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Byzantine Icons

Author(s): D. Talbot Rice

Source: The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, Vol. 86, No. 506 (May, 1945), pp. 127-128
Published by: The Burlington Magazine Publications, Ltd.
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The Early Workof Sir PeterLely

England. But if that were the case, we should have
expected to find other evidence of his Court activities
at this period. Again, it is perfectly true that Dobson,
whose position as Court painter par excellenceat Oxford
is well known, did execute a portrait of Prince Charles
(now belonging to the National Gallery of Scotland)
quite early in the Civil War. But Charles, after all,
was the Prince of Wales and this picture was specially
commissioned as a gift to William Harvey. The Duke
of York was not portrayed by Dobson until later for,
judging by James's appearance, it would seem that the
delightful painting at Windsor Castle cannot be before
I644 at least. Secondly, why should the Syon picture
have come into the possession of the Percy family
if it had no connexion with the period of Northumberland's guardianship of James? It seems unlikely,
under the circumstances, that the Duke would have
brought it with him from Oxford.
The fact that two different dates have been read
shows that the last figure cannot be easy to decipher.
Might not a " 2 " or a " 3 " prove to be a " 7 " or
an " 8 " ? At any rate, pending ocular proof, I must
be allowed to have " a feeling in the pit of the stomach"
and to believe that Walpole was right in saying, when
he saw the pictures at Syon in 1761, "a pretty head of
James, Duke of York, young, and the Lady Elizabeth,
painted while they were under the care of Lord
Northumberland." That this was the tradition at
Syon is borne out by the fact that in the Catalogueof
the Stuart Exhibition, where the picture was shown
(No. 125), James is described as aged 14. And if
painted then-as the Elizabeth must have been since
the Princess did not cease to be Northumberland's
ward until June, 1649, and her appearance in the
picture makes it absolutely certain that it was executed
before the death of Charles I in January, i649-who
but the Earl, to whose descendants they belong, would
have commissioned the portraits ? The James is
reproduced in Mr. Collins Baker's Connoisseurarticle
mentioned above.
(4) PrincessElizabeth.
This picture (whether it is signed or not I cannot
say) would seem to be even less well known than the
Petworth group. It is not mentioned by Mr. Collins
Baker either in his book or in his Connoisseurarticle.
The Princess is shown at half-length, wearing a low-cut
blue dress, her left hand on her breast. Although full
of charm, and extremely valuable from the iconographical point of view, since it is the only life-size single
painted portrait of Elizabeth extant, it is a more
sophisticated painting than the others in the series. We
can already see foreshadowed in this essentially artless
little girl, made over-fine for the occasion, the Lely
ladies of a somewhat later date. From the grown-up
dress and greater elaboration in the style of hairdressing,
I should say that the picture was commissioned by
Northumberland later than the Petworth group, though
it may not be later than the end of I647. It was
exhibited at South Kensington in I866 (No. 580) and at

the Stuart Exhibition (No. 93) and is finely reproduced

in Foster, Vol. ii, Plate lxxii.
Duke of
The painting catalogued "Henry,
Gloucester" by Sir Peter Lely from Syon House at
the Stuart Exhibition (No. io6) is, I understand, in
reality a portrait of Lady Elizabeth Percy (born 1667)
as a child. But that Henry was painted by Lely singly
as a child we know from the entry among the Windsor
pictures in James II's Catalogue (No. 739). What
painting is here intended it is impossible to say with
certainty, but Mrs. Jameson1? may have been right in
identifying it with the picture of the Duke which was
at Windsor as late as I866, when it was exhibited at
South Kensington as by Van Dvck (No. 63I), and
which may still be stored at the Castle for all I know.
I possess a poor reproduction of this picture, which
shows a child standing at full-length, wearing a lace
cap, " coats," and an apron, and holding fruit and
flowers in his left hand. As far as this photograph will
allow one to judge, I think that we may well have
here yet a sixth royal pre-Commonwealth Lely. Of the
doubtful James, Duke of York and Princess Elizabeth
from Melbourne Hall, Derby, listed by Mr. Collins
Baker as about I649, I can say nothing except that if
they are genuine representations of the brother and
sister the date is impossible.
In order to study the early work of Lely adequately
it is essential that it should be exhibited. Therefore,
we may hope that the Duke of Northumberland, Lord
Leconfield, and Mr. de Chair will allow their pictures
to be shown together in London after the War. If
His Majesty the King would be graciously pleased
to lend his Henry, Duke of Gloucester,to appear with
them, that would be a still greater gain to students.
Personally, I should also like to see displayed on the
same walls with the Lelys the Dobson James from
Windsor and the Dobson Charles from Edinburgh.
We should then have an excellent opportunity of comparing and contrasting the styles of these two artists
and of estimating better the measure of Lely's debt
to Dobson. I would add that to have good photographs
of all these pictures made available-and I venture to
suggest the publication of the whole series in THE

be of untold value.

It might even be possible to remove the Syon James

temporarily from its frame so that the full signature
(only "ly Fecit " and the date are visible) might be
examined and photographically recorded.
Finally, I come back to the Amsterdam double
portrait with which I began. Another very interesting
example of the solemn dextrarumjunctio there shown
is to be found in the picture of an unknown boy and
girl, dated 1647, the property of Sir John Prestige,
of Bourne Park, Kent, which was illustrated in Country
Life, 2nd January, I942. I have been trying, so far
without success, to identify the children, but a photograph of the signature has revealed a veryinteresting
monogram, about which I shall hope to have something
to sav at a later date.
o1 Handbookto the Public Galleriesof Art, pp. 235-6 [1845].







Shortly before the war a " find " of the very first
importance regarding the history of Byzantine panel
painting was announced by Prof. Sotiriou, Director of

the Byzantine Museum at Athens. It consisted of the

discovery in the famous monastery on Mount Sinai of a
series of some 200ooicons, all unrestored and most of
them in good condition, and dating from various periods

between the sixth and the fifteenth centuries. The
Professor had hoped to put the first fruits of his study
before delegates attending the congress of Byzantine
studies which was to be held in Algiers in I939. The
congress, however, was postponed, and Professor
Sotiriou's material still remains unpublished except for
a very brief notice which appeared in Byzantion(XIV,
1939, fasc. I, pp. 325-327).
Recent improvements in the war situation and
announcements of happier prospects for Greece suggest
that this is an appropriate moment for calling the
attention of art historians as a whole-as opposed to
Byzantine specialists-to Sotiriou's " find."
The superb quality and outstanding value of Byzantine
mosaics has long been recognised by art lovers as a
whole: the great importance of Byzantine manuscript
illuminations of all periods was well known even
in the last century : the great merits of Byzantine
wall-paintings, both the " primitives " of early sixth and
seventh century date and the later "Renaissance"
compositions of the thirteenth to sixteenth centuries,
were rapidly coming to be generally realised as a result
of the researches of the last thirty years or so. Byzantine
panel painting, however, had remained very much an
unknown field, owing to the scarcity of examples. True,
in Russia Rublev's Old TestamentTrinity,and a number
of other panels, had shown that in that country at least
icons had been produced which were definitely great
works of art and not merely cult paintings, and from
Constantinople itself the superb eleventh century panel
of OurLadyof Vladimirhad come down to us, standing
out as unquestionably one of the world's greatest religious
paintings. But other early examples of the Byzantine
school were extremely rare and the majority of icons that
were known, dating mostly from the sixteenth century
or later, though sometimes fine or even superb, were
more often of very secondary importance.
Professor Sotiriou's announcement of the discovery of
200 icons, all of pre-fifteenth century date, is thus of the
very first importance. He mentions paintings of the
sixth century, in the encaustic technique,' panels of the
twelfth century, and others of the fourteenth; some
appear to be small, others are as much as a metre high,
thus constituting major works in size as well as in
To those who had read of the monastery of Sinai
but not visited it, the discovery of fine icons there does
coloured wax by means of a hot needle. The
technique was used mainly in Egypt for mummy portraitsof the
first centuriesof the Christianera, but from there spread to the
Byzantineworld, where it was used for small icons. A very few
examples of sixth century date have been preserved; the most
importantwere beforethe war in the theologicalacademyat Kiev.
1 Painting with

not come as a surprise, for a number of travellers have

mentioned ancient paintings on panels as being preserved there. The quantity is, however, more than the
most sanguine scholar could have dared to hope, and
their discovery has, for the study of Byzantine art, much
the same significance as that of the Codex Sinaiticus at
the same place had for palaeographical studies. In the
history of art as a whole, in fact, there are few major
fields of which we know so little as that of earlier
Byzantine panel painting, and it is to be hoped that
circumstances will soon make it possible for Professor
Sotiriou to publish his material fully and in detail, with
that wealth of plates, some at least in colour, that the
importance of his discovery demands.

The Trustees of the National Gallery of Art at

Washington announce that Mr. Samuel Kress, a member
of the Board of Trustees, has been elected President of
the National Gallery.
Mr. Kress' benefactions to the Gallery, which he has
now been called to preside, have more than once been
noticed in the columns of THE BURLINGTON MAGAZINE.

Other museums have benefited from the generosity of

one who ranks as one of the most distinguished collectors
of our generation, particularly interested in Italian art,
and also in French art. The election is one which we
warmly applaud, and we wish Mr. Kress, and prophesy
for him, a successful tenure of office.

A new firm-Roland, Browse and Delbanco, the lady

member being mentioned in the sequence between the
two gentlemen-has made an auspicious beginning with
its first exhibition, entitled " Reality and Vision in three
centuries of English Drawing." Of the three floors
which make up the galleries at 18 Cork Street, two are
devoted to the exhibition whose scope is thus defined:
its contents are largely drawn from well-known private
collections, while some attractive exhibits are decidedly
less familiar-we would mention, for instance, the
charming group of examples of George Chinnery. The
top floor gallery is devoted to pictures by Dutch Old
Masters, among which the Interiorby Esaias Boursse
and the Seascapeby Abraham van Beyeren particularly
hold the attention.


In the caption, p. 95,

[PLATE A], the reference to the coat-of-arms should,

of course, be to the University of Oxford: p. 98,

line 19, left, read Marches: line 8, right, read Bicci:
p. 99, line 43, left, readNicola : p. 100, line 22, right,

SIR,-I have read Dr. Buchthal's article on "The
Haughton Collection of Gandhara Sculpture" in the

current number of THE BURLINGTONMAGAGINEwith

much interest, and cordially agree with him that the

recent exhibition of Indian art at the Alpine Club left a
much more favourable impression of the art of Gandhara
than I had previously felt. I should also like to congratulate General Haughton on bringing together such

a representative collection, and on the artistic sense

which guided him in doing so.
I also fully agree with Dr. Buchthal that all further
research in this field should be based on the style and
iconography of the Bimaran reliquary (including its
date): indeed, its importance cannot be too much
stressed. But, as he has referred specifically to the
article which I contributed upon it in May, 1943, I hope
you will allow me to draw the readers' attention to a
certain statement regarding the evidence for its dating