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Title The Amberly Castle Panels of the Nine Heroines of Antiquity: Queen Xenobia of the Palmyrenes
Collection Pallant House Gallery, Chichester
Artist Bernardi, Lambert (Italian artist, active 1519)
Date Earliest probably about 1520
Date Latest probably about 1536

The painting is one in a series of Nine Heroines of Antiquity of which only eight survive. Commissioned by Robert Sherburne, Bishop of Chichester (1508-1536), who became heavily involved with both Henry VIII's marriage and divorce from Catherine of Aragon, the Nine Heroines may have been painted for the occasion of a visit to Amberly Castle by the king in 1526. It has been suggested they were intended to comment on the king's anxiety for a male heir. The inscriptions beneath each panel, possibly composed by the humanist scholar-bishop, may be derived from the ballad of The Nine Ladies Worthy attributed to Chaucer in the late fifteenth century.

The figure in this panel is traditionally identified as Queen Xenobia of the Palmyrenes. She is shown half-length, turned three-quarters to the right, in a fictive niche against a blue ground. She wears a red dress with gilt edging and the typical Tudor ‘ear-muff' hat decorated with gilt and precious stones, she has several gold chains about her neck and in her left hand she carries a trophy ornamented with a medieval style plumed helmet over a shield with a black lion on a gold ground.

Xenobia does not appear in the ballad of The Nine Ladies Worthy from which the majority of the heroines in the Amberly Castle panels are drawn. Her presence therefore represents a significant divergence from the primary textual source for the series. Xenobia was a wise and learned ruler who was famed for her stoicism when she was captured by the Roman Emperor Aurelius; as an emblem of virtue she was included in groups of famous malheureuses. Her presence in the present series may have been intended as an oblique reference to the humiliating bondage Henry VIII kept his wife Catherine of Aragon in, since by at least 1527 his mistress was publicly known to be Anne Boylen, whom he later married secretly in 1533 before the annulment of his previous marriage to the Spanish heiress. The panel is one of the best preserved of the whole set.

Current Accession Number CHCPH 0738 E
Inscription front (erased)
Subject history (Queen Xenobia); mythology (Queen Xenobia); figure
Measurements 109.0 x 80 cm.0 cm (estimate)
Material distemper; or oil on panel (oak)
Acquisition Details Purchased by Chichester District Council with the aid of the National Heritage Memorial Fund on behalf of Pallant House Gallery, 1983.
Provenance Commissioned by Robert Sherburne, Bishop of Chichester, for his residence Amberly Castle, c.1520-1536; at Amberly Castle c.1520-1983; Sotheby's, London, 11 July 1983, lot 18 (illustrated); purchased by Chichester District Council with the aid of the National Heritage Memorial Fund on behalf of Pallant House Gallery, November 1983.
Principal Exhibitions The English Renaissance at Sotheby's: Pictures Manuscripts and Works of Art from the Collection of the Lord Astor of Heve and Other Owners, sale, Sotheby's, London, 11 July 1983, lot 18 (illustrated), pp. 20-21.
Publications Vertue, G., History of the Arts in England, 1756; Shoberl, F., The Beauties of England and Wales, 1813; Walpole, H., Anecdotes of Painting in England, 1828, vol. 1, p. 182; Croft-Murray, E., ‘Lambert Barnard: An English Early Renaissance Painter', Archaeological Journal, vol. 113, 1956, pp. 108-125; Steer, F. W., ‘Robert Sherburne Bishop of Chichester, some aspects of his life reconsidered', The Chichester Papers, vol. 16, 1960; Steer, F. W., ‘The Heraldic Ceiling at the Bishop's Palace, Chichester', The Chichester Papers, n.d.; Croft-Murray, E., Decorative Painting in England, 1737-1837, 2 vols, London, 1962, vol. 1, pp. 23-25, 154, pl. 36, 37; Planche, J.R., ‘The Nine Worthies of the World: An Illustration of the Paintings in Amberly Castle', Journal of the British Archaeological Association, vol. 20, 1964, pp. 321-24; Boffey, J., ‘‘Twenty Thousand More': Some fifteenth- and sixteenth-century responses to the Legend of Good Women', Middle English Poetry: Texts and Traditions. Essays in honour of Derek Pearsall, ed. A. J. Minnis, York, 2001, pp. 279-97, ill. p. 288.
Notes The inscription beneath this panel has been entirely erased.
Rights Owner Pallant House Gallery, Chichester
Author Francesco Nevola



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