Bacon’s portraits can be divided into two distinct types, both of which have been reproduced numerous times. The primary version of the first type, which shows the sitter aged 55 in 1562, is at Corpus Christi College in Cambridge. Bacon sat for a second portrait shortly before his death in 1578/9 and this portrait is based on that work. The primary version has not been identified with certainty but superior examples demonstrate the influence of Holbein and include a dragon-shaped jewel suspended around the sitter’s neck, including those at the National Portrait Gallery, London, and at Raveningham Hall, Norfolk (Bacon’s former home).
This painting was presented to the Corporation of Cursitors [officers in the Court of Chancery who make out writs] by ‘J. Bacon’ (probably a descendant of Sir Nicholas) in 1789. It was later passed to Lord Langdale, Master of the Rolls from 1835 to 1851. At Langdale’s death it passed to his successor, Sir John Romilly. When Romilly died in 1873, it was inherited by another successor, who transferred it to the new Law Courts when they opened in 1882. It remained there until Lord Denning transferred it to Whitchurch and continues to be passed to each successive Master of the Rolls.
Sir Nicholas Bacon (1510-1579) Lord Keeper of the Great Seal
Oil on canvas, feigned oval
height: 76.30 cm, width: 63.50 cm
Handwritten note on the back of the work: J. Bacon begs leace in the name of the Revd. Nicholas Bacon to present to the Corporation of Cursitors a copy (by Crook) of the original picture of Sir Nicholas Bacon, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, which he hopes they will think worthy of their acceptance. / From his Chambers / 23 Jan. 1789
Bacon Family; presented to Corporation of Cursiters; presented to Master of the Rolls (Lord Langdale) & passed to successors.
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