Daily Archives: July 7, 2013

The Lady in the Punchbowl

Lady Diana was an heiress worth £30,000 and a renowned Elizabethan beauty. She married firstly Henry de Vere, 18th Earl of Oxford, who died within a year of their nuptials following a fever after a battle.  She later joined with with the 1st Earl of Elgin, ancestor of Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl Elgin, and acquirer of the eponymous Elgin marbles.

Below is Lady Diana painted in typical William Larkin fashion.  Ever present Larkin curtains notwithstanding, I like the portrait, especially the gathered/Elizabethan-version-of-lasered details on the front on her gown.  I haven’t a clue what the technique is actually called, but it looks like she got in a creative sword-fight  on her way to the portrait being painted.  Maybe that offers at least one possibility for her expression. Frankly, it’s better than this  (very nice embroidery, btw) or this (they say).

lady diana, countess of Elgin by William LarkinLady Diana Cecil by William Larkin, (1614-18) (Ranger’s House, Suffolk Collection)

Lady Diana’s grave (known as ‘the lady in the punchbowl’) was a subject of humor for Horace Walpole who visited the Ailesbury Mausoleum* in 1771:

“At two miles from Houghton Park is the mausoleum of the Bruces, where I saw the most ridiculous monument of one of Lady Ailesbury’s predecessors that was ever imagined. I beg she will never keep such company. In the midst of of an octagon chapel is the tomb of Diana, Countess of Oxford and Elgin. From a huge unwieldy base of white marble rises a black marble cistern; literally a cistern that would serve for an eating room. In the midst of all this, to the knees, stands her Ladyship in her white domino or shroud, with her left hand erect as giving her blessing. It put me in mind of Mrs. Cavendish when she got drunk in the bathing tub.”

Mrs Cavendish is not specified by the editor of Walpole’s letter. It could be either Barbara Cavendish, daughter of the Bishop of Durham, or Elizabeth Cavendish, the bishop’s niece by marriage to his eldest son.

*The Ailesbury Mausoleum brochure has a picture of Lady Diana’s tomb.