Admirers of Lord Byron will be fascinated by the remarkable story of this portrait showing his ancestor, Little Sir John Byron (1527-1603/4).

Little Sir John, so called because of his diminutive stature, inherited Newstead Abbey from his father, who had acquired the former priory from Henry VIII in 1540. Sir John worked mainly on estate and family matters, and was knighted by Elizabeth I. This painting shows him with the long beard for which he became famous. The portrait hung at Newstead Abbey from its creation in 1599, and remained in the collection of Lord Byron until he sold the house in 1818. It then passed to the poetÂ’s sister, Augusta Leigh, and hung in her apartments at St JamesÂ’s Palace until her death in 1851. It then passed out of the family and has only recently been rediscovered in a private collection. After nearly 200 yearsÂ’ absence, the painting now returns to Newstead Abbey as the oldest visual document relating to the estate and the earliest authentic likeness of a member of the Byron family.


Commissioned by or for the sitter, ‘Little’ Sir John Byron of Newstead Abbey; by descent to William, 5th Lord Byron; by descent to Mrs Augusta Byron Leigh; sold Christie’s, December 2014 where acquired by Philip Mould.

Back to top