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Object Title

Painting - Portrait of Robert Radclife

Painting - Portrait of Robert Radclife



Object Number



In the collection of Mr. Henry Harris, by 1913, and purchased at the sale of his collection, 24-25 October 1950. Listed in the inventory compiled for John Lord Lumley, dated 'Anno 1590', but with later insertions in the hand of the original scribe, as 'The Statuarie of Robte Earle of Sussex Anno 1593'. Listed again as at Lumley Castle in 1609 and mentioned again in 1785 still at Lumley. Sold at Christies after the death of Richard, 5th Earl of Scarborough, 8 August 1785, lot 32 ['Whole length portrait of Radcliff, Earl of Sussex.'] Passed to the collection of the Dukes of Sutherland, by whom sold at Christies, 8 February 1908, Lot 53 bought Carfax. According to a letter from Mr. Henry Harris to Sir James Mann, dated 11 March 1947, he purchased the painting at that sale

Physical Description

Painting, oil on canvas, framed. Full length standing bareheaded, facing half left; wears cuirass, gorget, pauldrons, vambraces and gauntlets of white Greenwich armour; stud for pasguard on left elbow, falling band at neck; richly embroidered and jewelled silver-grey paned trunks, hose and shoes. Right hand holds a white spear, left rests on pommel of swept-hilt rapier to which a hanger and belt en suite are attached. Table to left covered with an orange cloth upon which rests the field close-helmet of the armour surmounted by a high crest of jewel-studded silver feathers and ostrich plumes. Top right, the inscription: 'Amando et Fidando Troppo, son rovinato'. On a floor tile: 'Radclif Earl of Sussex'.

Featured in





OverallDepth70 mm
OverallHeight2272.5 mm
OverallHeight2515 mm
OverallWidth1448 mm
OverallWidth1715 mm

Inscriptions and Marks

'Amando et Fidando Troppo, son rovinato' (Loving and trusting overmuch, I am ruined) 'Radclif Earl of Sussex'

Bibliographic References

A.R. Dufty and W. Reid, European Armour in the Tower of London, 1968, plate XLVII.

Trans. Essex Archaeological Society, NS XXII (1939), p.294. A. R. Dufty, 'Two Paintings from the Reign of Elizabeth I', Connoisseur, 194 (January, 1977), pp. 20-25. R. Strong, The Cult of Elizabeth, London, 1977, pp. 56, 208-11.


Robert Radcliffe, 5th Earl of Sussex (?1569-1629), succeeded to the title December, 1593 and it is suggested by that he is portrayed in the armour and costume that he had worn in the Accession Day tilts of November, 1593 in which he had taken part for the first time, as Viscount Fitzwalter. In this case, the date 1593 in the Lumley Inventory would refer both to the date of succession and the date of the portrait.

Radcliffe's portrait was almost certainly executed by the Flemish artist, Marcus Gheeraerts the younder, who was active at the Elizabethan Court during this period and who also painted other members of the Devereux circle.

The symbolism of this painting is weighted overwhelmingly towards chivalric and military accomplishments and should be interpreted with these considerations in mind. Radcliffe, at this time in his mid-twenties, is shown wearing white Greenwich armour. It has been suggested that he is portrayed in the armour and costume that he wore in the Accession Day tilts of November 1593 (R. Strong , 1977) under the courtsey title of LOrd Fitzwalter, where he participated in his first foot combat over the barrier competition. Radcliffe is shown standing full length, bareheaded, and facing half left. He is wearing a cuirass, gorget, pauldrons, vambraces and gauntlets, and holding a white spear in his right hand, a weapon used by the combatants. He also wears richly embroidered and jewelled silver-grey paned trunks along with hose and shoes. At his side is a swept-hilted rapier of a type common from the mid-16th to mid-17th centuries, to which a hanger and belt are attached. In addition to Radcliffe appearing in armour, readily recognizable symbols such as the careful positioning of items and even colour schemes convey further messages. Upon the orange-covered table, in particular, rests the field close-helmet of the armour, surmounted by a high crest of jewel-studded silver feathers reminiscent of a peacock's display, and ostrich plumes in silver, grey and orange. Ostrich plumes were recognised symbols of the noble temperament, bravery and valour, while the colour orange of the cloth is traditionally associated with courage, endurance and strength.

It is unclear whether Radcliffe commissioned this painting as a publicity piece himself. In the event, by 1609 it had entered the collection of one of the greatest English collector-patrons of the period, John, Lord Lumley. This portrait remained in the family's hands until 1795 when it was sold at auction, finally entering the art collection of the Royal Armouries in the mid-20th century.

In 1983 [Christie 17 June 1983, Lot 84] the Sabine Gallery purchased a portrait which they later suggested showed Radcliffe c.1590 as Lord Fitzwalter. The identification was based on supposed facial resemblance and it was suggested that it showed Fitzwalter on the Accession Day Tilt in 1590, when he was 21 years of age. He was not, however, listed as having taken part in the tilts that year so the identification is problematic.

Thumbnail image of Painting - Portrait of Robert Radclife Portrait of Robert Radclife, Earl of Sussex, called the 'White Knight', painted about 1593.