Jewellery in Portraits at The Weiss Gallery
Written by Silke Lohmann | 08 December 2021
The Weiss Gallery are proud to display a unique set of related objects for the Winter edition of London Art Week. Alongside their portrait of Richard Harford of Bosbury they have sourced a seventeenth-century enamelled ring that is a near-identical replica of the memento mori shown in their portrait.
The painting, dated 1567, depicts the son of John Harford of Worcester and Anne, daughter of Sir John Scrope of Castlecombe, Wiltshire. John was evidently a selfmade man, who benefited from his support of Henry VIII and the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Upon his death, his son Richard, the subject of this portrait, was left ample provision. He first married Katherine Purefoy who tragically died young in July 1570. Richard then remarried Martha Foxe of Brimfield, whose coat-of-arms has been latterly incorporated into the present portrait.
The realistic representation of a collected middle-aged gentleman, painted within the first decade of Elizabeth I's reign, is typical of portraits painted in the vein of the artist Hans Eworth (c.1520 -1574), who famously immortalised the two previous Tudor monarchs, Edward VI and Mary I. Dressed in subtly rich black costume - comprising of expensive silks and velvet and embellished with a simple, though apparently substantial wound gold chain - Richard presents himself as an earnest man of good means and title.
One of the most notable features within the portrait is the prominent memento mori ring - a stark reminder that life, and everything that constitutes it, is impermanent. These rings were common in the Tudor period as, despite their morbidity, they were motivational devices that encouraged one to live their life to the fullest. The simplicity of their design, which almost always featured a skull, also meant that its symbolic message was equally one-dimensional: 'Remember you must die'. It is likely Harford wore this to acknowledge those who had already passed, such as his father, and his own definite fate; indeed, his first wife Katherine Purefoy died only three years after this portrait was painted.
The Harford family were evidently as eager to be memorialised in death as they were in life, as grand tombs - one dedicated to Richard and his second wife, the other to his parents - were erected in the Holy Trinity Church in Bosbury. These memorial effigies, with splendid Italianate decorative elements, remain excellent examples of late Renaissance funerary monuments to have been constructed in Tudor England.
The gallery has procured a near-period ring, inscribed with the haunting phrase 'Behold the Ende', which will be presented alongside the portrait. Each object can be bought separately, although the gallery hopes to find a potential buyer who will appreciate the evocative nature of both objects paired together.
If you would like additional information about either item, please contact them directly: +44 207 409 0035 or firstname.lastname@example.org.