"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Monday, January 31, 2022

Lady Borlase

This c. 1672/1675 portrait of Lady Borlase by Gerard Soest hangs in the National  Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. 

The (British) National Trust, at Sudbury Hall, has a very similar portrait labeled “Lady Borlase? by Gerard Soest (Possibly)”. Interestingly it is inscribed: “Lady Borlace by Sir P. Lely.” 

Lady Borlace
by Sir P. Lely

The National Trust says this about their portrait:

Oil painting on canvas, Possibly Alice Bankes, Lady Borlase (1621-1683), possibly Gerard Soest (Soest c.1600 – London 1681), inscribed upper left, Lady Borlace./by Sir P.Lely. A three-quarter-length portrait of a woman, seated, turned to the right, gazing at the spectator, her left hand holding a scallop shell to a fountain on the right and wearing a gold-coloured dress and blue cloak, with long golden hair 'en taureau'. She also wears a single strand pearl necklet and drop pearl earrings, landscape background with trees, and sky. Eldest daughter of Sir John Bankes she married Sir John Borlase in 1637 Shows her as an older woman than in Van Dyck's portrait at Kingston Lacy. Another version is in the National Gallery of Art, Washington. This is regarded by R. Strong as an autograph portrait.

John Hayes in British Paintings of the Sixteenth through Nineteenth Centuries, 1992 concludes following Sir Ellis Waterhouse that the NGA portrait is by Soest, not Lely, and that the portrait at Sudbury is a “competent early copy”.

The National Trust at Kingston Lacey has this portrait of Alice Bankes by Anthony van Dyke, the resemblance of which to the NGA portrait “confirms this identification” of the sitter as Alice Bankes Borlase. 

The Peerage says that:
Alice Bankes was born in 1621. She was the daughter of Sir John Bankes and Mary Hawtrey. She married Sir John Borlase, 1st Bt., son of Sir William Borlase and Amy Popham, on 4 December 1637 at St. Gile's-in-the-Fields Church, London, England. She died on 16 November 1683 at Paris, France. She was buried at St. Jaques Church, Paris, France. Her will was proven (by probate) on 31 January 1683/84.
     From 4 December 1637, her married name became Borlase. Her last will was dated 8 January 1679. She became a Roman Catholic at the age of 57.
[Sir John Borlace of Boekmore] married Alice, elder daughter of Sir John Bankes, knt., Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, by Mary daughter of Ralph Hawtrey of Riselip, co. Middlesex,—the celebrated Lady Bankes who defended Corfe Castle. They were married 14 December, 1637, at St. Giles's in the Fields. She died 16 November, 1683, aged 62, and is buried in the churchyard at St. Jaques, Paris.

In William Copeland Borlase's article in The Genealogist, Vol II, 1885 we find this description of her tomb in Paris.

 “The Epitaph upon the tomb of my great-grandmother, the Lady Borlase, whose body was interred in the parish churchyard of St. James' at Paris, and who brought over the model of our Blessed Saviour's Sepulchre from Jerusalem, also the Cabinet which is now (1827) at Stapleford Hail, Notts, and the Pope's indulgence. 

“The following inscription is a liberal translation from the Latin engraved on the tomb of the Lady Borlase, which I saw at Paris, 1778.” — Barbara Cockayne Medlycott,

Whoever――― you―――be
Stop a little at the Miracle of Heavenly Grace,
Here lies the most noble Lady, Alice Bancks, daughter to the Lord
Chief Justice of England,
Wife of the noble Sir John Borlase, Baronet,
Who, seeking a cure for her infirm body, at the water of Bourbon,
Received, most happily, the cure of her soul in the Catholic Church,
A free exile from her country within 3 years of 60.
She, by God's particular inspiration, travelled thro' France, Flanders, Italy,
Palestine and Cyprus,
That she might have greater testimonies of her Piety and Faith.
Was held in admiration at Rome and Jerusalem, like a new St. Bridget,
Nay reverenced by Barbarians themselves,
At the greatest dangers both by sea and land always undaunted, everywhere admired,
Shewing a glorious example of virtue.
At last having run thro' the suffering she undertook for Christ's sake,
Laden with merits, she departed to enjoy an Eternal Rest and Crown
Nov. 16th, year 1683, aged 62.
Ordered in her will that she should be buried among the Poor
Whose nurse she was.
Sir John Borlase
Placed this against his beloved Mother's tomb

Lady Borlase is credited with the authorship of a recipe book entitled, in the current edition, Ladie Borlase's Receiptes Booke edited by David E. Schoonover in 1998.  But as the blurb from the University of Iowa Press says:
This manuscript, bearing dates from 1665 to 1822, provides a unique compendium of culinary history that opens a window to the aristocratic, social, agricultural, horticultural, economic, and medicinal aspects of English country life.
That range of dates puts at least some of these recipes outside the lifetime of our Lady Borlase.

But the center of attention of this portrait remains, for me, this squirting oyster:

According to Hayes the oyster shell is not projecting drops of water but receiving them:
The shell receiving drops of water, which the sitter holds in her left hand, is a motif commonly found in Lely's portraits of women; since the receptacle used is sometimes a metal bowl, the shell does not seem to be significant as such, the constant being the flow of water, symbolic of the spiritual life and salvation.

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