Sir Francis Walsingham (1530-1590) statesman; Principal Secretary
About the work
This engraving was published to illustrate a work written by compiler of histories and biographer Thomas Birch (1705-1766), titled ‘The Lives and Characters of Illustrious Persons’ (published 1743-52). The work was published by John and Paul Knapton of Ludgate Street, London, and featured portraits of 108 famous Britons from the time of King Edward III (reigned 1327-77) to contemporary figures. Each portrait was accompanied by Birch’s account of the sitter’s life.
Where possible, the engraved portraits were copies of existing paintings. Artists Charles and George Knapton (cousins of the booksellers and publishers John and Paul Knapton), artist and printseller Arthur Pond, and book illustrator and engraver Hubert-François Gravelot are all thought to have been involved in finding 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 1740.
About the artist
Federico Zuccaro was born in the Marches, the son of Ottaviano. From 10/11 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 to 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 Vasari’s frescoes in the Cupola, Florence. In 1579 he worked on Pope Gregory XIII’s chapel. 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 published his autobiography (1605).