National Portrait Gallery research visit to Knole

A team from the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) working on the Making Art in Tudor Britain project came to Knole on 22nd of September to study three paintings, (one of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey and two of Thomas Sackville).

Photographs with both a regular and an Infra red (IR) camera were taken.  IR camera’s are used to show up any possible underdrawings which could reveal more about painting. The interest in this picture stems from a portrait owned by the NPG at the Arundel Castle of the same sitter. Although larger than the Howard at Knole, similar questions arise as to how and indeed when these portraits were produced. They hope to return in the closed season to be able to take a melinex tracing of the portrait, which will require the use of a scaffold.   

Photographing Thomas Sackville in the Great Hall

 The team moved on to look a portrait of Thomas Sackville in the Ballroom, again using a regular and IR camera to investigate the painting.  Quite exciting a underdrawing was clearly visible in IR. They also held a melinex tracing taken from the Gallery’s portrait of Sackville up in front of this portrait, which matched remarkably closely. 

Following the positive finds in the Ballroom, they moved on to the other portrait if Thomas Sackville in the Great Hall. 

 Helen (Knole, House and Collections Manager) and I took the portrait off the wall for it to be traced. Again using a tracing of their portrait from the NPG and putting it over the top of our portrait it was found to correspond extremely closely to the Gallery’s portrait of the same sitter, which was an exciting discovery for the team.  They could not recall two portraits that matched so closely in terms of composition.  It was interesting however that the IR did not pick up underdrawing in this portrait, something that might have been expected given its close relationship to both the portrait in the Ballroom and that at the National Portrait Gallery.

Taking a tracing of the head and facial features of the portrait of Thomas Sackville, Great Hall

The relationship between these portraits of Sackville is something that the Making Art in Tudor Britain team are extremely interested in investigating further, and they hope to return to Knole soon.  We look forward to further discoveries, and we’ll post any updates on the research here. 

A close up of the detail that is traced.

Thank you to Ed Town at the NPG for his notes on the project.


Find out more about the project via the link below:


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