In 1946, on the heels of the bicentennial of founder William Penn’s birth, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission acquired a striking portrait entitled Lady Springett. The sitter, Mary Proude Springett Pennington (1625–1682), was the mother of Penn’s first wife, Gulielma Maria Springett (1644–1694).
An orphaned heiress at 3 years old, Lady Springett married, in 1642, Sir William Springett, who died of an illness at the age of 23 in 1644 — just weeks before the birth of Gulielma, his and Mary’s second child. Widowed at 19 years old, Lady Springett attempted to quell her sorrow — her “restless, distressed state,” as she described it — by settling in London, where she indulged in a life of excess. Ten years later, in 1654, she married Isaac Pennington and the couple embarked on a spiritual journey as Quakers, giving up all worldly trappings.
Gulielma Penn could not travel with her husband on his first trip to America 325 years ago; she stayed behind to take care of her ill mother. Lady Springett died less than two weeks after her son-in-law departed England aboard the Welcome. Painted in 1663, Lady Springett is attributed to Nicholas Maes (1634–1693), of Dordrecht, Netherlands, who studied in Rembrandt’s studio about 1650. This portrait is on exhibit at Pennsbury Manor, adorning one of the walls of Letitia’s Chamber.
This entry originally appeared in the Fall 2007 issue of Pennsylvania Heritage.
About Pennsylvania Treasures:
The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission houses artifacts hailing from all eras of the commonwealth’s past. These objects represent Pennsylvania arts, culture, history, sciences, business and agriculture. PHMC curators continue to research the stories behind many of these rarely exhibited artifacts and works of art. We are sharing these Pennsylvania Treasures with the public through weekly updates.