Portraits of the Foundress

As part of PemWomen@30, some of the traditional portraits in the dining hall have been covered with photographs of female Fellows. However, they are not the first images of women to be shown in the hall.

The current College hall was designed by the famous architect Alfred Waterhouse and built during the late nineteenth century. It usually contains a range of portraits depicting key figures from Pembroke’s history. As well as past Masters, the selection includes notable Fellows and alumni, such as Nobel Prize winner John Sulston (1960) and the poet Ted Hughes (1951).

A single painting of a woman hangs above the High Table: Marie de St Pol, Foundress of Pembroke. Her portrait was painted in around 1785 by Giuseppe Marchi, a studio assistant of Joshua Reynolds. He based his image on an engraving by John Faber.

ITSIn fact, all portrayals of Marie de St Pol are based on the imaginings of artists. The first image depicting her was not completed until 250 years after her death, and was based heavily on an image of Lady Margaret Beaufort, Foundress of St John’s College. Rather than trying to accurately depict her as an individual, portraits of the Foundress instead focus on her piety.

The other well-known image of the Foundress is known as the ‘Ackermann Portrait’ as it appeared in Ackermann’s book A history of the University of Cambridge (1815). The artist was George Perfect Harding.

This image was used in the publicity material for one of the PemWomen events – a talk on the religious education of the Foundress. You can find out more about the event here.

For more about images of the Foundress, see A.V. Grimstone’s Pembroke Portraits (2013).

For more on the foundation of Pembroke, see our website.