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Unknown Artist, Martinus Woodcocke [The Blessed John Woodcock, Martyr (d. 1646)]

Etching,  11.7 cm max. diameter. Baillieu Library Collection, The University of Melbourne, Gift of Dr. Orde Poynton, 1959, Accession No. : 1959.4441.000.000.
The Blessed John Woodcock, Father Martin of St. Felix (b. 1603)  was hanged, drawn and quartered in Lancaster in August 1646. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1987. A relic of the martyr, an arm bone, is kept at the convent of the Poor Clares, Arundel, Sussex (Pannikar, 2006). Another relic in the form of a  piece of cloth, kept at Ladywell Shrine, near Preston in Lancashire (Pannikar, 2006).It seems probable that William Richardson’s (1812) portrait, with an identical inscription, derives from this etched portrait, which may be substantially earlier. Richardson’s portrait presents a tidier, idealised martyr. Woodcock’s face is slimmer and his double chin has disappeared, as have the scars or furrows on his brow. The broken rope around his neck is an emblem of his first, failed, execution (Borgia Steck, 1920, pp. 321-2; Challoner, 1741, vol. 2, pp. 312-4 ;  Mason, 1649, p. 159). 

Another version of this portrait, with neither of the attributes of his martyrdom, appears in Franciscans and the Protestant Revolution in England (Borgia Steck, 1920, p. 312). Richard Mason’s (1649) Certamen seraphicum Provinciæ Angliæ pro sancta Dei ecclesia includes a quite different portrait of Woodcock, only three years after his execution. This portrait shows a figure rather more cavalier than Franciscan with shoulder length hair and Van Dyke beard and moustache. This portrait, as the earliest one I have been able to identify, rather throws into question the other engraved portraits. It is far from certain whether any of these printed portraits bears any resemblance to the actual man.

Further details to follow.
Borgia Steck, 1920 

Borgia Steck, F., Franciscans and the Protestant Revolution in England, Chicago, Franciscan Herald Press, 1920.

Challoner, 1741

Challoner, Richard, Memoirs of missionary priests, as well secular as regular; and of other catholics, of both sexes, that have suffered death in England, on religious accounts, from the year of our Lord 1577, to 1684, London, F. Needham, 1741,  2 vols., Vol. 2. Accessed 5 January 2011, from Eighteenth Century Collections Online via Gale:

[Mason], 1649

Angelus, a Sancto Francisco [Richard Mason], Certamen seraphicum Provinciæ Angliæ pro sancta Dei ecclesia; in quo breviter declaratur, quomodo Fratres Minores Angli, Douai, Typis Baltasaris Belleri, 1649.

Panikkar, 2006

Panikkar, M., ‘Woodcock , John (1603–1646)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2006 [, accessed 6 Jan 2011]

Rabinstein, 2002-2003

Rabinstein, K. I., ‘Woodcock, John, Bl.’ The New Catholic Encyclopedia, second edition, Detroit, Thomson Gale, 2002-2003, vol. 14, p. 833.

Richardson, 1812

Richardson, W., Portraits illustrating Grangers Biographical history of England, London, W. Richardson, 1792- [1812], 3 vols., Vol. 3. Accessed 5 January 2011, from Eighteenth Century Collections Online via Gale:


Tim Ould

Tim Ould is a PhD candidate in Art History at the University of Melbourne, and completed this entry in January 2011.

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