The Berger Collection

Hieronimo Custodis (active 1589-1593)
Sir John Ashburnham, 1593
Oil on panel
Inscribed, ANNO DNI 1593 / AETATIS SUAE, 23
31 x 23 1/2 in. (78.7 x 59.7 cm)

By the end of the sixteenth century, the family of Sir John Ashburnham (1571-1620) had occupied their ancestral home, Ashburnham Place in Sussex, for more than four hundred years. Sir John, however, was foolish with his money, and at the beginning of the seventeenth century he had to sell the estate to clear his debts. Fortunately, his eldest son John (known as Jack) went on to have a successful and lucrative political career, becoming treasurer and paymaster general of Charles I's army and restoring the family fortune. In 1639 Jack regained the ancestral estate, which remained in the family until Lady Catherine Ashburnham died in 1953. Jack later married Elizabeth Poulett (see her portrait in the Berger Collection by Robert Peake).

During his short time in England, Flemish artist Hieronimo Custodis concentrated on painting distinguished aristocrats such as Sir John. Here, the sitter is shown wearing the fashions of the 1590s, with his slashed and pinked padded jacket, and enormous cartwheel ruff.


By family decent, and always at Ashburnham Place, near Battle, Sussex, to Lady Catherine Ashburnham, daughter of 5th Earl of Ashburnham; Sotheby's, July 15, 1953, "The Ashburnham Collections," part 3 (Family and Historic Portraits, Paintings, and Drawings of the English School), lot 133; bought by Mr. Davey; private collection, U.K.


Literature: C. Hussey, "Ashburnham of Ashburnham I, II, III," Country Life, Vol. CXIII, 1953; R. Strong, "Elizabethan Painting: An Approach Through Inscriptions: Hieronimo Custodis," Burlington Magazine, Vol. CV, 1963, pp. 103-106, fig. 11; R. Strong, The English Icon, 1969, pp. 19 and 202, no. 159

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