The Ashmolean is delighted to now have on long-term loan a new painting by Flemish portrait painter, Anthony Van Dyck (1599–1641).
The portrait of Elizabeth Howard, 1st Countess of Peterborough, is on display in the Mallett Gallery of European Art (Gallery 44) alongside other portraits by Van Dyck, Thomas Gainsborough and Joshua Reynolds. Painted around 1638 it demonstrates Van Dyck’s skill in depicting the wealthy British aristocracy.
Elizabeth Howard, reputedly a great beauty, is dressed in lavish silk and lace and is wearing pearl and diamond jewellery which is painted with particular delicacy. She was married to John Mordaunt, 1st Earl of Peterborough (about 1598–1642) who had been educated at Oxford. It is therefore appropriate that the portrait of his wife is now on display in the Ashmolean Museum.
Mordaunt later joined the court of the Prince of Wales, the later King Charles I, for whom Van Dyck worked as court painter from 1632 onwards. The couple were, however, zealous republicans during the English Civil War.