Portrait of Ralph Lamb

Portrait of Ralph Lamb

...was to die... at the age of 40, possibly a victim of the influenza pandemic...

This portrait of Ralph Lamb was painted in 1554 and is thought to have been commissioned to commemorate his attendance at the wedding of Queen Mary and Philip of Spain in Winchester that same year. The portrait is painted in oils on wooden board and shows Lamb resplendent in Spanish style clothes.

As Queen Mary was a Catholic about to marry the heir to the Spanish throne it is perhaps not surprising that those in favour, such as the Catholic Ralph Lamb, would have sported Spanish fashion. Many of his personal accessories in the picture such as his purse, ring, chain and rapier are there to show his status as a wealthy Tudor gentleman.

Ralph Lamb was to die only four years later in 1558 at the age of 40, possibly a victim of the influenza pandemic which swept through the country that year. In his will Lamb made an endowment to the charity of St John in the Broadway, Winchester to buy land to fund and establish six new alms houses. St John’s had been founded in the late 9th century but by the mid 16th century was threatened with closure as part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The hospital was saved but it was run down and needed the injection of funds that was delivered by Lamb in his will.

Quick Facts

  • Dimensions Height 42cm, Width 33.5cm
  • Painting medium oil paints
  • Made of wood and paint
  • Painted in 1554
  • Portrait of Ralph Lamb
  • Artist Unknown
  • Accession number WINCM:A.196


  • Lamb is known to have worked for Stephen Gardiner who was the Bishop of Winchester and officiated at the marriage of Queen Mary and Philip of Spain in 1554.
  • Lamb was a nephew of William Lawrence who was the Mayor of Winchester at the time of the royal wedding.
  • Ralph Lamb was known to have owned property at 31-32 St Thomas Street in Winchester, so when Thomas Stopher built properties on that site in about 1900 he incorporated a carved boundary stone showing a Lamb and Flag of St John’s Hospital, and a punning reference to Lamb’s name. See an image of the stone in the “Gallery section”.
  • The Westgate Museum has a replica Ralph Lamb costume for children to try on.

Did you know?

Ralph Lamb’s name in latin, Radus Lambe, is inscribed on the painting and he displays images of a lamb – a visual pun on his name – on embroidered bands around each cuff. See a detail in the “Gallery” section.


Lamb stone in St Thomas Street, Winchester
Detail from the cuff showing a lamb
St Johna??s Hospital south side, 1825 by G.H. Shepherd

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