4th April 2018: Canterbury Pilgrimages

On Wednesday 4h April, for the final meeting of the 2017/18 season, Wye Historical Society welcomed Maurice Howard to talk about "Paintings for Kentish Houses". Focusing on new discoveries, Maurice started by saying that the great local discovery of the time is a portrait of 'Everhard Jabach and His Family' painted by Charles Le Brun (first painter of King Louis XIV). It was thought destroyed in Berlin in 1945 but a second version was rediscovered at Olantigh in 2012. He also touched on paintings at Knole and his work on their origins.

The main focus of the talk was the series of Scott Family Portraits at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, which have been at that museum for around fifty years. The portraits, from the late Elizabethan/Early Jacobean period, now form part of an ongoing conservation project. They originated in Scott's Hall, a lost house in Smeeth. In 1876 James Renat Scott compiled a book of memorials about the house. There had been two houses on the site; the 15th century original had been replaced by 1634, and the second house was itself pulled down by 1794. Plans in the book don’t match well with the included inventories, but it's thought there was a gallery in the round over the hall. The seven portraits contain inscriptions and labels identifying them, but much of this was added long after they were painted so who exactly these people are is still in doubt. There are several monuments to the Scott family in Brabourne, Smeeth and Nettlestead churches which may provide clues as to the identities of the portraits. In 1803 engravings were made of the pictures and in 1829-31 they were all re-framed, one being cut down, for the new owner. In 1876 their owner was the widow of Thomas Fairfax Best but by 1882 the portraits were in a depot in Ipswich. Briefly owned by a distant relative of the Scott family at Ockwells Manor, by 1965 they were in an army and navy depository at Turnham Green and then ended up in the US. Until recently they were thought provincial but now their significance is being realised.

The first painting is of Reginald Scott who wrote 'The Discoverie of Witchcraft' in 1584. It's uniquely painted on two boards of Scots Pine and unusually there is no chalk layer. The second picture, by Robert Peake, is of Sir John Scott. Technology has revealed that the position of the hands has changed many times. The third painting was originally called 'George Goring'. Study has shown that the red has faded and the yellow outfit originally had a quilted look to it. The ornamental armour he is wearing would have been very expensive. The fourth picture, 'Lady Emmeline Scott', almost certainly isn't of her. It depicts a very expensive carpet which may have been painted by an artist who specialised in carpets, and so it may be the work of several hands. The fifth picture, which was formerly supposed to depict Lady Catherine Smythe Scott, could be Anne Twysden, née Finch. Again the finer reds have faded so the painting is much whiter than it was originally. Number six is called 'Mrs Mary Honeywood', the protestant supporter, but there is no evidence that's who it is; the final picture, 'Portrait of a Man', could be by a popular Dutch artist who never visited England. This picture contains gold and silver leaf plus cochineal. Mr Howard concluded that all these portraits tell stories and that there is no boundary line between the buildings and the things that went in them.

Ellie Morris