Portrait of a Family

Painting by William Dobson from around 1645, though it was probably finished by another artist after Dobson’s death. The painting is thought to be Richard Streatfield and his family. There are several pointers in the picture to indicate that the family had recently lost members, probably children. The skulls top right and the half clothed child bottom right suggest this, as does the bunch of cherries that the youngest child holds. The two adults are dressed in their best blacks, Richard in a doublet fashionably unfastened at the bottom and a plain band with decorative band strings around his collar. His wife in a black bodice with a lace edged coif, gathered cuffs to her smock and a complicated arrangement of linen around her shoulders fastened with black strings. The child on the left could be dressed in brown doublet and breeches with a cloak, or possibly a dress with hanging sleeves (to be used as leading reins) and plain linen. The smaller child in a kind of all-in-one garment with hanging sleeves and a matching cap. To see this painting you need to go to the Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut, USA

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This detail shows the understated decoration of the linen on the two grown-ups.

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And here the child in closer detail.

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2 Comments to “Portrait of a Family”

  1. Love to know how the wife’s linen was constructed!

    • I’ve seen several examples of really complicated arrangements of neck linen from the period, some of it is really fine see-through fabric too. I’d like to have a go at making something like this for my wife’s costume.

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