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.
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.
More about the Portrait of Ralph Lamb
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