Florence Smyth and her Pageboy

Also thought to by by Gilbert Jackson and probably painted in the late 1630s, this is an arresting picture. Not just because of the black pageboy, (who probably has the honour of the earliest representation in English art of someone of African descent), but also because of the vibrant colours and the contrast between the two figures. The girl is thought to be Florence Smyth who lived at Ashton Court near Bristol with her mother Florence and father Thomas who payed a small part at the beginning of the war on the royalist side. She is dressed in a white satin bodice and petticoat. The sleeves are slashed and gathered with red ribbon which is also picked out in a ribbon across her waist and behind the lace of her coif. The lace of the coif and neckerchief is very high quality. The boy has a striped satin doublet and less (though not in quality) lace than his mistress on the falling band around his neck. The picture is on display in Bristol Museum and Art Gallery.

Why they are playing with a bird’s nest I have no idea. I suspect there is some symbolism involved.

A young girl thought to be Florence Smyth (b.1634), daughter of Thomas and Florence Smyth of Ashton Court, Somerset, with her black page

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One Comment to “Florence Smyth and her Pageboy”

  1. there is an earlier representation of someone of african descent – one of the court rolls of henry viii shows one of his heralds to be an african

    hope the link works, it took some finding!

    that girl looks about forty, I wonder if she’s just one of those people born with an old face, or simply the subject of an artist who can’t do kids?

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