November 16, 2015
And an unknown boy, painted by an unknown artist around 1638-41. Dorothy, or more correctly Dame Dorothy may or may not have been Lady in Waiting to Elizabeth I in her youth and was also rumoured to have played a part in foiling the Gunpowder Plot, though later investigation revealed that her part was choosing the story as the subject of a tapestry that she made after the event! Dorothy died in 1641 apparently from being pricked by an infected needle (though this may have been fabricated too to attract visitors to the Hall) shortly after this portrait was completed. A popular story has her body walled up and her ghost walking the corridors of Ightham Mote. Sadly also not true, the grand Dame was safely interred in the local churchyard, but why let the facts get in the way of a cracking story?
Anyway, this picture caught my eye because Dorothy is not dressed in the latest fashion unlike the rather sad little boy in pink stood next to her. She is wearing a black petticoat and bodice over which she seems to have a red partlet or (perhaps a sleeveless waistcoat) covering her body and a large starched ruff around her neck. She’s keeping her head warm with a black hood and possibly a lace coif underneath. The boy is in a fashionable pink suit; matching doublet (slashed sleeves to show his shirt), breeches (trimmed with ribbon) and short cloak with a laced linen falling band and cuffs with matching ribbons on his shoes and pink hose.
Dorothy was some looker, forty years earlier. Both paintings are at Ightham Mote House in Kent.
November 29, 2013
This picture came up for sale at Christies in London in 2011, and is described as “Family portrait, small three-quarter-length, in black, red and white dress”. It has scant provenance, and in fact is inscribed on the frame with a story of how it turned up: ‘This oil painting washed ashore at Rottingdean with other wreckage from the Australian ship “Simla”,: Run down by the ship City of Lucknow, Feb 25th 1884’. It’s a lovely picture of a typical family from the seventeenth century and has the look of those Dutch master paintings of ordinary folk that hardly ever turn up in portraits by English artists
The people in the picture are dressed in clothes that place the time of the picture in the 1640s or thereabouts, and seem to be as described, a family group. They mostly look at us from the picture, though the three figures on the right look across the picture at the eldest member of the family. He is presumably the grandfather of the family and is dressed in a gown and ruff collar with a lace edged day cap. The husband and wife (I imagine) are in their best blacks. The wife with a neat plain layered kerchief and a black hood over hers (perhaps this refers to a lost child), whilst the man of the house is in a plain black doublet and a neat falling band. If you look closely though, he has left the lower buttons unfastened so you can see his shirt. The three children are all dressed in petticoats and aprons and there is no way to tell if they are boys or girls from what they are wearing. The seventh figure is partly hidden by an open door and seems to be wearing a red waistcoat over petticoat skirts and an apron and kerchief.
September 25, 2013
Traditionally thought to be that of Sir Thomas Browne by William Dobson. If you look at the picture of Thomas and his wife Dorothy painted by John Souch, there is a resemblance, so there is some reason to think this is John and his family, but no conclusive proof. He could have been in Oxford at the same time as Dobson, though as he was native to Norwich, would he have transported a young family across war torn England to Oxford to have a portrait painted?
Anyway, this is a lovely family group and their clothes put them firmly in the 1640s. They all look unerringly at the viewer, daring us to stare back. John (or whoever) is wearing a brown, (or what most people would have thought of as black) coat with a plain falling band and a simple black day cap. His wife is wearing a smart wide brimmed hat and what looks like a cream bodice under a dark mantle or wrap. The children are all in petticoats, though I suspect that the two on the right hand side are boys wearing red petticoats with linen aprons, bands and matching caps. The boy on the left has a small sword suspended from a blue ribbon, whilst the lad on the right is more interested in his pet rabbit. The two girls on the right, (they look old enough to have been breeched were they boys) are wearing russet coloured waistcoats with plain linen kerchiefs and black hoods over their coifs possibly indicating that they have lost siblings. John Browne lost several children at an early age (five out of eleven) so that fits with the Thomas Browne theory, though losing small children was by no means unusual.
Thanks to Chatsworth for permission to post this image. The painting is © Devonshire Collection Chatsworth and reproduced by permission of Chatsworth Settlement Trustees.
August 8, 2013
Painted by an unknown artist sometime between 1650 and 1660, this is a full length portrait of a small boy strapped into a wheeled baby walker. The coral of the title refers to the teether he is holding the end of which is made from pink coral. His necklace is also made from coral. Many thanks to Brenda Price and Greg Marshall for the explanation.
He’s wearing the full length petticoat of a boy who is not yet old enough to wear breeches with the hanging sleeves down his back that act as leading reins on the small toddler. He also has a white triangular linen bib or apron over a full length smock and a linen edged coif on his head. The picture is in the Norwich Castle Museum collection.
June 14, 2013
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).
Here are some closer details
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.
The boy on the right has a very battered felt hat on his head.
June 13, 2013
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!
April 30, 2013
So excited to have been granted permission from the Ashmolean to post some of their portraits. This one is lovely, painted around 1644 by an unnamed English artist. Hester was the wife of John the Younger Tradescant and the original keeper of what became the Ashmolean Museum. Hester sadly died by drowning in her own pond in 1678 at which point Elias Ashmole inherited the collection. John is wearing a dark grey doublet with smallish tabs at the waist and some nice, though not exceptional linen around his neck. It looks like the lace was tacked on as an afterthought, rather than having been bought for the purpose. Frances seems to be wearing a low-ish cut bodice with lace around the collar of her smock. Hester is wearing a matching bodice and petticoat which could be in brown velvet, edged with what looks like lace made from gilt thread. Her two-layer kerchief is lined with lace as is the coif she’s wearing under her wide brimmed hat. I like the magnifying glass hanging from the left hand point of her kerchief. It’s heavy enough to drag that side of the kerchief lower than the right. They do look very serious though I have to say. Picture is © 2011 University of Oxford – Ashmolean Museum
April 15, 2013
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.
April 11, 2013
Still James Cranford 1642. These poor souls are being dragged through the streets by their hair, but luckily for us the engraver shows us their petticoats and the rear view of a waistcoat and kerchief. The ruffians are still in doublet and breeches with wide hats and feathers.
This Irish soldier has taken off his back and breastplate and removed his headgear before the priest bestows a blessing on him. Presumably they thought he was about god’s work bashing out small children’s brains? If in fact if happened at all that is. Doublet, breeches and shoes here, though the details are scant.
The woman running away in distress here has her waistcoat open to show her petticoat, possibly attached to a section of upper bodies, though it’s tricky to see. It may just be her smock. Loose flowing hair indicates distress in this case. As do the raised arms of course.
Poor Mrs Fforde is being badly treated here, but notice the short sleeves of her waistcoat, the coif and her smartly pressed kerchief.