Unknown Lady of the Fanshawe Family

Object number



c. 1720


Portrait of an unknown female member of the Fanshawe family. Until recently it was believed that this was Elizabeth Fanshawe (1754-1784), daughter of John Seale of Mount Boone and his second wife Elizabeth Townes, and wife of Charles Fanshawe (see no.21). Labels on the back of the portrait identify it as Elizabeth Seale. However the painting has been dated to c.1720, which is 34 years before Elizabeth was born. Also, the artist this picture has been attributed to Charles Jervas, who died in 1739. The style of clothing shown in the portrait is similar to those worn between 1715-1720, so this fits with the date of production. It is possible that the portrait is of Elizabeth's mother, but there is no way of proving this. Elizabeth Townes was the daughter of John Townes (1685-1733) of Netherway and Kettering and Elizabeth Berry (1692-1718), she was born on the eighth of October 1692 and baptised on the 5 November.

Physical description

Bust length portrait of a woman wearing a cream silk dress with a low, square neckline that has white lace frilling around the edges. The dress has elbow length sleeves with a turned-up cuff in a deep blue colour. The short, tight sleeves of her smock are just visible below this cuff. She has a shawl in the same blue as the cuffs of her dress draped over her left arm. Her right arm is drawn across her body, holding onto the shawl. She has her body turned to her left but her head turned to the right. She has blond hair worn loosely up, with long ringlets hanging from the back. The clothing and hairstyle are typical of those worn from 1714-1720. On a plain brown/red background.



Working from the pedigrees found in the ?History of the Fanshawe family? by H.C. Fanshawe, there are three possible Fanshawe women who could be represented in the portrait. These possibilities are based on the assumption that, through the type of clothing worn in the picture, it dates from around 1720. The woman is quite young, and could be assumed to have been born around 1700. As most portraits are painted to mark a significant event, such as a marriage or the birth of the first child, to fit with the picture such events have to have taken place between 1714-1720. The possible candidates are as follows: 1) Grace, wife of Thomas Fanshawe of Dronfield, Procurator General of the Court of Arches; 2) Mary (1703-), daughter of Edward Fanshawe of Dronfield and London, Married in 1725 to Ellis Needham; 3) Elizabeth, daughter of William Snelling, Married in 1714 to Thomas Edward Fanshawe of Great Singleton.


Portrait Painting


Whole height: 1055mm
width: 840mm
Canvas height: 840mm
width: 610mm

Collection type

Visual arts, Fanshawe Portraits

Looking for records

Objects that are not on display in the museum can be viewed by appointment at the discretion of the Museum Curator. To find out more about accessing the collection please email: valencehousemuseum@lbbd.gov.uk or telephone: 020 8227 2034

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