Painted pomp

Portrait of Lady Anne Sackville, Lady Beauchamp (1586–1664) or Frances Prynne or Prinne, Lady Seymour of Trowbridge (d.1626), attributed to William Larkin, at Petworth House (inv. no. NT486187). ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Portrait of Lady Anne Sackville, Lady Beauchamp (1586–1664) or Frances Prynne or Prinne, Lady Seymour of Trowbridge (d.1626), attributed to William Larkin, at Petworth House (inv. no. NT486187). ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Over the weekend I visited an excellent small exhibition at the Holburne Museum in Bath, entitled Painted Pomp, about portraiture and fashion in the Jacobean period.

Ushak carpet at Gawthorpe Hall, Lancashire (inv. no. NT42883). ©National Trust Collections

Ushak carpet at Gawthorpe Hall, Lancashire (inv. no. NT42883). ©National Trust Collections

The exhibition includes nine full-length portraits by William Larkin (early 1880s-1619) of relatives of Thomas Howard, 1st Earl of Suffolk (1561-1626). The paintings originally hung at Charlton Park, Malmsbury, a seat of the Earls of Suffolk and Berkshire, and were given to the nation in 1974. They are now in the care of English Heritage at Kenwood in north London.

In this post I am showing some other portraits by and after Larkin in various National Trust collections.

Portrait of Francis Seymour, 1st Baron Seymour of Trowbridge (c.1590-1664), in the style of William Larkin, at Petworth House (inv. no. NT486188). ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Portrait of Francis Seymour, 1st Baron Seymour of Trowbridge (c.1590-1664), in the style of William Larkin, at Petworth House (inv. no. NT486188). ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The pictures document some of the extravagant and highly crafted fashions of the period, such as pinked silk, embroidered shirts, punto in aria (‘stitches in the air’) lace collars and shoes and gauntlets trimmed with gold and silver thread.

Ushak carpet at Sudbury Hall, Derbyshire (inv. no. 653287). ©National Trust Collections

Ushak carpet at Sudbury Hall, Derbyshire (inv. no. 653287). ©National Trust Collections

It is interesting to see how the men are sometimes more gorgeously attired than the women. This was clearly an age when ‘power dressing’ meant dressing as flamboyantly as possible.

Portrait of Mary Curzon, Countess of Dorset (1585 -1645), by William Hamilton RA (1751-1801) after William Larkin, at Kedleston Hall (inv. no. NT108775). ©National Trust Images/Ian Blantern

Portrait of Mary Curzon, Countess of Dorset (1585 -1645), by William Hamilton RA (1751-1801) after William Larkin, at Kedleston Hall (inv. no. NT108775). ©National Trust Images/Ian Blantern

Prominently visible in the portraits are the Turkish Ushak rugs, expensive status symbols in the early 17th century, and the exhibition includes an actual Ushak rug.

Ushak carpet at Chastleton House, Oxfordshire (inv. no. NT1430658). ©National Trust Collections

Ushak carpet at Chastleton House, Oxfordshire (inv. no. NT1430658). ©National Trust Collections

There are also a few surviving items of Jacobean clothing on show, as well as two replica costumes made for use at Shakespeare’s Globe, London.

5 Responses to “Painted pomp”

  1. style court Says:

    Thanks for sharing the images. Lately it seems like there’s a revived interest in Jacobean-era portraiture. The layering of textiles is fascinating (the documentation of the rugs is great!) and it’s interesting to see how some elements, like the lace, denser patterns and “coffee filter” ruffs appear a bit flattened while the drape-y velvets are more modeled. You can really see the art historical transition.

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Courtney, yes as you say there is an interesting interplay going on in these costumes between flatness and undulation, light and dark, volumes and openings.

    Some of the dresses in the Suffolk portraits are spectacularly slashed, with lots of small slits all over the fabric (sort of Jacobean ripped jeans look). The curator whom I overheard giving a guided tour when I was there said that they probably needed to reinforce the fabric at the back to make such slashing structurally possible, so lots of artful technique going on behind the scenes to make it look nonchalantly elegant :)

    She also pointed out how the colour schemes of the costumes are generally fairly limited, with just a few colours per outfit, but deployed with maximum contrast.

  3. deana Says:

    How very odd to have the strange pink-red with the orange-red in the curtains and the scarlet-red clothes and chair. It must have been a fashion. Lovely to put carpets in the exhibition, I think they are not nearly given the respect due them. The craftsmanship in a great carpet is staggering and, sadly, anonymous. Here’s to the talent that made them!

  4. Andrew Says:

    Some synchronicity here! I was looking carefully at the little squares of carpets under the feet in the portraits displayed the Tudor gallery at the NPG just last week.

    Why shouldn’t men use their attire to advertise their wealth and power? I suspect, over time, it has been more usual for men to do so, than not.

    I may have got this wrong, but I thought the slashing was intended to allow glimpses of the rich material underneath – rather more like the rather ugly fashion for low-slung trousers (displaying acres of undergarment) than ripped jeans, perhaps?

  5. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Yes you are right, there is a long tradition of ‘peacock male’ dressing, and in non-western cultures too, of course (those samurai helmets with their sublimely impractical and dandified lacquered extensions come to mind).

    I hadn’t thought of those teenage boys with their trousers artfully suspended halfway down their thighs as ‘New Jacobeans’, but I suppose they are :)

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