Painted full length in the very finest of costumes and set within a lavishly furnished backdrop, the young Mary Vere is here presented as a creditable bachelorette from the English nobility. Wearing an orange gown embroidered with a pomegranate design in gold thread, with a white satin underskirt embroidered in gold and a wired lace collar, she holds a fan of ostrich feathers in her right hand while the left rests on the back of an upholstered chair. The saturation of her dress is magnified by the glossy teal curtain that hangs in the background, whilst her setting is further softened by an expensive Turkey carpet on the floor, which also features pomegranate motifs.
Sir Roger Townshend (c.1596 – 1637) 1st Bt, Raynham Hall, Fakenham, Norfolk; thence by descent to
John Townshend (1866 – 1921), 6th Marquis Townshend; by whom sold Christie’s, London, 7 March 1904, lot 158 (£162 15s);
bt. by Charles Davis & Sons, 147 New Bond Street, London;
John V. Sheffield (1913 – 2008), Laverstoke House, Laverstoke Park, Whitchurch, Hampshire;
his sale Sotheby’s, London, 13 November 1996, lot 12;
where acquired by private collection, London.
Prince Frederick Duleep Singh, Portraits in Norfolk Houses, Vol. II, Norwich 1912, p. 222, no. 162.
James Durham, The Collection of Pictures at Raynham Hall, being three annotated catalogues (1810, 1904 and 1926), privately printed in an edition of 100 copies, 1926, p. 24 (in the catalogue of pictures sold in 1904, the property of John James Dudley Stuart, 6th Marquis Townshend, there is the following entry: ‘Portrait of a young lady, full length, standing to the front. In scarlet and white embroidered dress, with slashed sleeves and wired lace collar, holding a fan in her right hand and resting her left arm upon the back of a chair. 63” x 41”’
Linda Campbell, Sir Roger Townshend and his family: a study in gentry life in early seventeenth century Norfolk, University of East Anglia PhD Thesis, 1990.
Mary Vere was born in 1608 in the Low Countries, where her father Horace Vere (1565 - 1635), 1st Baron Vere of Tilbury, was stationed. A descendant of the Earls of Oxford, Horace Vere distinguished himself as a soldier, primarily in the Netherlands. In 1590 he entered the Dutch military, commanding the company of his brother, Sir Francis Vere, from 1591 to 1594 and was eventually knighted after the successful capture of Cadiz in 1596. In 1604 he became the senior Colonel of the English contingent in the Low Countries. Soon after his marriage to Mary Tracy (1581 - 1671) in 1607, and the birth of his second daughter Mary, he was appointed Governor of the Brill, a title he would hold until 1616. He later commanded a regiment of volunteers raised in England in 1619 for the defence of the Palatinate, his last honour was bestowed to him in 1625, when he became Baron Vere of Tilbury.
Vere’s family returned to England before him and on 17 May 1627, Mary married Sir Roger Townshend, 1st Baronet (1595 - 1637), by whom she had two sons and five daughters. Townshend had gone to Cambridge in 1611, aged 15, and was admitted to Gray’s Inn in 1614. A scholarly man with a reputation for piety and a good nature, he travelled abroad extensively from 1619 to 1626 and was 30 by the date of his marriage in 1627. He was also by then very much engaged in the design and building of Raynham Hall in Norfolk. Started in 1619, on the site of an earlier moated manor, it was a revolutionary break with traditional English style by following Italian layout and form. Partly inspired by houses designed by Inigo Jones, Sir Roger went abroad with his bricklayer, William Edge, in 1619 to cement his vision for Raynham, accompanied by and plot drawer. As a result, in 1622, the foundations which had been laid were substantially dug up and the building of Raynham recommenced in what has been called a ‘precociously classical’ style. When he died unexpectedly in 1637, Raynham was unfurnished and not yet the family’s permanent home although the whole family had moved there during the two previous summers. Subsequently it become the family seat and additions to the house were made in the 1650s and the following century the interior was remodelled by the famous architect William Kent (1685 – 1748).
Following her husband’s death, Mary quickly married again in June 1638 to Mildmay Fane, 2nd Earl of Westmorland (1601 - 1666) of Apethorpe, Northampton. A talented poet and writer of plays and masques, he was also a widow, having been married previously to Grace Thornhurst, who bore him a son and four daughters. Mary provided him another son and five additional daughters. Unfortunately, her subsequent biography is scant, though it is known she died in 1669 and was buried at the Fane’s seat of Mereworth Castle in Kent.
The present portrait was kept at Raynham Hall since it was painted in the early seventeenth century until it was sold by the Townshend family in 1904. At some point, however, the identity of the sitter was lost. The style of the dress, as well as another portrait by Geldorp that is dated 1627, helps date this portrait to approximately 1627, which was likely commissioned to commemorate her engagement to Lord Townshend. Subtle symbolism is present, particularly the pomegranates embroidered on her gown, which represent her fertility that would indicate her anticipation of becoming a wife.
The identification of the sitter as Mary Vere makes sense in the context of the Townshend family and the history of Raynham Hall; Sir Roger and Mary Vere lived in another adjacent family house, Stiffkey Hall, while Raynham was being built. It was their son who permanently moved in to Raynham and the family furnishings were transferred to the new house. There was a fine collection of paintings at Raynham, especially portraits of family members and of Royal, military and political figures who had played a part in the family’s history. Among these were some Vere family pictures which had come to the Townshends on the marriage of Sir Roger and Mary Vere. The Raynham inventory of pictures sold from the house in 1904 includes not only the present portrait (as “Portrait of a young lady”), but also those of Mary Vere’s parents. It is understandable that, seeing as she was the matriarch of the subsequent Lords Townshend that her portrait would be kept at Raynham.
The identity of the painter had also been lost by the time of the 1904 sale but it can now be firmly attributed to the Flemish émigré artist George Geldorp (c.1590 – 1665). The artist had come to England in 1623 and by 1626 he was recorded working for the Cecil family. Sir Roger Townshend had inherited a considerable fortune and was very much in touch with current artistic tastes and fashions. In her PhD thesis, which concerned Sir Roger’s legacy, Linda Campbell described him as “a man of sophistication and vision, able to appreciate all that was new in art and design”. It is therefore quite likely that he would have commissioned a portrait of his future wife from Geldorp.
George Geldorp was the son of Gortzius Geldorp (1553 – 1619), a Flemish mannerist painter who mainly practiced in Cologne. George was either born there or in Antwerp, but he certainly studied in the latter, where he was admitted as a master in the Guild of St. Luke in 1610. In 1613 he married Anna de Vos, the daughter of the painter Willem de Vos. Geldorp was a close friend of Van Dyck who had first come to England and worked for the King in 1620. Geldorp subsequently moved to England himself in 1623. The portraits that Geldorp painted during his early years in England are in an Anglo-Netherlandish style similar to that of his courtly-based contemporaries Daniel Mytens and Paul van Somer. Later in his career he supplemented his income by becoming an art dealer and seller of picture frames. It seems apparent in the latter stages of his life that he was creatively stifled, so much so he eventually became a sought-after copyist of works by Van Dyck for in June 1653 Richard Symonds saw an ‘abundance of Coppyes of Ritrattos of Vandyke’ in Geldorp's house. On the eve of the Restoration, however, Geldorp was prominent in the efforts to hunt down and reassemble the royal family’s now-lost possessions, and he was eventually rewarded with the post of Surveyor of the King’s Pictures by Charles II in 1660.
 On her remarriage in 1638 she became Countess of Westmorland, as such a full length canvas was commissioned, which is inscribed with her age as 29 [Fig. 1].
 Sir Roger had his own portrait painted by Geldorp’s virtuosic friend, Sir Anthony van Dyck, in about 1630. This picture, measuring 93 x 56 in., remained at Raynham until it was sold at Christie’s in 1947.