Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Jane Hyde, Countess of Clarendon and Rochester (1669/70 - 1725) 1690c.

Michael Dahl (1659-1743)

Portrait of Jane Hyde, Countess of Clarendon and Rochester (1669/70 - 1725), Michael Dahl
Oil on canvas
17th Century
30 x 25 inches 76.2 x 63.5 cm
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This painting by the Swedish-born artist, Michael DahI relates to a portrait of Jane Hyde, Countess of Clarendon and Rochester (d. 1725) in the Clarendon collection. 1

The Clarendon portrait, which was originally a Kit-Cat size (36 x 28 in.), has been dated to the early 1690s. 2 The unusual pose in which the sitter holds a girdle derives from the emblematic figure of “Virginity” in Cesare Ripa’s “Iconologia”, confirming that the portrait was probably painted shortly before the sitter’s marriage in 1691/2. Another portrait of the sitter in the same collection has been identified as a reduced copy after a lost Kneller full-length, which was engraved by J Faber jun. for his series of the Hampton Court Beauties.

Our portrait, of head and shoulders format, superbly captures the beauty for which the sitter was renowned. She was celebrated in verse by her kinsman George Granville, Lord Lansdown who wrote that the painter “must have search’d the skies / To match the lustre of her eyes”. Swift calls her “my mistress” in a letter to the poet John Gay, and also states that she “was long my principal goddess”. Prior wrote of her:

“Majestically fair, / The sparkling eye, the look serene, / The gay and easy air”. 6 Alexander Pope praised her in order to make Martha Blount jealous.

The sitter was one of the two daughters of Sir William Leveson-Gower and his wife, Jane, daughter of John Granville, Earl of Bath. She was married, 2 March 169 1/2 to Henry, Lord Hyde, eldest son of Laurence, 1st Earl of Rochester. Her husband’s career was somewhat undistinguished. He was for a time joint Vice-Treasurer for Ireland, a post which enjoyed an annual pension of some 4,000 1. In 1711 he succeeded to the earldom of Rochester, and in 1724 to that of Clarendon, both of which titles became extinct on his death in 1753.

At the time of their marriage Lord and Lady Hyde were described as a singularly fine couple and two of their daughters, Jane, afterwards Countess of Essex and Catherine, later Duchess of Queensbury, were renowned for their beauty. However, even their looks were considered inferior to the impact of their mother.

1. Wilhelm Nisser, Michael DahI, Uppsala, 1927, No. 134, pp.72-3.
2 Robin Gibson, Catalogue of the Portraits in the Collection of the Earl of Clarendon, 1977, priv. published, No.34, p.35.
Ibid., No.35, p.36.

Lady Theresa Lewis, Lives of the Friends and Contemporaries of Lord Chancellor Clarendon, 1852, Vol.111, p.414.
ed. F.E.Ball, The Correspondence of Jonathan Swift, D.D., 1913, Vol.IV, .l34 & p.175.
6 Op.cit., note 4, p.415.
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