Saturday, 3 August 2013

In Fine Style: The Art of Tudor and Stuart Fashion

The recent exhibitions at The Queen’s Gallery including the astronomically popular Leonardo exhibition last summer have demonstrated that this gallery is capable of some stimulating exhibitions packed full of the most interesting works of art from the Royal Collection. 

This recent offering focuses on the costumes of the Tudor and Stuart monarchy and their court. It combines paintings with examples of the original clothes which brings the paintings to life and demonstrates the high standards and intricacy that was expected from artisans and artist alike.
The exhibition shows that just like in the fashion world today the most famous men and women wanted to be at the cutting edge taking inspiration from their contemporaries at home and on the continent. We can see the array of materials, jewels and styles that the royals and the aristocracy used to assert their taste and status. All carefully observed and painted by the court artists favoured at the time such as Sir Peter Lely, Hans Holbein and Sir Antony Van Dyck.

One of the most interesting works has to be the portrait of Charles I by Van Dyck. The king is painted from three angles because the painting was to be sent abroad to a sculptor who would have required a likeness to work from. 

To the right of the painting is a delicate original lace collar similar to the one worn by Charles. It is nice to be able to compare the way that the artist has painted the collar with how it would have originally looked as it forces us to see the degree of fidelity to the original that the artist was practicing. Of course the collar in the display case is not the exact one in the painting, in fact the King wears three different outfits in the painting probably intending to give the sculptor plenty of choice as well as showing off the breadth of his wardrobe. 

To a modern viewer being shown in three different outfits in one painting does not seem so impressive but the costs of fine clothes in that era where far and away beyond our modern day prices. This is particularly clear when we look at some of the representations of the Tudor and Stuart women in their elaborate get ups. Such as the frankly ostentatious apparel of Lady Anne of Denmark (the cover girl for this exhibition). It is clear that no expense has been spared on this dress and that every intricate detail has been pointed out to the painter who in turn points it out to the viewer.

The award for the most amusing painting has to go to The game of ‘Lady come into the garden’ by Godfreid Schalcken. A game which seems to essentially be a ye olde worldy strip poker. Make sure you find this one to have a little laugh but don't forget to look at the beautiful rendering of the tapestry on the drawn back curtain.

There is also a very clever little exhibition publication entitled Robe magazine which is a mock-up of a fashion magazine from 1667 including quirky features on some of the works in the exhibition. At £3.95 it is a fun accompaniment to the exhibition.

So enjoy but don't forget to book!

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