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Earliest known portrait of the ‘builder of Blickling’ now on display

A newly acquired painting of Sir Henry Hobart, the earliest known portrait of the ‘builder of Blickling’, is now on display at Blickling Hall. The portrait is dated 1616, the same year that Hobart acquired the medieval manor at Blickling.

The Parterre Garden at Blickling Estate

A successful lawyer, Hobart was knighted in 1603 at the Coronation of James 1, later becoming Attorney General and Lord Chief Justice of Common Pleas. He had been buying land at Blickling for many years before he was able to buy the hall, so this portrait marks a turning point in his ambitions.

The portrait’s provenance can be traced from Hobart’s nephew, Sir Heneage Finch, to the present day.

The oil portrait is painted on three wooden panels and is one of three works identified by the Yale Center for British Art as belonging to the same hand, currently identified as a ‘Follower of Larkin’. This artist has captured Hobart’s flesh tones, hair and the rich textiles in a softer style than Larkin’s.

The painting is a particularly human and engaging image, literally capturing its subject ‘warts and all’. The painterly treatment of the flesh and fabric also encourages the eye to linger, revealing Hobart’s distinguishing facial features and veined hands.

By the 1600s the new middle class, including lawyers like Hobart, used portraits to show off their status. In this portrait he is wearing expensive clothing which showed he could afford luxurious fabrics and fashionable tailors.

Hobart was a middle-class climber – keen to be seen as rich and powerful he proudly displays his coat of arms on the portrait. However, his face is painted with realistic warts, moles and spots, veiny hands and a wrinkled forehead, indicating that he wanted people to know he was not proud or vain of his appearance.

The manor of Blickling is recorded in the Domesday Book. The medieval manor that once stood at Blickling is now known to be the birthplace of Anne Boleyn, granddaughter of Sir Geoffrey Boleyn, who bought the estate in 1452.  The iconic red-brick Jacobean Hall we see today, was built by Sir Henry Hobart (1560-1626) on the footprint of the former building, retaining the medieval moat.

His subsequent building work is unusually well-documented and involved the best craftsmen of the day, including Robert Lyminge, designer of Hatfield House for the Earl of Salisbury, one of Hobart’s patrons. Hobart is buried in Blickling Church beside the Hall, the church from which he was also married in 1590.

Blickling Hall & Estate

Megan Dennis, Property Curator at the National Trust’s Blickling Estate, said, “This autumn, visitors can see the new portrait of Sir Henry Hobart in the Lower Ante Room at Blickling Hall. The team are testing a range of interpretation approaches, including a tactile version of the portrait, touch panels, easy read text and positioning the portrait in a location that is accessible for a wider range of visitors.

“To accompany the exhibition of the portrait a number of different activities will be taking place in the house during half term, including the Hobart Bull Trail, I Spy Henry, Living History, a Selfie Station, and a chance for visitors to feedback.”

To plan your visit to Blickling visit