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Arts

COMING HOME: Lady Anne Clifford

Abbot Hall Art Gallery presents a 400-year-old masterpiece

Anne, Countess of Pembroke (Lady Anne Clifford) by William Larkin, c. 1618, © National Portrait Gallery, London

A portrait of a woman who fought the most famous legal battle of the Jacobean age has returned to Cumbria.

COMING HOME: Lady Anne Clifford has gone on display at Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal.

The work dated 1618 by William Larkin is the finest portrait of Lady Anne (1590-1676).

The painting is on loan from the National Portrait Gallery as part of its COMING HOME project which sees 50 portraits of iconic individuals from the national collection travelling to towns and cities most closely associated with their subjects.

Visitors can see this stunning portrait until 22 June 2019.

Anne fought for more than four decades for her rightful inheritance. When she was 15, her father George Clifford died. The Clifford family owned vast estates including several castles. Yet Anne was devastated to not inherit any of this.

George left the lands and titles to his brother Francis Clifford, leaving Anne just £15,000 in compensation.

This was a direct breach of an entail which stated that the Clifford estates should descend lineally to the eldest heir, whether male or female.

Helen Watson, Lakeland Arts’ Director of Programming, said: “Not only is this portrait by William Larkin – one of the most accomplished portrait painters of the period – but it also has a magnificent story attached to it.

“Lady Anne Clifford was an incredibly strong woman who came up against every obstacle including King James. She finally came into her inheritance in her 50s – but only after spending most of her life fighting for what was rightfully hers.

“This is an important portrait of a key figure in Cumbrian history. We are delighted to show it at Abbot Hall.”

The painting of Anne is paired with another William Larkin portrait – but there is some mystery around who the sitter is.

The subject of Larkin’s Portrait of a Young Woman is said to be that of Anne Clifford but is open to debate.

Helen Watson added: “The painting was originally believed to be that of Lady Anne’s mother – Lady Russell, Countess of Cumberland. But some scholars believe it is Lady Anne herself. We are letting visitors see both paintings and decide for themselves…”

Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery said: “We are delighted to lend Lady Anne Clifford to Abbot Hall Art Gallery as part of our exciting new COMING HOME initiative. We hope that sending portraits ‘home’ in this way will foster a sense of pride and create a personal connection for local communities to a bigger national history; thus helping us to fulfil our aim of being truly a national gallery for everyone, in our role as the nation’s family album.”

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