This portrait of Sir William Brereton (1550-1631) hangs in the Detroit Institute of Arts:

Sir William Brereton

Regarding the portrait I have the following questions:

  1. I assume the number "1579" in the corner is the date the portrait was made?
  2. What is the (I assume Latin) text below the number? It looks like:

    ANoŒT•SVŒ•28 ~

  3. I know the family motto is "Opitulante Deo" and can read it under William Brereton's Coat of Arms. Is there a place online where I might find a larger version of his Coat?

  4. What might be a reasonable guess for the portrait embedded within his hat? It looks female to me, but beyond that I have no idea.
  5. Are the glove and sword which he is holding symbolic of anything about him, or are they just flourishes to the portrait?


I can help a bit with the translation:

The "V"s are actually "u"s, so "PICTVRA" is "Pictura", which means "a painting" as the subject. "Gulielmi" is in the genitive case, so you translate it "of William Brereton". "Militis" is a noun in the genitive case meaning "of soldier", but "huius", which means "this", modifies it, and "domi" means "at home".

So the translation (without "coditoris" because I'm not really sure what that means) is "A Painting of William Brereton of this soldier at home", which can be interpreted as "A Painting of William Brereton, this soldier, at home" because since "Militis Huius" is in the same case as "Gulielmi", it can be an appositive.

"coditoris" looks like a third declension adjective, and its ending signifies that it is in the nominative or genitive case, so it could modify either "picture", "William Brereton", or the "this soldier".

For your third question, if you're asking whether there is there a longer version of "Opitulante Deo", then I can tell you that according to this site, there is:

Opitulante Deo Fari Quoe Sentient

Which is translated as:

God being my helper I will speak what I think.


I think I've made some progress on the last line. I couldn't figure out the first part that has the "AN" with an "o" superscript and "e" subscript but the next part, "AET-SVAE 28" I believe means "28 years old". "SVAE" is actually "suae" which roughly means "of his own" and "AET" is an abbreviation for "aetas", which means "age", and wikipedia says this about it:

Abbreviation of "aetatis"; further abbreviated (and more common): "aet." – e.g.: "aetat" or "aet. 36" = "36 years old".

So I presume this means that the painting was made of William Brereton at age 28, since the translation for the last line is "of his own age 28".

To sum up the conclusions one can draw from the Latin:

  • William Brereton was painted in soldierly garb, explaining the sword
  • The painting was created when William Brereton was 28
  • 1
    Your Latin is clearly superior to my googling skills - very impressive. Any luck with that last line? The first two words look like abbreviations, though that's a guess.
    – fbrereto
    Nov 21 '12 at 5:18
  • @fbrereto - Thanks. Regarding your question, do you mean that "HVIVS DOMI" looks like an abbreviation, or other words?
    – pasawaya
    Nov 21 '12 at 5:25
  • The words on the line starting with AN^o.
    – fbrereto
    Nov 21 '12 at 5:31
  • @fbrereto - I made some progress on that. See my edit.
    – pasawaya
    Nov 21 '12 at 5:44

Regarding the second question, after a little googling here's what I have so far:

PICTVRA = painting
GVLIELMI = William
BRERETON = Brereton
MILITIS = soldier
DOMI = at home



IN HIS 28TH YEAR (age)

So 1579 fits as the year of production

  • 1
    Hey Rusty, thanks for the answer. Can you detail a bit how you derived the "founder of this house" and the line about his age?
    – fbrereto
    Nov 21 '12 at 7:14
  • The third line has a misspelling and should be HUIUS DOMI CONDITORIS. The fourth line has two abbreviated words and should read ANNO AETET SUAE 28 Nov 21 '12 at 8:09

To add to what others have already provided, Coditoris may be intended to be Conditoris, or founder -- so Huius Domi Coditoris would be Founder of this house.

  • That makes perfect sense, thank you for the explanation.
    – fbrereto
    Nov 21 '12 at 8:07
  • There is a line over the top of the first "O" in "Coditoris" implying, if I recall correctly, an abbreviation.
    – AdrianB38
    Nov 21 '12 at 11:19
  • @AdrianB38, you're perfectly right -- thanks for the reminder. I presume the artist wanted to fit the lettering onto the left hand wall and needed to lose a letter on that line somewhere. The N in conditoris is probably the easiest to omit without too much confusion.
    – user104
    Nov 21 '12 at 11:25

I think you have a typo in your motto.

Opitulante Deo - With God as my helper

Are your Breretons from Cheshire?


Brereton of Brereton
Arms: Quarterly -
1. Argent, two bars Sable
2. Gules. three pheons Argent [Malpas]
3. Argent, a cross flory Azure [Malpas]
4. Argent, a lion rampant Gules, between three pheons Sable [Egerton]
5. Or, two ravens Sable [Corbet]
6. Ermine, three chevrons Gules, on a canton of the second, a lion passant Or [Orreby?]
7. Gules, two lions passant Argent, a label of three points Or [Strange]

According to the account at http://www.brereton.org/portrait.htm, the female figure on the cap is Queen Elizabeth I

  • Yeah I did have a typo in the motto, thanks. We are the Breretons of Cheshire (as far as I can tell all Breretons link back to Cheshire at some point in their family line.) Our Breretons were in Ireland for a time before finally immigrating to the United States. In the end (if I have my records straight) the above Sir William Brereton is my 1st cousin 13x removed.
    – fbrereto
    Nov 21 '12 at 5:17

The word “militis” means that he is a knight; he is in fact not wearing military clothing, but fashionable dress. The sword and belt are customary accessories of a gentleman.

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