Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Henrietta Maria, Lady Ashburnham (1686/7-1718) c.1710

Christian Friedrich Zincke (1683/4-1767)

Portrait of Henrietta Maria, Lady Ashburnham (1686/7-1718), Christian Friedrich Zincke
Enamel on metal
18th Century
Oval, 46mm (1 13/16 inches) high
Christie’s, 18th March 1975, lot 37
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Gilt-metal frame with a scalloped border.

Christian Friedrich Zincke was the most successful enamel painter in England in the eighteenth century. A pupil of William Boit, himself the effective successor to Jean Petito, who introduced the practice in England, Zincke found success so easy that by 1741 he was able to charge the enormous sum of thirty guineas for a miniature. Unlike most enamellists, Zincke was able to paint sitters from life, despite the great expense of the multiple firings needed as each layer of colour was applied.

The indirect gaze of the sitter indicates that this portrait of Henrietta has, however, been taken from a lost oil portrait by Kneller, who was an admirer of Zincke, or perhaps even Michael Dahl. The original portrait was probably painted in 1710, when the sitter became a widow at the age of twenty-three. Her first husband, John, 4th Earl of Anglesey, died after only four years of marriage. She married, secondly, 3rd Baron Ashburnham and had one child, a daughter also called Henrietta. In 1714 she succeeded to her father’s junior title of the Barony of Strange, a title that was later inherited by her daughter.

The sensitive handling and sense of propriety in depicting a woman in mourning has not prevented Zincke from focussing on the attractiveness of the young widow. As Zincke did not set up on his own account until 1714, this portrait is unlikely to date from 1710, and, since it is improbable that her new husband would have wished to commission a portrait of her in mourning for another man, it may be more plausible that it was commissioned by another member of Henrietta’s family, possibly even as a posthumous reminder of her youthful beauty and dignity.
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