'And art made tongue-tied by authority.' SHAKESPEARE: Sonnet lxvi
THE most important form of easel-painting in England in this period, both in amount and in contemporary estimation, was portraiture. There were, however, other forms and they are best dealt with first. One of the commonest, and it is not surprising in an age when classical learning was spreading widely, was Greek and Roman story and mythology. A surviving example is the Ulysses and Penelope (c. 1570) formerly at Castle Howard, which may have been painted in this country but which appears more likely to be an import of the Fontainebleau School, and was ascribed by Dimier to Primaticcio;1 and another is a double-scene from the same story at Hardwick. There is evidence for the former existence of many more. The Andromeda for which 'Arnold the Painter' was paid by the Office of Revels in 15722 may have been no more than a piece of stage scenery, but in the inventory of the pictures of the Earl of Leicester taken in 1588 there occur such paintings as 'One of Cupid and Venus' and 'Diana bathying hirself with hir Nimphes';3 and in that of the Earl of Somerset of 1615 several 'great tables' of 'Venus and Cupid', 'Bacchus', 'Ceres and Venus', and 'Venus and Adonis'.4 That any of these is of native origin is most unlikely; on the contrary, they are illustrations of the need of some few men for a respite from portraiture, and of the inability of any native painter to satisfy it.