This is the only known portrait by Larkin depicting a baby, and it was first re-attributed to the artist by Mark Weiss in 1986. Over the years, The Weiss Gallery has handled nine fully autograph works by William Larkin, whose known oeuvre today numbers no more than fifty paintings. Of these, we have sold three to museums; The National Portrait Gallery, London; the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven; and The National Gallery of Hungary, Budapest.
Sotheby’s New York, 5 June 1986, lot 109 (as ‘English School c.1615, An Unknown Noble Baby, called Lady Waugh’);
The Weiss Gallery; London, by whom sold in 1987 to
Private collection, USA.
R. Strong, William Larkin: Icons of Splendour, 1995, nos.34, pp.114–115.
The Weiss Gallery, English Portraits 1530 – 1650, 1986, cat. 9.
The Weiss Gallery, A Connoisseur's Eye, 2020, cat. 6.
Whilst a traditional identification of the baby as ‘Lady Waugh’ suggests this young child would have been a peeress in her own right, or have subsequently become the wife of a Knight, Baronet or peer of the rank of Marquess or lower, there is no Duke, Marquess, or Earl with the surname of Waugh to be traced. She has been placed by Larkin within the full apparatus of pictorial convetions for Jacobean court portraiture, with a highly formalised curtain in the background. For many years, Larkin’s portraits were ascribed to ‘The Curtain Master’, because of the sitters’ presentation within draped curtains. These formalised swags of silk were a device Larkin commonly employed to frame his subjects, often replicating almost identical folds. The damask cushion on which the baby is placed is equally rich, with red silk tassels and gold trim. In an age when infant mortality made survival to adulthood such an achievement, this child’s importance within her own family can be imagined.
Roy Strong has noted that ‘there are no internal clues to a closer dating [of this work], for the dress could be any time during Larkin’s working career, [however], the carpet border is one which appears in the Suffolk series of Isabella Rich, which suggests a dating to around 1615’. The carpet would have been made in west Anatolia between the end of the 15th and the beginning of the 16th century, commonly called a ‘Holbein pattern’ because of its use in his double portrait of The Ambassadors (National Gallery, London).
Little is known of William Larkin’s life and career, which was cut short by his death in 1619, the same year that Nicholas Hilliard and the Queen, Anne of Denmark, died. It is almost certain that he was the son of an innkeeper also named William Larkin, living in the parish of St. Sepulchre, and that he was a close neighbour of the royal portrait painter Robert Peake, with whom he may well have trained. Although Larkin never occupied an official position at court, he is celebrated for his spectacularly decorative full-length portraits of members of the court of James I of England. He is most famous for his celebrated set of nine magnificent full-length portraits that descended with the Earls of Suffolk, and now hang at Kenwood House. His exaggerated, iconographic style has been likened to miniature painting on a grand scale, reflecting a particularly English aesthetic, and his distinguished clientele included the Duke of Buckingham, Lord Herbert of Cherbury and the Earl and Countess of Dorset.
 If she had been the daughter of a Duke, Marquess or Earl, she would have been described as ‘Lady (Christian name) Waugh’. Waugh would therefore have been eitherher maiden name or thatof her husband.
 A pair of oval portraitsof his patrons Sir Edward Herbert (1583–1648), later1st Baron Cherbury and Sir Thomas Lucy (1584–1640)at Charlecote Park (National Trust), referred to by Lord Herbert in his autobiography were first identified as the work of Larkin by James Lees-Milne, ‘Two Portraitsat Charlecote Park byWilliam Larkin’, Burlington Magazine, XCIV, 1952, pp.352-356. Sir Roy Strong subsequently was the first to assemble his oeuvre around these two, documented works.
 R. Strong, William Larkin: Icons of Splendour, (op. cit.).