Painted Pomp: Art and Fashion in the Age of Shakespeare
The Holburne Museum, Bath
26 January 2013–6 May 2013
Renowned for his incredibly detailed full-length portraits of courtiers during the reign of James I, William Larkin (1580s–1619) is especially important to the study of historic costume and dress. Nine portraits by Larkin of members of the Howard and Cecil families are currently on view at the Holburne Museum in Bath, loaned from English Heritage while renovations are undertaken at Kenwood House. Displays of extant seventeenth-century fashions and objects accompany the paintings alongside quotes from Shakespeare, articulating the importance of clothing and accessories in the establishment of aristocratic identity.
The well-known portrait of Richard Sackville, 3rd Earl of Dorset, (1613) is mounted above an early seventeenth-century Ushak or “Lotto” rug (English Heritage). These rugs, acclaimed for their distinctive red and yellow geometric and foliate designs, were imported from the region of Ushak in present-day Turkey and were especially popular with European aristocrats. Several examples of European leather accessories are displayed in the exhibition, including a pair of once-heavily perfumed gloves (Worshipful Company of Glovers/The Fashion Museum), an elaborately pinked pair of shoes (Ashmolean Museum), and a fan (Royal Collection) that was pierced in a manner echoing examples of Italian reticella (needle lace) featured elsewhere in the show. Two men’s shirts decorated with delicate embroidery and cutwork identify the possibility of what lay beneath heavy brocaded and damask silk garments.
Unofficially, this exhibition signals the start of the year of the Stuarts, with a number of UK institutions “going seventeenth century,” to borrow the words of one British museum educator. Officially however, Painted Pomp continues in the tradition of integrating material and visual culture for a better-rounded study of courtly culture.
For more information, visit: http://www.holburne.org/painted-pomp/.