawing for William Sheppard’s Portrait of Thomas Killigrew, Burlington Magazine, vol. CXI, no. 792, March 1969, pp. 145 & 147;
Malcolm Rogers, ‘“Golden Houses for Shadows”: some portraits of Thomas Killigrew and his family’, Art and Patronage in the Caroline Courts, essays in honour of Sir Oliver Millar, ed. D. Howarth ed.(1993) pp.233-5, 242, note 41.
Engraved: J. J. van den Berghe, engraved 1650;
William Faithorne, line engraving, published as the frontispiece of Killigrew’s collected Comedies and Tragedies, 1664 and subsequently in Clarendon’s History of the Civil War, 1665 (the text on the open manuscript and the Eikon Basilike are missing)
Thomas Killigrew (1612–1683) was one of the most colourful characters of the seventeenth century: a courtier, libertine, playwright and theatre manager. The Killigrews already had a reputation as notorious supporters of piracy in Cornwall including two of the best-known of Elizabethan pirates, Lady Mary Killigrew and Lady Elizabeth Killigrew. He was the son of Sir Robert Killigrew of Kempton Park, Sunbury and his wife, Mary daughter of Sir Henry Wodehouse (and niece of Sir Francis Bacon). Sir Robert was vice chamberlain to Queen Henrietta-Maria and Ambassador to the States General and his son followed in his footsteps, entering Royal service by July 1632, when he was appointed page of honour to Charles I.
In 1636 Killigrew married Cecilia, daughter of Sir John Crofts of Saxham. Contemporary sources state that their relationship was rather tempestuous, although Killigrew does not seem to have ever fully recovered from her early death in 1638. He did remarry, in 1655 to Charlotte, daughter of a wealthy Hague gentleman John de Hesse, Lord of Piershil and Wena, but even so, he requested that on his death, he be buried near his first wife.
Killigrew remained loyal to the crown throughout the Civil War. In 1642 he was briefly placed under house arrest, by the Roundheads but was given permission to join the Court in exile in Oxford. Shortly afterwards he left England and joined the exiled court of the Prince of Wales in Paris (where his sister, Elizabeth, later Viscountess Shannon was providing more personal support to the exiled Prince; she bore him a daughter in about 1650).
In 1650, Killigrew was appointed Charles II’s playwright in residence in Venice and was also charged with raising funds for the Royal cause and to act as a political agent. However, after only two years, Killigrew was forced to leave Venice, because of public outcry over his appalling behaviour, which was so bad that the Venetian ambassador in Paris was forced to complain to Charles II. Following his expulsion from Venice, Killigrew moved around between the various members of the exiled Royal Family, serving variously the Duke of Gloucester and his aunt, Princess Elizabeth of Bohemia, in The Hague. During this time however, he appears to have maintained his links with Charles II and to have continued to act on his behalf. He returned to England at the Restoration and was appointed Groom of the Bedchamber to the King and two years later Chamberlain to the Queen.
Killigrew is recorded as having an early fascination with the theatre and during his lifetime he wrote nine plays (seven of which are shown in the present work). His greatest contribution to the British theatre was however, his successful campaign to allow woman to appear on stage and the first actresses appeared at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 1662.
In 1660, Killigrew and Sir William Davenant were granted a patent to found two new companies of players and playhouses; effectively giving the two men a monopoly on the London theatre scene. They not only produced all dramatic entertainments and were able to licence all plays submitted to them but they were also entitled to suppress their competition and to control all charges, including payments made to actors. As a result of this patent Killigrew founded the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 1633, where he presided over performances, not only of his own work, but also that by Shakespeare, Beaumont, Fletcher and Dryden (Nell Gwynn made her debut here in Dryden’s Indian Queen in 1665). Killigrew was not however, a professional theatre manager and his mishandling of his theatrical holdings led to problems and eventually he was forced, by law, to hand over to his son in 1677.
His theatrical career, licentious behaviour and close relationship with the monarchy earned Killigrew the nickname the King’s Jester (amusingly in 1673 he was in fact appointed Master of the Revels) and has led to an enduring memory of Killigrew as wild and uncontrolled, who was only saved from universal condemnation by his relationship with the King. Late in life, however, Killigrew abandoned some of his former wild existence and became more reflective; he even grew his hair and beard long, a Christian sign of penitence (as shown in an engraving after a portrait of Killigrew by Wissing).
The present portrait appears at first to be a rare example of a portrait of a man of letters in the character of a man of letters (David Piper, The development of the British Literary Portrait up to Samuel Johnson, 1968). The desire to capture the likeness of writers and to depict them engaged in their profession began with the ancient Greeks and continued through the Romans, into the Renaissance in Italy and onwards. This type of portrait painting in England, however, was rare (although by the mid seventeenth century, engraved frontispieces were becoming increasingly popular). The few pure, literary portraits which were commissioned are more of less private in nature and were intended for family use.
The present portrait is more than merely a literary portrait however. The attitude of the sitter sombrely dressed and sporting a black ribbon on his left sleeve suggests that this is perhaps in part at least a mourning portrait. The clues as to who Killigrew is mourning surround the sitter; the portrait of Charles I and the text which lies at the bottom of the pile of volumes, the Eikon Basilike: The Pourtrature of His Sacred Majestie in His Solitudes and Sufferings (a contentious pamphlet apparently by Charles I, published shortly after his death proclaiming him a martyr). Perhaps more importantly this painting also acts as an emblem of loyalty. There is an escalation of this, from the dog with his head on his master’s knee, to fidelity to the Crown (again symbolised by the pamphlet and the portrait). This allegiance is further emphasised by the open manuscript on the desk which records Killigrew’s position as the King’s resident in Venice.
During the comparatively short period that Killigrew was in Italy, he sat for his portrait on at least two other occasions; for a small tondo by Pietro Liberi, which was recorded as being at Thornham Hall, Norfolk until 1937, when it was sold (subsequent whereabouts unknown) and secondly, during a visit to Rome in 1651, he sat to Giovanni Angelo Canini, a pupil of Domenichino, this picture is also now lost or unidentified.
Other portraits of the sitter include two by Sir Anthony Van Dyck, both painted in about 1638. The first, a conventional half-length portrait showing the sitter with a mastiff, which, as with the dog in the present painting, is wearing a collar bearing the Killigrew (versions at Weston Park and Chatsworth). The other, is a double portrait of Thomas and probably his brother-in-law, William, Lord Crofts (Royal Collection). It seems that Killigrew commissioned this painting as a mourning picture in memory of his late wife Cecilia.
Little is known about Sheppard, although he was certainly in Venice in 1650 (where he painted this portrait) and in Rome in 1651 (according to Symonds who refers to Sheppard in his 1651 notebook). Vertue records that Sheppard a face painter lived near the Royal exchange and retired to Yorkshire. He is also listed by Sanderson in the Art of Painting of 1658 as one of the prominent English painters. The only other known portrait by Sheppard, that of Sir Henry Terne, is only known through an engraving by Faithorne. However, C. H Collins Baker proposed that the portrait of James Shirley (mid 1640s) in the Bodleian could be by Sheppard as apparently both the pose of the sitter and the style of the painting bears strong similarities with his portraits of Killigrew (C. H Collins Baker, Lely and the Stuart Portrait painters; a study of English portraits before and after Van Dyck, 1912). In 1969 Liversidge (op. cit) published a recently identified preparatory drawing for the present composition. The drawing (Private collection) is almost identical to the completed composition except for minor differences to the drapery, the relationship of the figure to the arm of the chair. The most notable differences are the omission of the portrait of Charles I and the manuscript and books.
The portrait of Killigrew is remarkable for the number of autograph versions which exist. We have found reference to at least eight other versions, which are listed at the bottom of this note. That there are so many other versions of this portrait indicates that contemporary reading of this work also went beyond its initial purpose as a portrait painting. The sitter’s identity was presumably not as important as its iconography: the work itself was regarded as deeply symbolic, an emblem of loyalty in a time of great uncertainty and upheaval and furthermore by owning such a work one was prominently displaying one’s allegiance.
A check-list of versions of the portrait of Thomas Killigrew by William Sheppard:
1) The present portrait formerly at Kimberley Hall, Wymondham Norfolk. Signed and dated 1650. Descended through the sitter’s family.
2) The National Portrait Gallery, London, formerly at Woburn (sold Christie’s 19th January 1951, lot 136, purchased Agnews, from whom the NPG purchased it). It was first recorded at Woburn in 1819 (see Neale, Views of Seats, 1819, p. 153 and D & S Lyson Magna Britannia Vol. 1, pt. 1, 1819, p. 153, Amongst the paintings lately added is a fine picture of Thomas Killigrew). Signed not dated
3) Dyrham House, Gloucestershire, purchased by William Blathwayt from his uncle Thomas Povey, 8th November 1693 (part of a group of 112 pictures). Vertue wonders if it is perhaps the prime version and having looked at it, it is certainly painted with enormous verve and spontaneity, lacking in some of the other versions. This portrait was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1882, no. 227. Neither signed nor dated.
4) Destroyed: Formerly in the collections of G. Watson Taylor (to c. 1832) It was exhibited at the British Institution in 1820 as owned by Mr Taylor. It was purchased from the Suffolk Street Gallery in July 1832 by the Heald family and descended to Mrs James Heald until destroyed by enemy action in May 1941. It was on loan to the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool in the 1920s.
5) One descended through the Killigrew family to Miss Francis Maria Killigrew, d. 1819 and bequeathed it to her cousin Sir James Buller-East, Bart. The portrait of Charles I is missing, perhaps painted out at a later date. This work was sold at the Bourton House sale 2nd December 1952, lot 467. (This is possibly the version sold at Christie’s 8th December 1961, lot 165, present whereabouts unknown).
6) A version noted by George Vertue at Marlborough House in 1732. G Durant Esq. purchased it from the Godolphin family in 1784 and it remained with the Durant family at Tong Castle certainly until the late 19th Century. It came up for sale at Christie’s 29th April 1870, lot 38 but did not sell. It has not so far been possible to trace what happened to it subsequently. Tong Castle was demolished in the early 1950s.
7) A version purchased by the 5th Duke of Portland at the sale of the collection of Edward Fisher, sometime Under Secretary of State, Nov. 1858, sale cat. no. 96. Listed in Goulding, 1936, no. 393. (He mentions that it is listed in Harcourt House lists no. 31 – Attrib. to Dobson). It remains with descendants of the Duke of Portland.
8) A version which Alistair Lang believes to be after William Sheppard at Sudbury Hall, Derbyshire. This descended through the Vernon family. The National Trust does not have any records of when it entered the collection, certainly there by the late 19th Century.
9) A version at Sotterley Hall, Suffolk. Provenance not known.