Digby enjoyed a prominent political career, serving as Secretary of State to Charles I during the first English Civil War. He was also a poet and wrote a number of plays. He wrote a poem in praise of the beauty of his sister-in-law, Lady Venetia Digby, when she died. Van Dyck's painting of her on her deathbed hangs nearby.

This is a good example of what has come to be known as a ‘swagger portrait’. The face, painted in a startlingly ‘real’ manner, is set off by the generalised glamour of Digby’s cloak, swept over the shoulder to suggest a Roman toga, and painted with broad, bravura brushwork.


  • Title: George Digby, 2nd Earl of Bristol
  • Date: c. 1638
  • Physical Dimensions: w832 x h1032 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil
  • Work Notes: A copy made by 'Miss Jacobs School of Art Royal Academy Burlington House' is in the possession of George Remus, Quebec. A copy in the collection of Ken S. LeBlanc, Louisiana, in 2000. Another copy sold New York, Christie's, 23 May 2000, lot 283. All three seem to be 19th century.AND: Capt. West; his sale, London, Christie's, 9 Apr. 1802, lot 16 ('Vandyck-The Earl of Pembroke'). Bt Harris for £2.0.Murch; his sale, London, Christie's, 13 Feb. 1808, lot 44 ('Vandyck-Portrait of Lord Pembroke'). Bt Wood for £0.7.
  • Work Nationality: Flemish
  • Support: Canvas
  • Provenance: ?London, Noel Desenfans, 1786-1807: ?London, Christie's, Desenfans private sale, 8ff Apr. 1786, lot 208 (ÔRussell, Earl of Bedford. 37 x 31 outside frame. £21'); ?London, Desenfans private sale, 8ff Jun. 1786, lot 151 ('John Russell, 3rd Son to the Earl of Bedford'); London, Christie's, 14 Jul. 1786, lot 44. Bt ?Wickstead; London, Sir Francis Bourgeois, by 1811; Bourgeois Bequest, 1811; 1813 inv., no. ? (as ÔEarl of Pembroke').Murray writes that ÔIf the earlier Bedford is a different picture fromt he Bourgeois Pembroke then the history of that picture may be:' Sir Joshua Reynolds; ?London, Michael Bryan, 1798; his sale, London, Coxe, Bryan sale, 19 May 1798, lot 2. Note that Mrs Jameson says the picture was p'Purchased from Mr Bryan's collection in 1798, and formerly in the possession of Sir Joshua Reynolds'.HOWEVER: Richard Hulse; his sale, London, Christie's, 22 Mar. 1806, lot 79 (ÔVandyckÐPhilip Earl of Pembroke -- very animated, painted with Dignity and fine Execution'). Bt Desenfans for £53.11; London, Noel Desenfans, 1806-1807; London, Sir Francis Bourgeois, 1807-1811; Bourgeois Bequest, 1811; 1813 inv., no. ? (as ÔEarl of Pembroke').
  • Further Information: George Digby (1612-77) married Anne Russell, daughter of the Earl of Bedford, in 1632. He was elected MP for Dorset in 1640 and created Baron Digby in 1641. An ardent Royalist during the Civil War he fled to France and served in the French army. He was appointed secretary of state by Charles II in 1657, but converted to Catholicism and lost favour. He was also a poet and playwright. This portrait is datable to c.1638-9.
  • Artist: van Dyck, Sir Anthony
  • Acquisition Method: Bourgeois, Sir Peter Francis (Bequest, 1811)

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