Archive for June, 2013

June 26, 2013

The Earle of Strafford’s Ghost

Complaining of the Cruelties of his Country-men in Killing one another. And persuading all great Men to live honestly, that desire to die Honourably. An anti war pamphlet published in 1644, using a woodcut of the Earle of Strafford in loin cloth and winding sheet coming back from the dead. It’s an arresting image, that to be frank doesn’t help us much in identifying contemporary clothes, but which does show what the folk of the 1640s expected to see in their ghosts. His winding sheet has been untied at the bottom so he can walk about, but the top knot has stayed in place and he has a cloth around his middle for modesty. He’s also carrying some kind of flower in his right hand which also seems to have been the mark of the walking dead. I’d love to know what it was if anyone has any thoughts.

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June 25, 2013

A Description

Of the Passage of THOMAS late Earle of STRAFFORD, over the River of Styx, with the conference betwixt him, CHARON, and WILLIAM NOY. A small eight page satire written by an anonymous author in 1641 after the execution of Strafford. William Noy was a lawyer who was associated in the popular consciousness with the King’s attempt to raise money without calling parliament by reinstating ancient crown rights for financial gain. He had in fact just been doing his job, but by 1641 he was dead, and he is pictured on the other side of the river Styx waiting for Strafford’s arrival. Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford had been caught up in the political wranglings between King and Parliament and basically was sacrificed by Charles in a vain (as it turned out) attempt to keep the peace.

Noy is wearing a tabbed doublet, breeches and a heavy cloak over all and possibly a ruff that seems to have been as much a lawyer’s uniform then as a wig is now. Strafford looks to be clothed in a similar fashion though his hat seems smarter somehow. Charon the legendary ferryman to Hades of Greek myth has a doublet presumably and an odd almost brimless tall crowned hat.


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June 25, 2013

The English Improver Improved Part 2

Further into the 1652 book on agriculture and husbandry there are two more interesting illustrations. On page 65 we see the author Walter Blith with his surveying instruments and further on a labourer demonstrating a spade amongst pictures of other tools.

Walter is dressed in a quality doublet with slashed sleeves, beribboned unconfined breeches and some splendid soft riding boots. The sleeves of his shirt appear to be gathered into a small cuff but pulled through the ends of his shortened doublet sleeves to emphasise the amount of linen used. He’s also wearing a jauntily cocked hat and some kind of wrap around his stomach that is possibly artistic licence as it looks more classical than Early Modern. I’m not sure how you’d stop something like that from falling down. He’s not dressed for surveying I suspect. This is the supervisor at work.


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And on page 69 an echo of the labourer on the frontispiece using what we are now told is a trenching spade. Sadly he’s ditched (no pun intended) his intriguing hat and unbuttoned his coat but we can now see better details of the breeches that are gathered at the knee and count the number of buttonholes on a working man’s doublet. Notice for a working man in the dirt he’s actually wearing shoes, not boots. His left hose seems to have a clock, (or gusset) in the front of the foot. They are usually found on the side. Interesting.


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June 24, 2013

The English Improver Improved

Or the Survey of Husbandry Surveyed. This book was written by Walter Blith in 1649 and was one of the very first attempts to put into print how land could be improved by good husbandry. Blith had fought in the war on the parliamentary side and had been involved in the sequestration of Royalist land after the war, some of which he bought for himself. The frontispiece for the revised 1652 edition was designed to show as the reader looks down the page how by degrees the country turns from war to more peaceful pursuits.

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Here at the top are , on the left a troop of cavalry and on the right some foot soldiers, pike and musket. Mostly clad in soldier’s coats and breeches and a selection of soft hats and helmets.

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Bottom right is a ploughman in a natty felt hat and ribbon decorated breeches.

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Bottom right a labourer with some kind of spade digging a trench. He’s got a rather battered felt hat, or possibly a montero cap, buttoned up coat and unconfined breeches.

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And right at the bottom a surveyor. This guy is a bit more well dressed, with a short doublet, breeches, wide hat and some smart riding boots.

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June 22, 2013

John Evelyn 1648

Painted by Robert Walker in 1648, by which time John had returned to England from his grand tour of the Continent. Evelyn recorded in his diary that he sat for Walker on 1st July. The painting was to accompany a treatise on marriage which he had written for his wife and originally he was painted holding a miniature of her and the skull was added in later years together with the greek motto that reads “Repentance is the beginning of wisdom”.

This is a much more informal portrait than the 1641 version and at first glance there are fewer costume details, but if you look closely, you can see some construction points in his shirt. This is a quality shirt, fine linen cut very full and gathered to his cuffs and short neckband. This is the kind of shirt that would have had separate falling band and cuffs tacked or pinned on for wearing under a doublet, but here, as the sitter is in an informal setting he’s just wearing the shirt without adornment.

The portrait hangs in the National Portrait Gallery and as such is © National Portrait Gallery, London.


NPG 6179; John Evelyn by Robert Walker

June 19, 2013

John Evelyn

The famous writer and diarist painted in 1641 by the Flemish artist Hendrick van der Borcht the Younger, possibly when Evelyn was in the Low Countries with Mary the Princess Royal. He returned in 1642 in time to witness the Battle of Brentford but soon went back to the continent to continue his Grand Tour, returning after the war. From what we can see in the picture, John is wearing a black slashed doublet with a linen shirt beneath and a falling band with cutwork lace around the edge. The picture is in a private collection but is on permanent loan to the National Portrait Gallery. © National Portrait Gallery, London 2013

John Evelyn 1641

And here is a close up detail of the lace on his band and the strings attached.

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June 14, 2013

The Poore Orphan’s Court or Orphan’s Cry

Tract from 1636 published in London that addressed the problem of homeless children begging in the streets. The solution proposed was that “Every ship that goes to Virginia to carry sixe boyes and sixe girles, every one to carry the like to New England” so that they could work on the plantations. An innovative solution, though I have no idea if it ever came to fruition. However the picture on the front page is very arresting and looks very similar to the Callot engravings of beggars from the continent. All the children are in rags, though still in doublet and breeches (the boys) or waistcoat with petticoat skirts (the girls).

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Here are some closer details


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The boy on the right appears to be shod in what might originally have been startup boots, though it’s hard to tell for sure.


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The boy on the right has a very battered felt hat on his head.


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June 13, 2013

Nature’s Cruel Stepdames

or, Matchlesse monsters of the female sex; Elizabeth Barnes, and Anne Willis, printed by Henry Goodcole, London 1637. this is my 300th post here and like to I think quite a special picture. Henry Goodcole  seems to have specialised in these collections of what we would now call lurid tabloid stories. On this occasion the first tale is that of a mother, Elizabeth Barnes who took her eight year old daughter Susan into the woods, and having watched her fall asleep proceeded to cut her throat with a carving knife. What is significant here is that the woodcut matches specifically the details in the pamphlet so we can be pretty confident of a date close to the year of publication.

What we have here is a common woman and child of the period in pretty standard clothes, the kind of thing that crops up rarely in English depictions. The woodcut is quite crude, but you can clearly see that both are dressed in waistcoats and petticoat and that Elizabeth has some kind of darted linen collar or band around her neck. Susan’s waistcoat has definite tabs at the waist, whereas I suspect that her murderous mother has a gored one though it’s impossible to tell for sure as her arm is in the way!

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June 13, 2013

John Tradescant the Younger and Hester His Second Wife

Attributed to Emmanuel de Critz and painted around 1656 this double portrait is kind of a companion to the previous post of John the Elder and his wife, though notice the difference 20 years have made to the clothes Hester is wearing compared to John the Elder’s wife. There is more colour here and Hester’s bodice is much more boned and fitted to the wearer. The sleeves are made from quite a lot of fabric if you notice the gathers at the cuff. She also wears a double layer of linen around her neck, but the lines are softer, less severe somehow and there is an elaborate fastening across her chest. She also wears a black hood or chaperone on her head and is holding a sprig of myrtle which echoes John’s profession as a gardener but which also symbolises her fidelity. John the Younger on the other hand, apart from being bareheaded is dressed almost identically to his father in the earlier portrait, black doublet with a plain linen band. Note though how many buttons he has on his doublet front and cuffs. Yet again, thanks to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford where the picture resides for allowing me to post it here.  © 2011 University of Oxford – Ashmolean Museum

John Tradescant the Younger and Hester, his second Wife

June 10, 2013

Portrait of a Couple

Said to be John Tradescant the elder and his wife Elizabeth painted sometime in the 1640s, although the identification of both sitters remains doubtful. Both however wear wide brimmed hats, the woman has a fine linen kerchief over another more substantial piece of linen and a coif tied at the throat with strings. Her partner has a plain falling band with tassels on his band strings. Both are dressed sombrely in what was probably their Sunday best and seem the epitome of what we would see as well to do puritans, though this style of dress wouldn’t have denoted a religious leaning to anyone at the time. They are just smart clothes. Picture is  © 2011 University of Oxford – Ashmolean Museum

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