John Farnham, Gentleman-Pensioner to Elizabeth I

Steven van Herwijck
1530 – 1565

John Farnham, Gentleman-Pensioner to Elizabeth I

42 x 33 1/4 inches, 105 x 83.2 cm



  • with The Weiss Gallery, 1993, sold to
  • The Worcester Art Museum, U.S.A.

This imposing ad vivum portrait of John Farnham, Gentleman-Pensioner to Elizabeth I, had descended with an unbroken history within the Farnham family until its sale in 1992.

The battle scene which figures so prominently, and so unusually, almost certainly refers to an important episode in Farnham’s life. As a younger man, Farnham participated as a soldier in the defence of Calais during the reign of Mary I, a military campaign which resulted in an ignominous defeat for the English forces, and the loss of England’s toe-hold on French territory.

An interesting element in the vignette is the allegorical figure of Fortune standing on a sphere with the inscription ‘DO CASU NO[N] CO[N]SILIO’ - 'I give by chance, not by reason.' The presence of Fortune at the crossroads of a battle likely serves to question the extent to which the outcome of human events is beyond the control of those who actively participate in it.

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