Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Brown, John (d.1532)

BROWN, JOHN (d. 1532), sergeant painter to King Henry VlII, was appointed to the office by patent, dated 11 Jan. 1512, with a salary of 2d. a day, and a livery of four ells of woollen cloth at 6s. 8d. a yard at Christmas. On 12 March 1527 this salary was raised to 10l. a year. The work on which he was employed was not of a very elevated character. It consisted, as far as can be discovered from the records of the king's expenses, of painting flags for the Great Harry and other ships, surcoats and trappings for tournaments, banners and standards for the army sent into France under the Duke of Suffolk in 1523, escutcheons of arms, gilding the roofs and other decorations for a banqueting house at Greenwich, and for the castle at Guisnes in preparation for the Field of the Cloth of Gold. The only existing picture which was ever supposed to have been by his hand is a portrait on panel in the British Museum. It was presented by Sir Thomas Mantel of Dover, and now bears the number 93. It is inscribed 'Maria Princeps Ano Dom. 1531. I.B.' 'In some respects, says Sir Frederick Madden, 'it resembles the Burghley picture, but its authenticity has been questioned.' The fact is that the face does not bear the least resemblance to the features of Queen Mary, and the costume is some thirty years or so later than the date given in the inscription, which cannot be contemporary with the painting. In 1522 Brown was elected alderman of London, but resigned the office in 1525, before he had served either as sheritf or mayor. During the last. years ot his life he sat on the commission of the peace in Essex and Middlesex. He was a member of the companies of Haberdashers and Painter Stainers, and shortly before his death (24 Sept. 1532) conveyed to the latter company his house in Little Trinity Lane, which has from that time continued to be the hall of the company. The house had been in his possession since 1504. His portrait, dated 1504, is preserved in the hall, but is apparently a copy painted after the great fire of 1666, when the hall was burnt. His arms were ‘argent on a fess counter embattled, sable, 3 escallops of the first; on a canton, quarterly gules and azure, at leopard’s head caboshed, or:’ crest, ‘on a wreath argent and sable, a crane’s head azure, beaked gules, winged or, the neck and wings each charged with an escallop counterchanged, and holding in its beak an oak branch fructed proper.’ This resembles the coat borne by the Brownes of Kent. In the British Museum is a book (Lansdowne MS. 858) which once belonged to him, and has his signature. It is the account of banners, &c., furnished to the Duke of Suffolk, and contains the shields of arms in colours of sovereigns of Europe and English nobles. By his will, dated 17 Sept. 1532, and proved 2 Dec. of the same year, it appears that he left a widow Anne and two daughters, Elizabeth and Isabel. By a previous wife, Alice, he probably had two daughters, married to Richard Colard and Edmund Lee. A house at Kingsland and lands in Hackney, and another house called ‘The Swan on the Hope’ in the Strand, are mentioned, and certain books of arms and badges begueathed to his servant. He was buried in St. Vedast’s, Foster Lane.

[Calendar of State Papers of Hen. VIII, vols. iv.; Chronicle of Calais; Madden’s Expenses of Princess Mary, p. clix; Stowe's Survey of London, iii, 126; Walpole's Anecdotes, i. 64; Some Account of the Painters' company, 1880, p. 14; Archæologia, xxxix. 23; Lansd, MS. 858.]

C. T. M.