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.
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.