|Published||Impensis J. & P. Knapton Londini 1738.|
|Dimensions||Image 355 x 214 mm, Plate 365 x 230 mm, Sheet 492 x 341 mm|
A bust length portrait of Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester turned slightly to left but facing the viewer, wearing a soft cap with a jewel and feather, a high necked jacket with ruff, a chain of the Order of the Garter, holding a sword in his left hand in an architectural oval over a vignette of a Roman soldier before an enthroned quee, a helmet and sword below.
This portrait of Robert Dudley is from Thomas Birch's The Heads of Illustrious Persons of Great Britain. The portraits featured in the series, which were engraved by Jacob Houbraken and George Vertue, were originally issued from 1737 onwards in portfolios of four portraits. Between 1743 and 1752, the series was published by John and Paul Knapton in London in the form of Birch's The Heads of Illustrious Persons of Great Britain, and contained biographies alongside the portraits. The number of plates included varied from edition to edition. Although the majority contained 108 plates, some editions contained as many as 120. Houbraken was responsible for producing a large proportion of the portraits, with Vertue only engraving around seven. The ornamental surroundings featured on the plates were engraved prior to the portraits, and were done so by Hubert-François Gravelot.
Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester (1532?-1588), Favourite of Elizabeth I. Described by a contemporary as 'A light and greedy man', Leicester was Elizabeth I's only serious English suitor after her accession to the throne, and her favourite throughout his life. Appointed Master of the Horse at her accession, he was made a Knight of the Garter and Privy Councillor the following year. Leicester commanded the unsuccessful force against Spain in the Netherlands (1585), and was involved in a number of scandals and intrigues.
Jacob, or Jacobus, Houbraken (1698-1780) was a Dutch portrait engraver, and dealer and collector of Rembrandt's etchings. Born in Dordrecht, he was the son of the artist Arnold Houbraken. In 1707 he moved to Amsterdam, where he assisted his father on a book of the lives of the Dutch Golden Age artists, entitled De Groote Schouburgh der Nederlantsche konstschilders en schilderessen (1718-1721). Between 1743 and 1752, Houbraken worked with George Vertue on Thomas Birch's Heads of Illustrious Persons of Great Britain. He also engraved the portraits for Jan van Gool's Nieuwe schouburg der Nederlantsche kunstschilders (1750-51). Between 1752 and 1759, he worked on Jan Wagenaar's Vaderlandsche historie, which was published by Isaac Tirion.
Ver Huell 22, O' Donoghue 6