Fashionably attired in a rose-colored dress with low-cut bodice and flowing sleeves, Catherine Howard, Lady d'Aubigny, looks over her shoulder with a proud and forthright gaze as she holds a floral wreath in her right hand. One of the many English aristocrats who commissioned portraits from Anthony van Dyck after he settled in London in 1632, Catherine Howard was the daughter of Theophilus Howard, 2nd Earl of Suffolk, and Elizabeth, daughter of George Lord Hume, Earl of Dunbar. She thus belonged to one of the wealthiest and most distinguished families in England.
It is probable that Van Dyck received this commission in 1638 at the time of Catherine's secret marriage to Lord George Stuart, Seigneur d'Aubigny. In the Arcadian ambience of the Stuart court, the floral wreath would have been recognized as a symbol of love and marriage. Stylistically, the portrait is also similar to other refined portraits of elegant women that Van Dyck executed in 1638, particularly in the delicate modeling of her ivory flesh and the flickering highlights of her silk dress.
lower right: LADY AVBIGNY
Catherine Howard, Lady d'Aubigny [1620-1650, married secondly to Sir James Livingstone, 1st earl of Newburgh]; presumably by inheritance to her son, Charles Stuart, Lord d'Aubigny, 6th duke of Lennox and 3rd duke of Richmond [1639-1672]; presumably by inheritance to his third wife, Frances Teresa Stuart [her maiden name], Dowager Duchess of Richmond and Lennox [1648-1702]; by inheritance to her sister-in-law, Catherine Stuart O'Brien Williamson, suo jure baroness of Clifton [1640-1702], and daughter of the sitter; by inheritance to her daughter, Catherine O'Brien, baroness Clifton [1673-1706], who married Edward Hyde, 3rd earl of Clarendon [first creation, 1661-1723], Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire; by inheritance to his cousin, Henry Hyde, 4th and last earl of Clarendon [first creation] and 2nd earl of Rochester [1672-1753]; by inheritance through his daughter, Lady Jane Hyde, Countess of Essex [1696-1723/1724, married William Capell, 3rd earl of Essex] to her daughter, Charlotte Capell [1721-1790], who married Thomas Villiers, 1st earl of Clarendon [second creation, 1709-1786], The Grove, Watford, Hertfordshire; by inheritance to their son, Thomas Villiers, 2nd earl of Clarendon [1753-1824], The Grove; by inheritance to his brother, John Charles Villiers, 3rd earl of Clarendon [1757-1838], The Grove; by inheritance to his nephew, George William Villiers, 4th earl of Clarendon [1800-1870], The Grove; by inheritance to his son, Edward Hyde Villiers, 5th earl of Clarendon [1846-1914], The Grove; sold 1909 to (Arthur J. Sulley, London); sold 1909 to Peter A.B. Widener, Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania; inheritance from Estate of Peter A.B. Widener by gift through power of appointment of Joseph E. Widener, Elkins Park; gift 1942 to NGA.
- Exhibition of Works by Van Dyck 1599-1641. Winter Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1900, no. 74.
- Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis, and Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Pictures in the Collection of P.A.B. Widener at Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania: Early German, Dutch & Flemish Schools. Philadelphia, 1913: unpaginated, repro.
- Paintings in the Collection of Joseph Widener at Lynnewood Hall. Intro. by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, 1923: unpaginated, repro.
- Paintings in the Collection of Joseph Widener at Lynnewood Hall. Intro. by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, 1931: 102, repro.
- Works of Art from the Widener Collection. Foreword by David Finley and John Walker. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 7.
- Paintings and Sculpture from the Widener Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1948 (reprinted 1959): 76, repro.
- Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 47.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 122, repro.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 264, no. 341, color repro.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 146, repro.
- Rogers, Malcolm. "Van Dyck's Portrait of Lord George Stuart, Seigneur d'Aubigny, and Some Related Works." Studies in the History of Art 46 (1994): 270, repro. no. 12.
- Barnes, Susan J. Van Dyck: A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings. New Haven, 2004: IV.16
- Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Flemish Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 2005: 96-99, color repro.