Thursday, August 15, 2019

Richard Drake Has Something He Wants to Tell You

Richard Drake by John Glower c. 1577 National Maritime Museum
Here's Richard Drake, who once entertained the queen, pointing at his dink. Painting by John Gower.  1577. Hat makes the dandy, I always say.

In truth Drake was using the hyper fashionable (and extremely occult) Neoplatonist downward-finger gesture to mean, "As below, so above." It's the same gesture the 3rd Earl of Southampton is making (below) in his famous Tower portrait by John de Critz, the one with Trixie the cross-eyed cat.  

This Southampton portrait has always been one of my favorites, especially since it's set in the Tower of London where the imprisoned Southampton likely read the sonnets written to him by Shakespeare. The portrait was painted just after his release, and you can still see the emaciation in the face of the once famously beautiful earl. It's said his loyal cat Trixie searched him out in the Tower, which is a pretty story. Perhaps bisexual, certainly rumored to be gay, Southampton also had a touching relationship with his wife--they exchanged letters of real affection. He was invariably a badass in battle and co-generalled the mysterious Essex rebellion that stormed London in 1601 after a production of Richard II at the Globe, a revolt that has never been properly explained yet permeates the sonnet cycle.  

His arm probably isn't injured as it was a brief fashion to employ a sling made from a French cloak (the French style was to fling the cloak with careful abandon over the left shoulder). Dope gloves obviously. Motto behind him says, "In chains unconquered." The expression on his face agrees. Southampton, who was released shortly after Elizabeth's death, went on to thrive under James I.

3rd Earl of Southampton, Tower Portrait by de Critz (Private collection Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry)

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