Monday, December 17, 2012

Edward de Vere or Sir Walter Raleigh?: Peake's Mysterious Man in White

This is one of my favorite Elizabethan portraits, and yet, because it is privately owned, I know nothing about its history or provenance. Here we have a courtier, in ruffleted sleeves and French cartwheel collar (c.1570's), standing in what appears to be the Tower of London with Queen Elizabeth I lurking behind him, her royal back significantly turned toward him. The courtier, who resembles both Edward de Vere and Sir Walter Raleigh, looks out on us with an expression I would describe as, well, chastened yet unrepentant.

 Personally I think it's Raleigh, but there's just not enough information available to know. The portrait is currently listed as yet another unknown man, one of many.
Peake's Unknown Man (left) and the Welbeck portrait of Edward de Vere (right) 

Above: Peake's Man in White & NPG Henry IV Suspect De Vere Portrait

Peake's Man in White & the Droeshout Engraving of Shakespeare

Above: Sir Walter Raleigh (unknown owner)

Another reason to suspect it's Raleigh is that the painter, Robert Peake, was the court painter for Henry, Prince of Wales, who was a devotee of Raleigh's and was known to confer with him in the Tower of London. Before his early death, the Prince had started an Elizabethan revival at his court in Richmond. 

Eye color, by the way, can be deceiving. Aging varnish yellows. Blue eyes don't stay blue long.  
A few caveats. The setting might not be the Tower. I am only suggesting the Tower because both de Vere and Raleigh spent time there and because of the resemblance in tone between this picture and the famous de Critz Tower portrait of Southampton (see below). Regarding the Peake portrait, the setting could be anywhere, but the courtier in question is certainly out of a favor, and the portrait might even have been conceived as a gift to the Queen seeking her forgiveness, a tactic that worked for Sidney Lee, who once commissioned the famous Ditchley portrait of Elizabeth to get back in her good graces.

Below: the de Critz Tower portrait of Southampton, which is another of my all time favorites and is also privately owned somewhere I know not.   

Also the Peake portrait appears to be grossly overpainted in a number of place including in lower right corner.
Above: detail lower right that appears thickly overpainted. 
click on images for larger views
The Folger Shakespeare Library owns the Ashbourne portraits seen above. 
The Welbeck portrait of Edward de Vere, though owned by Welbeck Abbey, is kept in a storage facility in Wimbledon, England by the NPG 

Important Update: Weiss Gallery Identifies Courtier in White Painter as Marcus Gheeraerts 


  1. Hey Lee, congratulations! Great new blog and keep up the good work!

  2. What a wonderful find! Thank you Lee!

  3. Um: isn't the woman on the balcony headless?

  4. Hank and Celine: I am a current student at Wimbledon school of Art. You have all the caracters right but you don't have the story right. The man in the painting in white is Edward De Vere, the 17th earl of Oxford not Raleigh. He is cseveral things. He is the real Shake-Spear and he is both the son and lover of Elizabeth the 1st. They had a child together and he was placed in the Wriothesley family, making him the Earl of Southampton. The portraite was painted by Marcus Gheeraerts. It was also painted after the fact that Elizabeth turned her back on Edward denying Southampton as their son and secretly placing him into a peerage family. Edward finds out where his son was placed and treats him as his own son the rest of his life. How was Edward the son of Elizabeth 1st. It was well rummered that Elizabeth was pregnant at 15 by her step father, queen Catherine Parr's husband, Tomas Seymour and she was sent away. She was sent to a nunnery actually and there gave birth to a son and he was placed into the family of the 15th earl of Oxford and Mary Golding set up by Lord Burleigh the queen's minister.

    1. yes we all know that story but there is no hard evidence for any of it...maybe one day..until then stick to historic facts that can be proven

  5. Thank you so much for this blog and the postings. I am currently working on this theme, story in my present art piece. The Minitures were labled as Raleigh but I don't think they are him, I think they are all Edward De Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. Seeing them all together like this. And the cat links them as Edward tries in so many ways to say who he really is and can't. Even throughout all his plays, he is searching to be the prince, the king of England, through his mother / lover Elizabeth 1st. Give Elizabeth a break here, you can't be normal when your father chops off your mother's head .....The man from Staford upon Avon was an imposter a face placed on the the face of De vere, not in Elizabeth's time, but sometime in the 18th century when England could not afford the story line of incestuious monarcy.

  6. Last i heard, Shelley, the one absolute portrait of de Vere was being held in a storage facility in Wimbledon. Not sure if it's still there, but you can make an appointment to view it.

    For obvious reasons I try to avoid the theories orbiting Shakespeare, though I certainly don't discount them. I find them fascinating, but a bit of a tar pit into which one can sink. Good luck on your project. It would not surprise me if you were 100 percent correct about it being EdV. He and Raleigh certainly resembled one another to an amazing, and perhaps incestuous, degree.

  7. My view: