The formidable Lady Anne Clifford was a favourite of Elizabeth I, noted in her era for her knowledge and intelligence and, above all, is remembered for her refusal to capitulate in a decades-long battle to regain “the lands of my inheritance” in Craven and Westmorland.
Much of her work to restore the fortunes of estates ravaged by civil war give her a continuing legacy today – without her drive her birthplace of Skipton Castle would be now be ruin – as she repatriated wealth from the south to fund work in the north.
Now, a lost portrait of Lady Anne has been rediscovered and will go on show to the public for the first time next year.
The work by William Larkin shows her aged 28. Experts were aware of the portrait through literary references but it had long been lost until it was found in an unnamed European private collection and sold to the National Portrait Gallery in London for £275,000. Her diary records she sat for Larkin during the summer of 1618. He produced two portraits, one that stayed at her then home in Knole in Kent, and the rediscovered painting, which was sent to her cousin.
Experts say it is of “outstanding quality” for a work of the period and is clearly recognisable as Lady Anne by comparison with other portraits and with her own description: “The colour of mine eyes was black like my father’s and the form and aspect of them was quicke and lively like my mother’s. The hair of my head was brown and very thick… with a peak of hair on my forehead, and a dimple in my chin.”
Catharine MacLeod, curator of 17th century portraits at the gallery, said: “It is very exciting to be able to represent such a fascinating and prominent 17th century woman with such a beautiful portrait.”