here's a funny thing, you start out with quite a straight forward
enquiry and things quickly turn into something rather less simple, take
for example this portrait of Sir Anthony Cope
. The image is reproduced, rather poorly it must be said, in William Pott's History of Banbury (Potts 1978: 119),
I have the second edition but I assume it was included in the first
edition of 1958. Jeremy Gibson also uses it in his piece for the Cake and
Cockhorse 'Heraldry, Horology and Horticulture at Hanwell
' (Gibson 1988: 16).
In both cases it is captioned the same way, 'Sir Anthony Cope, Bt. of
Hanwell, M.P. for Banbury from a portrait at Knole Park, Sevenoaks.'
Although it is not very clear here the painting bears the inscription
towards the bottom left hand corner 'Anthony Cope of Hanwell'. We will
address the question of which Sir Anthony this is a little later.
Here is the image scanned from my copy of Potts, not brilliant but bear with me:
was quite excited by this and given that Knole is now in the care of
the National Trust I was keen to make use of their excellent on-line
catalogue to take a look at a better image in colour so I searched for
'Knole' and 'seventeenth century' and 'paintings' and there it was...
except it wasn't! I'll probably get into trouble for this but here is
although the two are very similar there are some significant
differences which again we will return to later. Here is the catalogue
entry from Knole:
National Trust Inventory Number 129834So
what are we to make of this? Could Van Dyck have painted a picture of
Sir Anthony, now in the Cobhan Collection? Van Dyck settled in England
in 1632 eighteen years after the death of Sir Anthony, the first
Baronet, and he died in 1641 when Sir Anthony, the fourth baronet,was
just nine years old. It looks as if a sitting really wasn't on the
cards for either Anthony.
painting on panel, An Unknown Man after Sir Anthony Van Dyck (Antwerp
1599 - London 1641), late 17th century. A full-length portrait, turned
to the right, gazing at the
spectator, long, natural, light-brown
hair, wearing black with a lace collar. Pillar and building to the
left, distant horizon with cloudy sky to the right. The original is in
Viscount Cobham's collection.
On loan from the Trustees of the Sackville Estate
Makers and roles
after Sir Anthony Van Dyck (Antwerp 1599 - London 1641), artist
Back to the picture seen by Potts
in 1958 and photographed and sent to Rowena and Christopher when they
were making enquiries re publishing a guidebook. It isn't the one
catalogued by the Trust, where is it? Indeed more to the point what is
it? If we make a detailed comparison it seems clear to me that the
inscribed portrait is a copy and, dare I say it, not a particularly
good one, of the Van Dyck. Here they are side by side and reduced to
monochrome to make comparison easier:
Anthony of Hanwell
An Unknown Gentlemen
In both cases we
have a soberly dressed gentlemen, standing and slightly turned to his
left with his cloak over his right arm and architecture behind his
right shoulder. The main difference, apart from the curtain to Sir
Anthony's right and the open landscape in the case of the unknown
gentleman, lies to my eye in the rather ungainly posture of the first
figure. The shoulder is dropped, the neck perhaps a shade too long and
the arm hangs straight and rather limply. The slightly awkward stance
of Sir Anthony speaks to me of it being a copy of the altogether more
natural pose in what is in itself a copy, albeit a better one, of a Van
Dyck original. The other feature worth pointing out is Sir Anthony's
hair cut, full enough but a little more severe that the flowing locks
of the figure of the unknown gentleman.
I did wonder
whether there was any way in which the similarity was accidental, was
this a standard body of the period onto which the patron's features
could be grafted at a reduced price, like Roman statuary? Well thanks to the magic of Google
Images I was able in fairly short order to scan through five or six
hundred contemporary portraits. The pose and composition was not a
particularly common one. I was able to find only a handful of instances
of standing figures flanked by columns and curtains or landscapes and
here they are:
The Unknown Gentleman from Knole Abbe Scaglia by Van Dyck 1634 Joostde Hertoghe by Van Dyck 1635 Marcello Durazzo by Van Dyck 1641
what is the current state of play? Who is portrayed here? Neither Potts
or Gibson are clear on the point. In Potts the picture is facing the
page which discusses the first baronet's role in the imprisonment of
recusants, whilst Gibson's piece is largely about the funeral
arrangements for the fourth baronet so not much help there. An added
level of complication is added by the information recorded in the Knole
House picture guide. The portrait hangs in the Great Hall and is
After Sir Anthony Van Dyck (1599–1641)
Called Sir Anthony Cope, 1st Bt, but probably Sir William Cope, 2nd Bt, MP (1577–1637)
Sir Anthony died in 1614, when Van Dyck was only 15. So more probably his eldest son.
Thanks the House and collections Manager Helen Fawbert for this.
Clearly someone has spotted the Van Dyck date problem. It could be
William I suppose but how has it then come to be mis-labelled?
Here is my best guess at the moment.
Some time between 1632 and 1641, and possibly earlier rather than
later, Van Dyck painted an unknown gentleman, except of course he
wasn't unknown at the time. At some point later, and it could have been
much later, the need arose for a portrait of Sir Anthony Cope. Somehow
the Van Dyck or the Van Dyck copy came to hand and a further copy made
to portray Sir Anthony. If this was to be the first baronet, the
puritan, he would need a haircut, so there you have it. Several puzzles
remain. Why did the copy and a possible copy of a copy end up at Knole?
The fact that the Unknown Gentleman is 'on loan from the Sackville
Estate' must be significant as the Sackvilles descended from the Bruern branch of the Copes. Why does the inscribed version not appear in the Trust's catalogue, has it been taken somewhere else?
course this is all what Holmes would have described as 'theorising in
the absence of facts' so we have potentially at least three similar
paintings to track down and examine before we can even approach
certainty. Sounds exciting.