Friday, 31 May 2013

In Fine Style

The time since my Open Studio I have filled with a trip to London and more research into the history of fashion and lace. I went to see the new exhibition at the Queens Gallery at Buckingham Palace called 'In Fine Style' which explores Tudor and Stuart fashion in art. It brings together some real highlights of the royal collection including Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Bronzino, Marcus Gheeraerts and many others combined with some real historic pieces of clothing that have miraculously survived the ages.

Embroidered waistcoat, 1610-20, Fashion Museum Bath 
The detail in the paintings from this era is astounding and enough to make you gush over the sheer richness and indulgence of colour, detail, jewels and luxurious fabrics. I doubt any (wo)man can resist.
Besides just enjoying the stunning paintings and glorious royal clothes and lace it is fascinating to see how the artists excelled themselves in painting every detail of the clothes, the jewels and the lace.
The clothes were very much used to evoke the status, situation, heritage, marital status, location and aspirations of the sitter in the painting.  The painter created the illusion of real velvet, silk and lace giving the viewer the allusion about the sitter's situation. Realism in painting the clothing was therefore more important than realism in the face which were often formalised and stiff. After all, a dress or jewel told the viewer more than a face. Ideas about being able to read character and status from a person facial features is an idea that did not surface until the 19th century. More lifelike and realistic depictions come later in the 17th century in, for example, Van Dyck's portraits. That said, some 16th century pieces show some real individualism and often sitters can be recognised by their features in different paintings by different artists. the Spanish artist Coello, for example, (or his studio) shows amazingly formalised paintings, but with portraits that seem to be believable real and lifelike people.  Other artists excell in painting the textiles in a most lifelike manner. One of my favourites in the exhibtion was by the Dutch artist Daniel Mytens. In his portrait of Elizabeth Queen of Bohemia the way he painted the lace cuffs with their slightly ruffled edges is just astonishing.

Link to the Queens Gallery website exhibition page:
http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/exhibitions/in-fine-style-the-art-of-tudor-and-stuart-fashion-QGBP

Detail of Alonso Coello, Isabella Clare Eugenia and Catalina Micaela,
daughters of Philip II, King of Spain, c. 1569-70

Detail of Daniel Mytens, Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia, 1626-7

I suppose it is clear where I get my inspiration from, although I doubt any artist can come close to the skill and virtuosity of these 16th and 17th century masters.....this is my modest attempt of reinterpreting...
Elizabeth's Dress, oil, 40x30cm. Sophie Ploeg 2013


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