Frances Howard, dowager Countess of Kildare (c.1572 - 1628), later Baroness Cobham

English School
1590 – 1610

Frances Howard, dowager Countess of Kildare (c.1572 - 1628), later Baroness Cobham

Painted circa 1601

Oil on Canvas: 81 1/4 x 45 1/4 inches, 203.2 x 113.2 cm

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Provenance

  • with The Weiss Gallery, 2012, sold to
  • Private collection

One of the most ravishingly beautiful of all late Elizabethan full-lengths and steeped in romantic symbolism, this portrait has survived in an almost pristine state of preservation. Once thought to represent Catherine Carey, Countess of Nottingham, research reveals the portrait is almost certainly Catherine’s second daughter, Frances Howard (c.1572 - 1628). It was painted around 1601 at the time of her betrothal or marriage to her second husband, Henry Brooke, 11th Baron Cobham (1564 - 1628), some time after the death of her first husband, Henry Fitzgerald, 12th Earl of Kildare (1562 - 1597). This spectacular portrait pre-dates Cobham’s downfall and remains a visual record of their courtship and marriage on 27 May 1601. Her black velvet skirt, draped over a wheel farthingale, is seeded with pearls in a scrolling design of leaves and armillary or celestial spheres, a popular motif at the court, often associated with the Queen herself, alluding to her cosmic presence.

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