17th century portrait had 'Kylie Jenner treatment' with lip filler and forehead reduction

Diana Cecil before and after the portrait restoration. Credit: English Heritage

By Rachel Dixon, Multimedia Producer

A quick forehead reduction, lip plump and a bit of tan, it is common place across Instagram where perfectly enhanced photos fill the timeline – but these edits are not just a 21st century phenomenon.

They were also the 'tweakments', given to Jacobean "beauty" Diana Cecil by an artist commissioned to re-paint her portrait.

The noblewoman was given Kylie Jenner-style fuller lips, perhaps reflecting the often tricky to achieve modern beauty standards have been around for centuries.

Kylie Jenner Credit: AP

Painstaking conservation work of a full-length artwork has revealed overpainting on Cecil's lips to make them fuller, as well as overpainting on her hairline, making her forehead appear smaller.

Cecil (1596–1654) was the great-granddaughter of William Cecil, Lord Burghley, one of Elizabeth I’s closest friends and advisors. She was born into a powerful noble family at the Jacobean court.

In her youth, Diana was one of the great beauties of the age, but it seems a later artist may have had other ideas. 

The full legnth portrait of Dame Cecil. Credit: English Heritage

While the painting had at some point been rolled widthways, which caused significant damage and may have resulted in the need for a touch-up, the overpainting of these features is a curious choice, English Heritage says.

Experts, working with the charity, removed the yellowing layer of old varnish to reveal Cecil's true colours, as well as revealing her lips and hair as they were originally painted.

She now sports a more natural look, following celebrities including Kylie Jenner, who were once infamous for using filler to enhance their beauty but then opted to have it dissolved for a more subtle look.

Molly Mae ditched the fillers in 2021, opting for a more natural look. Credit: PA

British influencer Molly Mae also made the move to ditch the filler a couple of years ago, saying she was "terrified" when looking back of pictures of herself with the procedure in a recent interview.

Alice Tate-Harte, Collections Conservator (Fine Art) at English Heritage, said: “As a paintings conservator I am often amazed by the vivid and rich colours that reveal themselves as I remove old, yellowing varnish from portraits, but finding out Diana’s features had been changed so much was certainly a surprise.

"While the original reason for overpainting could have been to cover damage from the portrait being rolled, the restorer certainly added their own preferences to ‘sweeten’ her face.

I hope I’ve done Diana justice by removing those additions and presenting her natural face to the world.”

Alice Tate-Harte, working on her restoration project. Credit: English Heritage

Diana Cecil's made-under style portrait goes on display at Kenwood House in London on November 30.

The stately home in Hampstead Heath, is home to two portraits of Cecil – one painted by artist William Larkin when she was around 15, and this work by Cornelius Johnson when she was around 31.

Both paintings are part of The Suffolk Collection – artworks compiled over a period of 400 years by generations of the earls of Suffolk and Berkshire.

Cecil came from a powerful noble family and also married powerful men – first Henry de Vere, 18th Earl of Oxford, who died on a year later, and then in 1629 Lord Thomas Bruce, later 1st Earl of Elgin. 

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