This is the earliest painting in the Tate collection and unusually for its time is signed on the back. The portrait was part of the collection at Brome Hall, Suffolk, handed down from Henry VIII's physician William Butts. The sitter may be Butts's third son, Edmund, who inherited the property the year the painting was made. The style is reminiscent of Holbein - the background was originally painted in blue, a colour often used by him, but Bettes used ‘smalt’, essentially ground glass which, as in this instance, turns ginger brown when exposed to light.
A Man in a Black Cap
47 x 41 cm
Date of work
Very little is known about the life of this 16th century painter other than that he was living in Westminster in 1556. He is first recorded as doing decorative works at Whitehall Palace for Henry Vlll in 1531. Payments to him from Queen Catherine of Aragon for painting miniature portraits, (lymning), of her and the King are documented in her accounts of 1546/47. It is considered a possibility that he may have worked with Hans Holbein the younger who re-designed the public images at the court.