Saturday, October 26, 2019

Is This Unknown Woman in the North Carolina Museum of Art Mary Queen of Scots?


Above: Mary Queen of Scots by Nicholas Hilliard (left, Victoria & Albert Museum) & Unknown Woman (NCMA.67.13.7)
At first glance I assumed this unknown woman in the North Carolina Museum of Art was Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke (see earlier post), but now I believe she's more likely to be Mary Queen of Scots (aka Mary Stuart). The sitter is, after all, wearing the trademarked French hood that is actually known now as the "Mary Stuart hood." 

This collection, some of the finest Elizabethan and Jacobean art I've seen anywhere, depicts sitters who are, in many cases, royal or at least of royal blood. The social status of these sitters match the skill of the painters. This collection should be world famous. Many of its sitters are. 

With that said, I will let the pictures do the talking here.
 Note: all of the image in this post are taken from Wikimedia and are used here for educational purposes.
Above: Mary Queen of Scots (Hermitage Museum) & Unknown Woman (NCMA)
Above: Mary Queen of Scots (Royal Collection, Holyrood Castle) & Unknown (NCMA)
Above: Mary Queen of Scots c. 1560 (after Clouet, Wallace Collection) & Unknown (NCMA)
Above: Mary Queen of Scots (NPG London) & Unknown (NCMA)
Regarding this last comparison (below), I want to draw attention to the sitter's hands, specifically the left hand of the confirmed Mary Queen of Scots in which you will see an extremely long hand with a notably long middle finger.
Above: Mary Queen of Scots (after, Hilliard, NPG 429) & Uknown Woman (NCMA)
I have to say that the costume, which is so Mary Queen of Scots, combined with her large hands, make me believe the unknown woman is actually Mary Queen of Scots and not Mary Sidney Herbert (even though I want it to be Mary Sidney). I will leave you with this side-by-side of the unknown woman's hands, a detail in which you can see the incredible skill of the painter. Is it Hilliard? Gheeraerts the Younger? 
Above: detail of hands from Unknown Woman  (NCMA.67.13.7)

Update: there is a well-known portrait of a woman wearing a French hood (see below) that has long been misidentified as Mary Herbert Sidney, Countess of Pembroke. In fact, the portrait depicts Mary Scudamore. Sadly this is the portrait most identified with Mary Sidney Herbert. I have been unable to find a single portrait in which Mary Sidney Herbert actually poses in a French hood (such a portrait might well exist but I can't find it). By contrast, costume can obviously be used to support the case that the unknown woman in North Carolina is Mary (Stuart) Queen of Scots. The hood style seen below is known, after all, as the Mary Stuart hood.
Above: Called Mary Scudamore by Gheeraerts the Younger (NPG64, London)  

Update 2: I have since found two portraits of Mary Sidney Herbert wearing a French hood. See below.

 Above: Mary Sideny from the Fricke Collection (via Pin-interest)
Below: Mary Sidney by James Tuck (after Harding) via Wikimedia

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