Sir Francis Walsingham (1530-1590) statesman; Principal Secretary

  • About the work
    Country: UK
    City: London
    Place: Government Art Collection

    This engraving shows a portrait of principal secretary to Queen Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Walsingham. Surrounded by an ornamental oval, the sitter is depicted in a black brocade jacket, wearing a ruff collar. The cartouche below shows an Elizabethan woman being presented with a painting. The engraving is after a painting by Federico Zuccaro which formerly belonged to the collection of Robert Walpole at Strawberry Hill. Walpole mentions Zuccaro’s work in his ‘Anecdotes on Painting’(1762-80) stating that it was engraved for Thomas Birch’s work ‘The Heads of Illustrious Lives and Characters of Illustrious Persons of Great Britain’. The latter was published between 1743–52 by John and Paul Knapton of Ludgate Street, London, and featured 108 portraits of famous British figures from Geoffrey Chaucer to Alexander Pope. Each portrait was accompanied by Birch’s account of the sitter’s biography. Many of the engraved portraits were copies of existing paintings. Artists Charles and George Knapton, printseller Arthur Pond, and book illustrator and engraver Hubert-François Gravelot are all thought to have been involved in selecting and copying the older portraits required for the project. The engraver and antiquary George Vertue was initially employed to engrave the plates but produced just nine before being dismissed for slowness and replaced by Dutch engraver Jacobus Houbraken, who worked from Amsterdam. The ornamental surrounds of the portraits were designed and engraved by Gravelot. The plates are in most cases dated, some as early as 1738.

  • About the artist
    Jacobus Houbraken was born in Dordrecht, the son of Dutch artist and art historian Arnold Houbraken. Jacobus studied under his father, before making his name engraving portraits after both Old Master and contemporary artists, producing works for several countries. He engraved the plates for the third edition of Paul de Rapin’s ‘History of England’ (1743–47) and also for Thomas Birch’s ‘The Heads of Illustrious Lives and Characters of Illustrious Persons of Great Britain’ (1743–52). Hubert-François Gravelot produced the ornamental designs for both works. Houbraken’s pupils included Dutch printmaker and draftsman, Pierre Tanje. Houbraken died in Amsterdam at about the age of 82.
    Federico Zuccaro was born in the Marches, Italy. From the age of ten, he worked in his brother Taddeo’s studio in Rome. He later moved to Venice and then Florence, becoming a member of the Accademia del Disegno. He returned to Rome after Taddeo’s death. After a spell in Paris, he visited London in 1575 and was introduced to the court of Elizabeth I. His drawings of Dudley and Elizabeth are in the British Museum. He later completed the frescoes in the Dome of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, which were previously started by Giorgio Vasari. In 1579, he worked for Pope Gregory XIII’s on the frescoes in the Pauline chapel in the Vatican. He was expelled from Rome for displaying a satirical image. He worked in Venice and Spain, before becoming first principal of the Accademia di San Luca. In his final years he wrote ‘L’idea de’ scultori, pittori e architetti’ (1607).
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    Walsingham, Sir Francis
    Materials & Techniques
  • Details
    Sir Francis Walsingham (1530-1590) statesman; Principal Secretary
    published 1738
    Purchased 1992
    GAC number