February 21, 2017
=man transform’d: or, the artificiall changling historically presented, in the mad and cruell gallantry, foolish bravery, ridiculous beauty, filthy finenesse, and loathsome loveliness of most nations, fashioning and altering their bodies from the mould intended by nature; with figures of those transfigurations. To which artificiall and affected deformations are added, all the native and nationall monstrosities that have appeared to disfigure the humane fabrick. With a vindication of the regular beauty and honesty of nature. And an appendix of the pedigree of the English gallant. This book was written by John Bulwer and first published in 1650. The second edition in 1653 had added woodcuts. Here is the author from the front page of the second edition looking suitably authorial dressed in one of those artistic cloaks that artists seem to like (maybe it gives good reason not to paint all those messy costume details) with a plain falling band (spot the overlapping edges) and a nice decorative tassel on his bandstring.
John was a doctor, but took a sabatical to write several books exploring the body and communication by gesture which was a particular interest. This tome as the title suggests is all about how the body can be altered from its natural state by clothes, tattoos, body adornments etc. Some of his information came from Dutch colonial settlers and the work has been described as one of the first studies in comparative cultural anthropology. The fronticepiece is very interesting and some of the characters depicted appear later in the book. For our purposes the lady bottom centre is worth studying as not many rear views appear in contemporary illustrations. You can see the petticoat gathers, the cut of her bodice and the rear of her kerchief. I also quite like the guy on the left with a face in his bum. Perhaps literally talking out of it?
Anyway, what drew the book to me was this image of a girl in a tight laced bodice and the descriptive text. It’s in chapter 20 (he calls them scenes); Dangerous Fashions and desperate Affectations about the Breast and the Waste. The girl is wearing a linen coif on her head, a tightly laced bodice with sleeves and a nice layered kerchief.
John is pretty forthright in his opinion. He says: ‘Another foolish affection there is in young Virgins, though grown big enough to be wiser, but that they are led blindfold by Custome to a fashion pernicious beyond imagination; who thinking a slender waste a great beauty, strive all that they possibly can by streight-lacing themselves, to attain unto a wand-like smallnesses of waste, never thinking themselves fine enough untill they can span their Waste. By which deadly Artifice they reduce their Breasts into such streights, that they soon purchase a stinking breath; and while they ignorantly affect an august or narrow Breast, and to that end by strong compulsion shut up their Wasts in a Whale-bone prison, or little ease; they open a door to Consumptions, and a withering rottenness.’
Good advice I say. There’s a lot more to look at in this book, particularly the appendix on the English Gallant. I shall return,
February 10, 2017
Another unnamed portrait by an unnamed artist, this time in the Berwick Museum and Art Gallery. The canvas is dated 1638 and the title it’s been given says she’s a puritan. This was the catch all title for the collection of independent protestant sects, all slightly different from the next that grew up in the first half of the seventeenth century and exploded during the turmoil caused by the war. However she could just as easily be a member of a more established church group, or even a (gasp) catholic, there’s no way to tell from what she’s wearing how she worshipped.
The fine details show her double layer linen cuffs and the layers of fine see-through linen that comprise her neck covering. It’s up for debate, but around this time it could have been called a kerchief or a partlet. Both terms were in use, we just don’t know what (if any) distinction there was between the two. The layers however are so thin that you can see her smock beneath the fabric. The details of her bodice (or maybe waistcoat) are tricky to see as it has been painted so blackly there are no details. She has a coral bracelet on her wrist. These were worn as good luck charms and also were thought to have healing properties. Her hair seems to be undressed. but she has covered it with a magnificent broad brimmed hat.
February 6, 2015
By Sir Peter Lely, painted sometime in the 1640s. She’s wearing a black bodice or waistcoat (difficult to see any detail in the way Lely has depicted it) with her smock showing above the neckline and a plain linen kerchief pinned over the top. It’s a very sober portrait, but she has dressed her hair with a string of pearls and at least one drop earring. This picture came up for sale via Phillip Mould and Co who were also kind enough to grant permission for me to use this image.
January 31, 2014
An engraving appended to the end of A breviate of the life, of VVilliam Laud Arch-Bishop of Canterbury: extracted (for the most part) verbatim, out of his owne diary, and other writings, under his owne hand. / Collected and published at the speciall instance of sundry honourable persons, as a necessary prologue to the history of his tryall, for which the criminal part of his life, is specially reserved by William Prynne of Lincolnes Inne, Esquier, published in 1644. The engraving is by Wenceslaus Hollar.
As ever though, the best part of these crowd engravings is the little details that come out when you zoom in.
At the back of the hall, in the foreground an splendid selection of coats and cloaks, showing the reverse side that you don’t often get in portraits. One or two caps being worn too and a dog seems to have sneaked in on the left hand side.
An annotated group here. A marks the Archbishop in his gown and a black day cap. Unusual not to see him in his bishop’s robes, the rocket with white sleeves would have stood out had he been wearing it. B is black rod, C the Lieutenant of the Tower, D the council for Laud and E the clark who reads the evidence, looking very pleased with himself in a short cloak and laced band. F is a table.
A small group of women here against the tapestried wall on the right hand side. G is the area reserved for members of the Commons, H is Henry Burton who had had his ears removed for criticising Laud in a pamphlet. Henry looks like he might be wearing a ruff. I marks various witnesses, one of whom was Susannah Bastwick, smartly attired in linen kerchief and a coif. Susannah was the wife of John Bastwick who had also lost his ears in the pillory.
January 6, 2014
Painted by Cornelius Janssens van Ceulen in the 1630s, Elizabeth was wife to Sir Thomas, first Baron Coventry who was a career lawyer and involved in several high profile legal cases through the years before the wars, though treading a politic central line between the King and parliament, he managed to keep his position for many years.
Elizabeth is wearing a black dress, presumably bodice and petticoat skirt, though it is tricky to see any details, a black coif on her head, with a triple-layered kerchief around her neck and matching lace on her cuffs.
The painting is in the collection of the Sheffield Museums
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.
November 28, 2013
Ralph Gardiner 1655. This one is quite familiar, I’ve see it in several publications before, but nonetheless the costume details are excellent and in many ways akin to the Cryes of London. Here’s the text:
“Iohn Wilis of Ipswich upon his Oath said, that he this Deponent was in Newcastle six months ago, and there he saw one Ann Biulestone drove through the streets by an Officer of the same Corporation, holding a rope in his hand, the other end fastned to an Engine called the Branks, which is like a Crown, it being of Iron, which was musled over the head and face, with a great gap or tongue of Iron forced into her mouth, which forced the blood out. And that is the punishment which the Magistrates do inflict upon chiding, and scoulding women, and that he hath often seen the like done to others.”
So here is Ann with the Officer of the Corporation. The officer has a hat, coat breeches and shoes whilst the poor woman strapped into the branks is wearing a bodice and petticoat with an apron and kerchief tucked in, and just a glimpse of shoes at the bottom.
November 28, 2013
Another image from Ralph Gardiner’s book from 1655. I’ll let the original text explain what is happening here:
“Iohn Wheeler of London, upon his Oath said, that in or about the years 1649 & 1650 being at Newcastle, heard that the Magistrates had sent two of their Sergeants, namely Thomas Sevel, and Cuthbert Nicholson into Scotland to agree with a Scotch-man, who pretended knowledge to finde out Witches by pricking them with pins, to come to Newcastle where he should try such who should be brought to him, and to have twenty shillings a peece for all he could condemn as Witches, and free passage thither and back again.
(B) When the Sergeants had brought the said Witch-finder on horse-back to Town; the Magistrates sent their Bell-man through the Town, ringing his Bell, and crying, All people that would bring in any complaint against any woman for a Witch, they should be sent for and tryed by the person appointed.
(C) Thirty women were brought into the Town-hall, and stript, and then openly had pins thrust into their bodies, and most of them was found guilty , near twenty seven of them by him and set aside.”
There is far too much to describe in detail here. but nearly all the figures are common people of the 1650s. Several things to note here: the simple wrapped coifs on the heads of the hanged women and the back view of their kerchiefs, the hangman stripped to his shirt, the day cap on the bellman and the higher class dress of the witch finder with his cloak and fitted doublet.
November 27, 2013
Painted by Henry Giles in 1639, Catherine was the sister of Margaret Cavendish Duchess of Newcastle and spent at least some part of the Civil War in Oxford. She certainly looks pretty well to do in this painting which is in the National Trust’s care in Bradenham Manor.
She is dressed in her finest black petticoat and bodice over what looks like a brocaded underskirt. Her linen kerchief is layered and like her cuffs is made from very fine see through linen, through which you can see the details of her smock. She is also wearing an outrageously wide brimmed hat over a lace edged coif. Only subtle adornments, a black ribbon holding her kerchief down and an understated coral bracelet on each wrist.
October 23, 2013
From an etching dated 1655, part of the Cryes of London series by Robert Pricke. The rat catcher displays his prowess on a board and is dressed smartly in doublet, breeches and shoes with a wide brimmed hat and sober falling band.
The milk seller has perched a bucket of milk on her head. She’s dressed in a waistcoat and petticoat over which she has sensibly added an apron and neckerchief. She is also wearing a hat and coif combo on her head, presumably to help her cope with the weight of the milk.
This lady is selling nice ripe colly-flowers. They don’t look quite like our cultivated ones, though they’re not that far off. I wonder if they were as white as modern cultivars? She is dressed identically to the milk seller. Compare her shoes with the rat catcher. They are the same style.