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Edwin Sandys and Cicely Sandys (née Wilford), late 17th century

after an Unknown artist, based on a work of 1571

Oil on canvas, 318 x 451 mm.

National Portrait Gallery, London. Given by Thomas Myles Sandys, 1900 (NPG 1268).
© National Portrait Gallery, London.


From early marriage portraits to contemporary wedding photography, depictions of couples have formed a distinct category of image-making in Britain for at least five hundred years. Paired images, whether pendant (twin) or in a single composition, have usually been made to mark key life events, such as marriage, the birth of a child or a professional achievement.  They celebrate a couple’s relationship whilst simultaneously providing a setting for the expression of shared interests and evidence of lives lived together. 

This intimate portrait of the Sandys shows them in close up, with their shoulders touching an allusion to companionability, partnership and status.  In the earliest double marriage portrait in the NPG London’s collection, the Archbishop of York, Edwin Sandys, is depicted with his second wife Cicely at a time when clergymen had only recently been allowed to marry. The couple had nine children, and Edwin’s domestic lifestyle was considered, by some, to be unsuitable for a bishop.

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