Ipswich's link to art mystery

IT is not often that Ipswich finds itself the centre of attention of the art world.But today, all eyes are on the town after it emerged that the answers to one of the most talked-about artistic mysteries of recent years could be found here.

IT is not often that Ipswich finds itself the centre of attention of the art world.

But today, it emerged the town could hold the key to one of the art world's great mysteries in recent times.

The flurry of excitement surrounds the discovery of what is thought to be the only surviving portrait of Lady Jane Grey, who was Queen of England for nine days, in a south London home.

For centuries it was thought all images of the executed queen had been lost but after extensive tests by experts it is claimed the Streatham portrait is the only remaining painting to date back to her 16th Century reign.

Now it can be revealed the portrait was purchased in Ipswich in about 1895 and could have come from the collection of a wealthy local landowner.

Christopher Foley, the London-based collector who has spent the past 18 months restoring the portrait, said it was bought from an antiques dealer by the great-grandfather of the current owner.

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It is thought he was a regular customer of the dealer between 1890 and 1910.

Mr Foley said: “The present owner's great grandfather was a collector of oak furniture and early portraits. Some time at the turn of the century when his son was interested in his collection he told him most of it was bought from an antique dealer called Green's of Ipswich.”

It is thought the great-grandfather lived near Ipswich about 100 years ago and the family moved away from the area at some point after that, possibly in the 1920s, taking the painting with them.

Antiques dealers in Ipswich have suggested the reference to Green's is likely to be well-known furniture and portrait dealers Green and Hatfield, which operated in Northgate Street for about 100 years until the 1970s.

Rodney Hubbard, of Hubbard's Antiques in St Margaret's Green, said Green's started up in the 1880s as a book store but later became Green and Hatfield.

Mr Foley, a director of art dealers Lane Fine Art, said: “The father of the owner lived into his 90s and he seemed to remember that Green's were in existence for a long time. The chances are the portrait came from a local collection, but where and when I'd love to know.”

Mr Foley is offering a magnum of vintage Krug champagne to anyone who can identify which collection the portrait came from.

ART experts and historians thought Lady Jane Grey was the only English monarch since 1500 of whom no contemporaneous portrait survived.

Extensive tests have suggested the “Lady Jayne” inscription on the portrait found in Streatham dates back to the same time as the paint, which was obsolete by 1700. It suggests the inscription, as well as the portrait itself, was painted at the time of the queen's reign.

Christopher Foley, who described the portrait as a “once in a lifetime” discovery, said: “What I'm hoping is that other examples of this portrait may appear where people don't know what the situation is.”

It is thought the portrait is a copy of a high-standard, but lost, original.

In places it is badly damaged, suggesting it was vandalised with a sharp knife by someone who was opposed to Lady Jane's - a Protestant - accession to the throne.

LADY Jane Grey was Queen of England for nine days.

She was the Protestant grand-daughter of Henry VIII's youngest sister, Mary.

After Henry VIII died in 1547, his son Edward VI succeeded him to the thrown and named Jane his successor.

But on Edward's death in 1553, the Catholic Mary proclaimed herself the rightful queen under the terms of Henry's will, bringing Jane's nine-day rule to an end.

Jane was beheaded in 1554 in the Tower of London after refusing to convert to Catholicism. She was 17.