Sir Reginald Mohun, 1st Bart. of Hall and Boconnoc (c.1564-1639) and his wife, Dorothy Chudleigh of Ashton, Devon
Painted circa 1604
Oil on Panel: 75 x 43 7/8 inches, 190.5 x 111.4 cm
- Presumably by descent to the daughter Elizabeth Mohun, Lady Trelawny wife of Sir John Trelawny (1592-1664),
- Thence by descent within the Trelawny family, until sold to
- Charles Sandoe Gilbert (1760-1831), acquired sometime circa 1825 by
- John Rushout, 2nd Baron Northwick (1769–1859), at Northwick Park, by whom sold Christies, 12th May 1838, lot 33, £5.5,1 bought by
- Horatio Rodd, art dealer (fl. 1798–1858)
- Earls of Dunraven, Adare Manor, Limerick Ireland
- Thence by descent to
- Thady Wyndham-Quin, 7th Earl of Dunraven and Mount-Earl (b.1939)
- J. Cornforth, ‘Adare Manor, Co. Limerick – The Seat of the Earls of Dunraven’ Country Life 15th May 1969, p.1232, fig. 6.
- J. Ashelford, ‘Dress in the Age of Elizabeth I’, 1988, pp.73-4, illustrated
- The Weiss Gallery, ‘a fashionable likeness; early portraiture 1550-1710’, no. 3
- Dunster Castle, Minehead, Devon, 1982-2004, while on loan to the National Trust.
Painted to celebrate the marriage of Sir Reginald Mohun to his 3rd wife, Dorothy, daughter of John Chudleigh (1564-1589), 2 indeed Lady Mohun holds in her right hand a pink rose, a symbol of betrothal, this magnificent late Elizabethan portrait has great significance as the earliest known example of a life-size, full-length marriage portrait in English easel painting.
It is unique not only in its size and subject, but in the manner in which the couple are portrayed, with their arms entwined at the centre of the composition. This gives the painting an endearing characterisation, and thus it is also perhaps the earliest instance of affection and tender feeling between husband and wife in English portraiture.
It also has a notable provenance, virtually unbroken to the present day, and dating back to the sitters’ family. Mohun’s daughter, Elizabeth (b. 1593), by his second wife Philippa married the scion of another notable West Country family, Sir John Trelawny of Trelawny and Sheriff of Cornwall. The painting then passed through their descendants until it was acquired sometime in the early eighteenth century by the eminent Cornish historian Charles Sandoe Gilbert (1760-1831).3 It was almost certainly included in a sale of Gilbert’s possessions following his bankruptcy in 1825 when it was purchased by one of the most famous and discerning collectors of the nineteenth century, John Rushout, 2nd Baron Northwick (1769-1859) of Northwick Park. After Lord Northwick’s sale in 1838, it passed, via a dealer called Rodd, into the collection of the Earls of Durnraven within whose family it has remained until the present day.
Sir Reginald (also know as Raynold) Mohun, was an important West Country magnate, who owned large estates in Cornwall at Boconnoc and Hall. He enjoyed a long, if sporadic, parliamentary career, and was elected to the Commons at various times between 1584 and 1625, where he represented seats under family control such as East Looe and Fowey. In 1599 he was knighted by Elizabeth I, and later became one of the first baronets created by James I in 1611. Mohun was evidently a man of great wealth, as represented by his baronetcy, since the titles were invented by James I as a brazen means of raising money, with prices started at £10,000. Indeed the prime reason for his appointment to the important post of Deputy Lieutenant of Cornwall, was because “he doth dwell in a convenient place… and is a gentleman of good sufficiency and credit to supply that place”.4
1. The painting was catalogued in the Northwick sale as ‘two portraits, large as life, upon panel; supposed to represent Sir Reginald Mohun, and Lady (the arms being of that ancient family), and which from the dress of the parties, appears to have been painted about the time of Elizabeth; we are unable to give any further account of this most curious painting, than that it formerly belonged to Mr. Gilbert, historian of the County of Cornwall, and was previously in Sir John Trelawny’s possession.’
2. The coat of arms in the centre represent the Mohun family to the left, and Chudleigh to the right.
3. Gilbert published in two volumes the Historical Survey of the County of Cornwall between 1817-20.
4. History of Parliament, House of Commons 1558-1603, p.59
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