Mary Beale, 1633 - 1699
Portrait of Sir John Pettus 1613 - 1685
Portrait of Sir John Pettus
oil on canvas
76.20 x 63.50 cm. (30 x 25 in.)


Pettus, Sir John (c.1613–1685), natural philosopher and politician, was the second son of Sir Augustine Pettus (d. 1613) of Rackheath, Norfolk, and his second wife, Abigail (1592–1673), third daughter of Sir Arthur Heveningham of Ketteringham in the same county. In 1632 he matriculated as a fellow-commoner at Pembroke College, Cambridge, where his tutor was Thomas Boswell. He probably attended the college from about 1627 and may have graduated BA in 1631. When he was seventeen Pettus undertook the first of three summer tours around England in the company of Sir Thomas Bendish. Each tour lasted two months and they continued until he left Cambridge. They were designed to give Pettus a wide knowledge of England before he travelled on the continent, and the first included a visit to a lead mine in Derbyshire. Pettus was admitted to Lincoln's Inn on 13 May 1635. In 1637 he married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Richard Gurney of Cheapside, London, who became lord mayor in 1641–2, and his wife, Ebigail, daughter of Henry Sandford of Birchington, Kent. John's and Elizabeth's only son, Richard, died in 1662. Their daughter, Elizabeth, married Samuel Sandys, son of Samuel Sandys of Ombersley, Worcestershire, and his wife, Mary, néeBarker, in 1657. Elizabeth Sandys died on 25 May 1714 aged seventy-four.

Pettus entered the service of Charles I in 1639, and was knighted on 25 November 1641 as a mark of the king's favour to Gurney. In March 1643 he was among those captured by Oliver Cromwell's forces at Lowestoft, suspected of trying to fortify the town for the king. Pettus reportedly told Cromwell of his intention of joining the royalists. He was first imprisoned at Cambridge before being transferred to unpleasantly overcrowded quarters in Windsor Castle. He was released on an exchange early in 1644 and then served in Oxford, Bath, and Bristol. He and his wife were in Bristol at the surrender of the city to the New Model Army in September 1645, when they were helped by Charles Fleetwood, who was related to Pettus by marriage. The fine for Pettus's delinquency was first set at £1300, but was later reduced to £866 13s. 4d., one-tenth the value of his estate. He was also involved in settling the estate of Sir Richard Gurney, who died in October 1647, in conjunction with Thomas Richardson, later Baron of Cramond, who had married Gurney's other daughter, Anne.

Pettus was imprisoned in 1650 on suspicion of corresponding with Charles II, being questioned by the council of state over a period of three weeks before being released on bail of £4000. Presumably this was when he felt that his life had been in danger and he had again been indebted to Fleetwood for intervening on his behalf. He also acknowledged Fleetwood's help with preserving his estates and in protecting him from being required to take oaths and renunciations. In 1656 he protested to the lord protector of his loyalty to the regime, but after the fall of the protectorate he was approached in 1659 by Francis Finch, an ironmonger, to act as an intermediary between the royalists and Fleetwood.

Pettus's wife left him in 1657, taking some of his possessions, including jewels which he valued at £900. He attributed her action to her conversion to Roman Catholicism. A reconciliation in 1662, when she restored his jewels and he paid her debts, which totalled more than £800, did not long outlast the death of their son in that year. She left Pettus once more in 1662, again taking possessions with her, including pictures, books, and ‘rarities’, and entered a nunnery abroad. Although she returned to England after five years they were not reconciled, and disputes over her alimony led to his excommunication and an appearance before the privy council in 1672, when the king personally ordered him to pay £2 per week. The case was brought before the privy council again in 1673 and 1674. In 1674 Pettus published a justification, A Narrative of the Excommunication of Sir John Pettus.

Pettus's interest in metallurgy and mining led to him becoming a member of the Society of Mines Royal and Battery Works in 1651 and he acted as deputy governor of the royal mines from then until his death, apart from one brief interval. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1663. He published, in 1670, Fodinae regales, or, The history, laws and places of the chief mines and mineral works in England, Wales and the English pale in Ireland and, in 1683, Fleta minor: the laws of art and nature, in knowing, judging, assaying, fining, refining and inlarging the bodies of confin'd metals. The latter consists of a translation of a sixteenth-century work in German by Lazarus Erckern, with a dictionary of metallurgical terms by Pettus.

Pettus was chosen as MP for Dunwich at a by-election in March 1670. He was named to 109 committees of the Cavalier Parliament and was listed as a member of the court party. He made four attempts to obtain a bill regulating charitable stock in the parish of Kelsale, Suffolk, and also presented a bill for settling the estate of Henry Smith, for whom Sir Richard Gurney had acted as executor. The Case and Justification of Sr J. Pettus (1678) was his defence against claims that he was introducing needless bills and disturbing charities which were functioning satisfactorily. He was blacklisted in the ‘unanimous club’ of court supporters and did not seek re-election after the dissolution of the Cavalier Parliament.

Pettus was involved in affairs in East Anglia, visiting Norwich after the explosion of the magazine there in 1648 and providing for the prisoners taken during the Third Anglo-Dutch War in 1672, in his capacity as deputy to the vice-admiral, as well as mediating between the military and the inhabitants. He was a JP for Suffolk from July 1660 until his death, and deputy lieutenant from 1671. He held the rank of captain of the foot in the militia by 1665 and was a colonel from 1671. Pettus was made a freeman of Dunwich in 1670 and served as bailiff in 1671–2 and 1675–6, and as coroner in 1677–8. He was made a gentleman of the privy chamber in 1670 and retained the position until his death.

Pettus succeeded his grandfather as tenant of land in South Walsham, Norfolk, and before his marriage he bought the manor of Chediston, Suffolk. He used his wife's jointure to acquire the manor of Winbaston and a nearby farm, also in Suffolk, but sold them in the late 1640s to pay his composition fine and debts incurred during the civil war. At the Restoration he claimed that he had lost £25,000 in the royal service and in 1674 that he had not been paid by Charles I or Charles II. His debts were reported at £5960 in 1651 and in 1674 he wrote that he had discharged debts of £28,000 since about 1664. His circumstances were exacerbated by the dispute with his wife and his finances continued to deteriorate. In 1679 he was in a debtors' prison and appealed to William Sancroft, archbishop of Canterbury, for a loan of £20 to release him. He was in the Fleet prison for debt in 1683, hence the punning title ofFleta minor.

Pettus's other publications were Volatiles from the History of Adam and Eve (1674) and The Constitution of Parliaments in England (1680), and he contributed a preface to England's Independency upon the Papal Power by Sir John Davis and Sir Edward Coke (1674). The attribution to Pettus of St Foine Improved (1674) is doubtful. He died in 1685 and was buried in the Temple Church in London on 12 July. A portrait of him, aged fifty-seven, engraved by W. Sherwin, is the frontispiece of Fodinae regales and another of him, aged seventy, engraved by R. White, is the frontispiece to Fleta minor.

Stephen Porter DNB

Artist biography

Beale [née Cradock], Mary (bap. 1633, d. 1699), portrait painter, was born at Barrow rectory, Suffolk, and baptized on 26 March 1633, the elder of two children of the Revd John Cradock (c.1595–1652), the puritan rector of Barrow, and his wife, Dorothy Brunton or Brinton (d. 1643). Evidence suggests that she received a good education from her father who, as an amateur artist, probably also provided her with tuition in painting.

On 8 March 1652 Mary Cradock married Charles Beale (bap. 1631, d. 1705), member of a puritan family at Walton Manor, Buckinghamshire. The couple took up residence at Covent Garden, London, later moving to Hind Court, Fleet Street, when Charles succeeded to his father's post of deputy clerk of the patents office about 1660. By this date Mary Beale had not only given birth to two sons, Bartholomew and Charles [see below], but had already gained some reputation as an artist: she was mentioned together with three other female painters in Sir William Sanderson's Graphice … or, The most Excellent Art of Painting (1658). One of her earliest extant works is the Self Portrait with Husband and Son (c.1663; Geffrye Museum, London). Her early influences seem to have included Robert Walker, the Commonwealth portraitist, and the miniaturist Thomas Flatman.

By 1664 Charles Beale's job had become insecure, and, with the plague threatening, the family departed for Albrook (now Allbrook), Otterbourne, Hampshire. While there, Mary wrote the ‘Essay on friendship’ (BL, Harleian MS 6828, fols. 510–23) in which she propounds the somewhat radical notion (for the period) of equality between men and women, both in friendship and marriage. Her philosophy was put into practice when, upon their return to the city in 1670, it was decided that she would establish herself as a professional artist; accordingly, she set up a studio in their rented house in Pall Mall. Few women were employed as artists in this period, and her career could only have been undertaken with her husband's encouragement. She soon attracted a wide clientele from among the gentry and aristocracy, and from their own distinguished circle of friends, who included fellows of the Royal Society and puritan clergy, notably the future bishops Stillingfleet and Tillotson. Her prices were competitive: £10 for a three-quarter-length and £5 for a half-length portrait. Typical canvases feature warm brown colour tones and a feigned stone cartouche, both of which are apparent in the portrait of Jane, Lady Twisden (1677; Manor House Museum, Bury St Edmunds). Mary Beale's sons assisted her with the painting of draperies and later she was able to train and employ female studio assistants.

While his ‘Dearest & Most Indefatigable Heart’ (Beale notebook, 7 Aug 1677) was industriously employed, Charles Beale assumed responsibility for organizing the commissions and payments and preparing artists' colours. He recorded these details and much other incidental information in a series of notebooks, which provide an exceptional amount of documentation for an artist of this period; two survive, one for 1677 in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, and the other for 1681 in the National Portrait Gallery. In 1671 Mary Beale's income totalled £118 5s., rising to £429 by 1677; the latter was perhaps her most prosperous year. Additional information about the Beales is provided by their close friend Samuel Woodforde, whose diaries are held in the Bodleian Library. He describes Mary as a sympathetic and hospitable friend, while the attractive, puritan nature of their household is indicated by the family's practice of regularly setting aside 10 per cent of their annual income for the poor, and by Woodforde's comment, following a convivial occasion at their home: ‘We were very cheerful, and I hope, without sin’ (Woodforde, 2 Dec 1664). Mary's pensive but pleasant countenance is depicted in the numerous self-portraits, such as the Self Portrait (with Artist's Palette) (c.1666, NPG).

Of great assistance to Mary Beale's career was the friendship and support of Sir Peter Lely who, as the court painter, already exerted a prevailing influence on her mature style before their acquaintance. By 1672 the notebooks record that he had visited her in her studio and ‘commended [her] extraordinarily’ (Vertue, Note books, 4.168). Later he allowed her to study his own painting techniques, and she was able to build up a lucrative trade from making replicas of his portraits. Obviously ill at ease with his erotically charged depictions of court beauties, she toned down this influence in her own derivative portraits, such as Jane Fox, Lady Leigh as a Shepherdess (c.1676; Manor House Museum, Bury St Edmunds).

By 1681 Mary Beale's commissions were beginning to diminish but she busied herself with producing pictures for ‘study and improvement’ (Beale notebook, 1681, 300), experimenting with informal poses, as in A Young Girl in Profile (c.1681; Tate collection), and using alternatives to artists' canvas; her portrait of her son Charles looking up was painted on coarse twill-weave fabric (c.1681; Manor House Museum, Bury St Edmunds). These informal studies are among her finest works, showing that, when not dependent on laborious commissions and the influence of Lely, she was an artist of individuality, sensitivity, and charm. Her current reputation has grown following the retrospective exhibition held at the Geffrye Museum in 1975. Mary Beale died in 1699 at her home next to the Golden Ball, Pall Mall, and she was buried at St James's, Piccadilly, on 8 October. A large number of her portraits survive, but the best and most representative collection is at the Manor House Museum, Bury St Edmunds.

Beale's son Bartholomew Beale (bap. 1656, d. 1709) was baptized on 12 February 1656 at St Paul's, Covent Garden, London, and trained in her studio but, having gained an MB at Clare College, Cambridge (1682), thereafter practised as a physician in Coventry. He married Ann Naylor (d. 1725/6), and was buried on 17 May 1709 at St Michael's, Coventry.

Charles Beale (bap. 1660, d. 1726?) was baptized on 23 June 1660 at St Dunstan-in-the-West, Fleet Street, London. He also trained in his mother's studio and studied miniature painting with Thomas Flatman; fine examples of his work are in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Between about 1679 and about 1681 he was producing red-chalk sketches of family and friends which, for their informal and direct approach, are unique in British drawing for this period (British Museum and Pierpont Library, New York). By 1688 he had abandoned miniatures for full-scale portraiture, such as the portrait of Jane Bohun (c.1698; Charlecote Park). The date and place of his death are uncertain but it seems likely that he was buried at St Martin-in-the-Fields, London, on 26 December 1726.

Christopher Reeve DNB