On stylistic grounds and on the basis of the sitters' costume, this remarkable triple portrait appears to date from circa 1590-1600. While the ages of the sitters are inscribed on the picture their identities are now lost. The portrait is first recorded in the collection of Captain Evelyn Broadwood (d. 1975), of the celebrated piano manufacturing family, in 1974, but it is not clear when or how the picture entered that collection, and when the picture was sold at auction by the Broadwood Trust in 1977 the identity of the sitters was unknown. While there was a tradition that the portrait was once in the collection of the Earls of Dysart at Ham House, and that the sitters might therefore have been connected with the Tollemache family, it does not appear to have been included in any of the various dispersal sales from that house.
The three children are shown together in identical green moiré silk dresses, each wearing, in a different manner, a yellow scarf, which serves to individualise them. They each have jewel encrusted headdresses and elaborate jewellery adorning their dresses and each hold yellow and white ostrich feather fans, with their hands linked. A possible clue to their identity is that each of them is wearing an identical jewel featuring doves kissing which may have been a specific family jewel with some emblematic significance. In terms of dress this portrait can be compared to Marcus Gheeraerdts' celebrated portrait of Barbara Gamage with her six children which is datable to the 1590s (private collection) for which see K. Hearn, Marcus Gheeraerdts II, Elizabethan Artist in Focus, London, 2002, p. 50, fig. 41.
Captain Evelyn Broadwood (d. 1975), in whose collection the portrait is first recorded, was a descendant of the celebrated harpsichord and piano manufacturer John Broadwood (1732-1812). John Broadwood was originally apprenticed to the celebrated Swiss-born harpsicord maker Burkat Shudi, who had established a harpsichord workshop in London in 1728. He married Shudi's daughter Barbara in 1769, and eventually assumed full control of the business on Shudi's death in 1773, which later became John Broadwood and Sons. The company was instrumental in the development of the piano and became one of the largest and most prestigious piano manufacturers, with Beethoven and Chopin among those to use their instruments. Captain Broadwood, who had inherited the Lyne estate from his father in 1903, was Chairman of John Broadwood & Sons from 1931 until 1975. Following Captain Broadwood's death, the family house and estate in Sussex was administered by the Broadwood Trust which sold the picture at auction in 1977.
We are grateful to Susan North of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, for her comments on the sitters' costumes.