Lady Rich – Hans Holbein The Younger


Lady Rich was Elizabeth, daughter and heiress to William Jenks, a prosperous grocer of London.

Nothing is known of her history except that in 1535 she married Richard Rich, an unscrupulous but successful lawyer, who in 1548 was raised to the peer-age and made Lord Chancellor of England, and that she was the mother of ten daughters and three sons whose names have been preserved. She was painted about 1536, shortly after her marriage. There is a beautiful study for this picture in the Windsor Castle Collection, where is also a drawing of her husband, whose portrait Holbein painted, in all probability, though no trace of it exists.

Ralph N. Wornum speaks of this work as a fine, expressive portrait, one of those examples which give us the decided impression that Holbein troubled his sitters as little as possible and worked alone, relying largely on the preliminary drawing and the accuracy of his memory. She wears the English hood of the time and a black dress with a flaring collar fastened with an exquisitely rendered gold medallion, which is decorated with the figures of a man and a woman standing by a dead body. Her face is fat and flabby; in this the painting differs from the preliminary drawing, where the forms as well as the character are more decided and more strongly marked.

In the early seventeenth century this picture was the property of the Right Reverend Herbert Croft, Bishop of Hereford. His granddaughter married into the Mosely family and from about 1700 it was in their possession. It was purchased from Captain H. R. Mosely of Buildwas Park, Shropshire, in 1912.