Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Two Exhibitions: Charles I: King and Collector and Charles II: Art and Power

Charles I: King and Collector – at the Royal Academy, Piccadilly, 27 January to 15 April 2018. Adult £20. Book:  Charles I: King and Collector Catalogue  256 pages, over 200 colour illustrations. Hardback £40. Paperback £28 

Charles I was an eclectic collector and the ten rooms at the Royal Academy bring together many of the items of his collection that were sold by order of Parliament after the King’s execution. Many are back in the Royal Collection, but other have been borrowed from museums across the world. As an interesting side note the catalogue of the collection, taken in 1637, still exists and many of the items have a comment saying where the painting was originally displayed.

The exhibition starts with the fantastic triple portrait of Charles by Van Dyck, which is also the poster for the exhibition. The painting was for Bernini to sculpt a bust of Charles. The bust was lost in the great Whitehall fire of 1698, when much of the Palace burnt down, and though many have berated Cromwell for selling off the collection, one wonders how much more would have been lost if they had still been in Whitehall.

The start of Charles’s collecting career was when, having gone to Madrid in 1623 for marriage negociations, he came back with paintings by Titian, Veronese and others. He also purchased six of the Raphel cartoons for the Sistine Chapel tapestries, for £300, and the Mortlake tapestry workshop founded by James I in 1619 copied these, one room is dedicated to Mortlake Tapesteries.  In 1627-32 Charles purchased the Gonzaga collection from Mantua, including  Mantegna’s Triumphs of Caesar, which have a whole room to themselves at the exhibition. 

Other rooms in the exhibition include two of Italian Renaissance paintings, one of Northern Renaissance, and a room containing works that had originally been in the Queen's Hose at Greenwich. There are also vast amounts of Rubens and Van Dyck, including Van Dyck’s “Greate Peece” of 1632, and his painting of the two sons of the assainated Duke of Buckingham (shown left). 

An excellent exhibition.

Charles II: Art & Power – at The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace, Friday, 8 Dec 2017 to Sunday, 13 May 2018. Adult £11.00. Book: Charles II: Art & Power  464 pages with over 400 colour illustrations. Hardback only £29.95

Detail from the Embarkation at Scheveningen
The Charles II exhibition starts with less of a bang than his father’s. The first room contains many prints, rather than paintings, including The Act abolishing the King,  and for even handedness Eikon Basilike, it also has the last portrait made of Charles I in his lifetime. However when you get into the room with John Michel Wright’s portrait of Charles II, Charles II dominates. The art, generally speaking is not as good as in the Charles I exhibition, though it does have the wonderful Leonardo da Vinci  drawing and many of Holbein’s drawings. Much of the portraiture of Charles court is by Lely, Kneller, Wright and Cooper. There are many depictions what is happening for example, Charles setting off for England in The Embarkation of Charles II at Scheveningen, and the Anglo-Dutch Wars of the 1660s in Holme’s Bonfire, and a couple of unusual portraits, The Chinese Convert by Kneller  and Bridget Holmes aged 96 by Riley.

 Much of what is on display is on the Royal Collection’s excellent website for the exhibition. Also you can take photographs at the Charles II exhibition, you can’t at  Charles I.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Charles I: clothing terminology

Charles I by Mytens. NPG

I have been putting Charles I’s clothes as listed in wardrobe accounts (Strong, 1980) into the Stuart Tailor database, and here I try to analyse how the terms used in accounts are depicted in portraits. This is Charles I by Daniel Mytens, the hyperlink is to the high res version of the low res version to the right. The portrait in the National Portrait Gallery is from 1631, so earlier than the wardrobe accounts I quote here, which are from 1633-5. 

The King normally buys suits, these consist of a doublet and hose (breeches), not always in the same fabric, and usually there is a matching cloak, for example “a suite the doublett lead cullor tabie the cloake and hose of cloth”.

The portrait depicts him in grey and there are several grey suits in 1633-5, as in: “a suit of grey cloth lined with tabie”, “a suite of lead cullor satin”, “a suite of mist grey drapbery cloth.” The braid that runs around the edges of the doublet and down the side of the hose is always referred to as lace, as in: “edged with a gould and silver edging lace,” in addition each seam has lace, sometimes this is the same as the edging lace, though in this portrait it would appear to be different. There are other portraits showing is style of layout of lace, and there is a black wool example in the Victoria and Albert Museum, unfortunately the museum website has no photographs. Seam laces are usually referred to as: “trimmed with two silke laces in a seame”, or “with two gould and silver laces in a seame”, or similar. 

The doublet seen in the portrait is cut into panes on the body and sleeves, in the accounts they would say “the doublet cut in panes”, if the panes were edged with the same lace as the seam lace it would say, “and laced with the same lace.” To the left is a detail of a paned doublet in the collection of the Gallery of English Costume at Platt Hall, Manchester. 

It is not the case with the suit shown in the portrait, but sometimes there would be two layers of fabric, one “cut upon” the other, so Charles has a suit of grass green tabby “lined with rose cullor tabie, cutt with and upon rose cullor taffaty”. This effect of this fashion can be seen in the Cotton suit of 1618 in the Victoria and Albert Museum, which is described as an “oyster colour silk satin with an under layer of blue silk.” (Braun, et al., 2016) 

The doublet and hose are tied together with points, these can be seen at the waist of the doublet in the portrait. Different types of points appear in the accounts, for example: “flatt points”, “square points” and “round points.” In addition suites of matching points, garters and shoe roses were purchased. In the Mytens portrait he is wearing boots, but in this portrait by Van Dyck his points, garters and shoes roses all appear to be the same colour.

Detail of Charles's spur leathers
He purchases large quantities of accessories. The gloves seen in the portrait are plain with a simple fringe. Among a vast number of other gloves, in 1633-4 he buys “2 dozen pairs of thick stags lether gloves with gould and silver frindges.” His boots are also plain, he buys (in one year) “24 paires of bootes” and “20 pairs of strong riding bootes”, not to mention the 189 pairs of shoes. Spurs can also be seen on the boots. These come in different types, and I don’t know enough about spurs to identify the differences. We have “hunting spurs”, and “Bramspith spurres.” He also buys spurleathers, that piece of butterfly shaped leather across the instep of the boot, and the straps that attach the spur to the boot. These can be seen clearly in a detail from the equestrian portrait of Charles I on horseback by Van Dyck. There are references to “hatching and guilding” spurs and to “trimming” spurs. Worn under the boots you can see at the knee his boot hose, which he buys “3 dozen pairs” at a time. 

His linens, as in his band (collar) and shirts, do not appear in his wardrobe accounts.

Braun, M, et al. 2016. 17th-century men's dress patterns 1600-1630. London : Thames & Hudson, 2016. 978 0 500 51905 9.
Strong, Roy. 1980. Charles I's clothes for the years 1633-1635. Costume. 1980, Vol. 14, 73-89