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Van Dyck Discovery


In 1866 John Bowes purchased this painting as one of a pair from Madame Lepautre, one of his regular dealers in Paris. The sitter was simply referred to as ‘a lady’  In 2013, the painting was firmly attributed to Sir Anthony van Dyck,  the most important artist at work in England in the 17th century. 

Over the years, the picture became obscured by an old, discoloured varnish, as well as paint loss to the sitter’s left eye and hair. The sophisticated drapery, colouring and facial expression typical of Van Dyck’s female portraits of the 1630s were therefore overlooked, due to the painting’s poor overall appearance. But thanks to the Public Catalogue Foundation and the BBC Your Paintings comprehensive photographic record of oil paintings in public ownership in Britain, the painting came to the attention of art historian Dr Bendor Grosvenor, who was carrying out research into Van Dyck’s lost paintings.

A sympathetic programme of conservation has now removed the disfiguring varnish layers, revealing the tonal subtleties of the sitter’s skin and her white satin dress, together with the quality of the drawing. The painting has been examined by a number of Van Dyck scholars who agree that a previously unknown work by Anthony van Dyck has been hiding in The Bowes Museum’s picture store for many years.

The Flemish painter Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641), was well known for his portraits of King Charles I and his family, together with the noblemen and women of his court. Recent research has proved that this painting depicts Henrietta Maria’s lady-in-waiting, Olive Boteler Porter (d. 1633), the wife of Van Dyck’s close friend and patron, Endymion Porter. Olive Porter was the daughter of Sir John Boteler and Elizabeth Villiers, niece of the Duke of Buckingham. The red carnation in her hair may be an heraldic motif, since it appears in other images of female members of the Villiers family. 

The BBC recorded the discovery of the true identity of the painting’s creator in a Culture Show programme first aired in March 2013.


The Bowes Museum is looking forward to welcoming you on the 17 May


Staff have been busy behind the Museum’s closed doors getting everything ready to welcome visitors back safely.

Café Bowes has undergone a refurbishment and has a new menu waiting to be sampled, the Museum has been deep cleaned, new signage is in place reminding you to adhere to social distancing, hand sanitisation stations have been refilled, the shop has been restocked and staff are being trained ready to greet you back in a safe and timely manner.

North Country Quilts: In Celebration of New Acquisitions is now hanging in the main exhibition gallery ready to wow visitors through to January 2022 and, due to social distancing measures, entry to the display will be by a separate timed exhibition entrance ticket that needs to be booked, at no extra cost, before visiting. Song has also been reinstated in the Music Room so people can enjoy the sound of the instruments. A varied programme of activity is being planned throughout May and June which we hope you will participate in.

Entry to the Museum will be by timed slots and tickets will have to be pre-booked online here or by calling 01833 690606. The Museum will be open from 10.00 to 5.00 daily. Masks will need to be worn throughout the Museum, shop and café, except when eating or where exemptions apply.

We look forward to welcoming you back soon!