On Wednesday 14 December, we have our Old Master, British and European Art auction. We are pleased to be offering a striking and grand Jacobean portrait of the Pope brothers (Lot 26). Painted by an English painter in 1606, this striking portrait offers a wonderful glimpse into how families would portray themselves at that particular moment in time. It is one of the earliest instances of siblings portrayed in such an affectionate manner in British art. Here Picture Specialist, Anne Gerritsen, tells us more about this work.
This grand double portrait depicts Thomas Pope, 3rd Earl of Downe (1598-1668) and his elder brother Sir William Pope, 2nd Earl of Downe (1596-1624).
They are shown to be the picture of familial harmony, illustrated through their matching clothes and holding of hands. Such affection between siblings was rarely seen previously in British portraiture. While we are aware of a few slightly earlier examples of sisters holding hands, we have never seen an early work of brothers portrayed in such an intimate gesture.
Tudor and Jacobean portraits are particularly notable for their overt messaging through Latin inscriptions, but other subtleties that would have been clear to contemporaries are often more difficult to interpret. Even though we might not understand these works in exactly the same way as in the early 17th century, these portraits are still so sought after because of the presence that they convey, the appeal of reading a person as much as an object. They are glimpses of long-lost individuals whose portraits only survived because they retained significance for all of their successive owners.
The Popes migrated to Oxfordshire from Kent at the beginning of the fifteenth century. They were small landowners until Sir Thomas Pope, who sat for Buckingham in 1536 and Berkshire in 1539, became one of the richest commoners in England as treasurer of the Court of Augmentations during the Dissolution of the Monasteries and was also the founder of Trinity College, Oxford.
The sitters were sons of William Pope, 1st Earl Downe and Anne Hopton (1561-1625), widow of Henry, 3rd Baron Wentworth and daughter of Sir Owen Hopton, Lieutenant of the Tower of London. They both attended Oxford and matriculated in 1614. Thomas was knighted at Woodstock in 1625. In 1636 he married Beata, daughter of Sir Henry Poole of Sapperton, Gloucestershire. The Royalists imprisoned him for six weeks at Oxford during the Civil War and he was held in 1656 on suspicion of complicity in the ‘Cavalier Plot’. He succeeded his nephew, Thomas to the Earldom and the estate of Wroxton Abbey near Banbury, Oxfordshire in 1660.
William married Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of (Sir) Thomas Watson of Halstead, Kent, in 1615. He then travelled to Italy from 1617-1620 and upon his return became the second and last of his family to sit in the Commons, when he served as knight of the shire for Oxfordshire. Other portraits of the sitters at a later age are in the Paul Mellon Collection, Yale Centre for British art (William Pope) and the Tate (Thomas Pope).
Wednesday 14 December | 10.30am GMT
Donnington Priory, Newbury, Berkshire RG14 2JE
Browse the auction
Sign up to email alerts
Viewing in London (highlights only):
Dreweatts London, 16-17 Pall Mall, St James’s, London SW1Y 5LU
Monday 28 November: 10am - 4pm
Tuesday 29 November: 10am – 4pm
Wednesday 30 November: 10am - 4pm
Viewing at Donnington Priory (full sale):
Dreweatts Newbury, Donnington Priory, Newbury, Berkshire RG14 2JE
Sunday 11 December: 10am - 3pm
Monday 12 December: 10am - 4pm
Tuesday 13 December: 10am - 4pm
Wednesday 14 December: from 8.30am
Remote viewing service | Available by appointment from Sunday 11 December
Dreweatts 360 Virtual Auction Tour | Available from Wednesday 30 November
Sign up for auction alerts and our monthly newsletter to receive expert analysis and insights from our specialists and keep up-to-date on forthcoming auctions, valuation days and previews.