Pierre Quesnel (formerly attributed to) (fl. 1561-1580)
Portrait of Dorothy Shirley, 1567
Oil on panel
408mm x 280mm
This bust-length portrait shows a lady dressed in black as befitted a married woman (or widow) in this period. Her hair is pulled back from her face and hidden under a white linen cap of which the edges are visible under her black veil. A small white lace ruff encircles her neck. Her sleeves are striped vertically in what may be brown or gold. Around her neck hangs a black silk ribbon with a medallion.
The lady is traditionally identified as Dorothy Shirley, daughter of Sir John Gifford of Chillington. Lady Dorothy's date of birth is not known. She first married John Congreve, by whom she had two daughters. In 1535 she married Francis Shirley of Staunton Harold and Ettington (1505-71), who was High Sheriff of Warwickshire and Leicestershire in 1556. Dorothy Shirley died a few months after her husband in 1571 and was buried with him in a joint alabaster tomb monument in the church of St Mary and St Hardulph at Breedon-on-the-Hill, Leicestershire.