Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait miniature of a Lady, thought to be Lady Mary Finch, (née Seymour) (1628-1672), wearing ochre gown, white chemise and pearl necklace, her brown hair worn curled, set in a cave and landscape background, 1654 

John Hoskins the Younger (c.1620/30 - d.after 1703)

Portrait miniature of a Lady, thought to be Lady Mary Finch, (née Seymour) (1628-1672), wearing ochre gown, white chemise and pearl necklace, her brown hair worn curled, set in a cave and landscape background, 1654, John Hoskins the Younger
Watercolour on vellum
17th Century
Oval, 2 ¾ in. (70mm) high
Possibly commissioned by Heneage Finch, 3rd Earl of Winchilsea, thence by descent; Rt. Hon. Christopher Denys Stormonte Finch-Hatton, 16th Earl of Winchilsea and 11th Earl of Nottingham (1936-1999), by 1963; Sotheby’s, London, 11 March 1993, lot 5, (as A Lady, possibly the Countess of Thanet, née Lady Margaret Sackville); Sotheby’s, London, 12 November 1998, lot 24 (as A Lady, possibly Margaret, Countess of Thanet); The Comerford Collection, Ireland, until 2016.
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The present work, signed with the monogram ‘iH’ for John Hoskins, has assumed different identities since it was in the possession of the Earl of Winchilsea and Nottingham at the end of the twentieth century. Initially recorded as an ‘Unknown Lady’ in 1963, this portrait was then recorded as depicting Lady Margaret Sackville (1614-1676), Countess of Thanet when sold through Sotheby’s in 1993, and again in 1998. This identification can now be disregarded, as Lady Margaret Sackville would have been forty years old when Hoskins completed this miniature in 1654, and the subject here is certainly younger.

A more plausible identification would be Lady Mary Seymour (1628-1672), second wife of Heneage Finch, 3rd Earl of Winchilsea and daughter of William Seymour, Duke of Somerset. This identification was first suggested by Graham Reynolds, Keeper of the Department of Miniatures at the Victoria and Albert Museum in the early 1960s, and John Kerslake, Assistant Keeper at the National Portrait Gallery in 1963.

Kerslake wrote that Lady Mary Seymour married Heneage Finch in 1653, a date presumably taken from Burke’s Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage, although there has been some suggestion that the couple married earlier. If Kerslake was correct (unfortunately marriages were not recorded at Eastwell, Kent during the Interregnum) then this portrait could have been produced by Hoskins in celebration of the couple’s recent marriage or the birth of a child. Mary Seymour had seven sons and four daughters with her husband who married four times in total. It is possible that, as his second wife of four, the identity of Lady Mary Seymour in this portrait miniature was simply lost over time. If this portrait does depict Lady Mary Seymour, then she would have been twenty-six years old at the time it was painted.

By 1654, the date of this portrait, the name ‘Hoskins’ was synonymous with highly sophisticated court-centric portrait miniatures, spanning both the reign of Charles I and continuing into Cromwell’s reign as Lord Protector. The existence of a signed self portrait by Hoskins’s son, also called John, has allowed for a revision of miniatures signed with the ‘JH’ monogram after 1645 as by the younger man. So successful was John Hoskins senior as an artist, partially due to his close relationship with the famed artist Anthony van Dyck, whose paintings he often interpreted in little, that the continuation of the name, and technique, from father to son may have inspired confidence in patrons.

Hoskins senior (c.1590-1664/5) was also the uncle of Samuel and Alexander Cooper, the former eventually eclipsing his uncle with his internationally recognised success. Both Hoskins senior and junior often included architecture amongst the more general topography in the background of his miniatures, and it is possible that the simple outline of an estate in the present miniature could depict Kirby Hall, the family seat of the Earls of Winchilsea and Nottingham. Certainly, the choice of Hoskins as the artist for this young lady’s portrait would have been seen as a reflection of both her noble status and refined taste in the more austere climate of the Interregnum.
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