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.
November 2, 2012
From Wenzel Hollar’s Theatrum Mulierum, published in London in 1643. The lady wears what looks like a short cape and a hood over a petticoat and apron. She has a pair of gloves, possibly linen or leather against the cold and a purse hanging from her belt.