Lady Elizabeth Southwell (d. 1709)

Date: ca. 1700-1709

Lady Elizabeth Southwell was married to William Byrd II’s friend, Edward Southwell, and was the daughter-in-law of Sir Robert Southwell. She was Elizabeth Cromwell before her marriage. William Byrd II called her “Facetia” and sent her love letters before her marriage to Southwell. The attribution to Sir Godfrey Kneller is based on the style and the subject’s repeated patronage of the artist. The portrait descended in the Byrd family of Westover.

Reference: “Lady Betty Cromwell” was left to William Powell Byrd in the will of Mary Willing Byrd

Dimensions: approximately 50 x 40 in. (101.6 x 76.2 cm.)

The subject is seated and leans with her head resting on her right hand. Her left hand holds a closed book. Her right elbow rests on a stone plinth. She wears a silver wrap dress with a blue drape over her lap.

See: Mary Willing Byrd, “The Will of Mrs. Mary Willing Byrd, of Westover, 1813, with a List of the Westover Portraits,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 6, no. 4 (April 1899): 345-358; David Meschutt, “William Byrd and His Portrait Collection,” MESDA Journal 14, no. 1 (May 1988): 18-47; Douglas J. Stewart, Sir Godfrey Kneller and the English Baroque Portrait (1983), 189, 195.

Decade: 1700s
Credits: Private collection. Photograph courtesy of the Virginia Historical Society.