Wednesday, September 25, 2019

A Curious Portrait In Which the New Countess of Southampton Poses With a Dog That Is Wearing an Elizabethan Ruff (Ruff) Doggie Collar


Above: Portrait of Elizabeth Vernon Countess of Southampton in Her Boudoir by Unknown Artist c. 1600 (Private collection Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry, Scanned from Aileen Ribeiro, image via Wikicommons)
The excellent portrait above, artist unknown, it is one of my all-time Elizabethan favorites. Elizabeth Vernon was married to the 3rd Earl of Southampton, Henry Wriothesley, who was equally fond of his own hair (see below). Although it's clear Henry was bisexual, he and Elizabeth--to judge by their affectionate letters--enjoyed a happy marriage. Elizabeth's portrait seems to have been painted a few years before the failed Essex rebellion which landed her husband Henry in the Tower of London for years (along with his pet cat Trixie). It's likely that the portrait was made to commemorate her marriage to the earl in 1598 (in which case she is already pregnant). They were married behind Elizabeth's back. Henry then fled England and left his new wife to face the queen's wrath over their secret marriage.
   
In the portrait, Elizabeth is wearing a waistcoat decorated with flowers over a rose-colored corset and showing quite a bit of skin for an Elizabethan women. It looks to me like a detached partlet, which will cover some of that skin, is hanging from her neck ruff on the purple curtain. Her petticoat is embroidered with all sorts of plants and cool insects (insects were in fashion and were even a popular shape for brooches). But the scene is stolen in some ways by the jewelry-box still life and its pin cushion. The detail shown there makes me wonder if an established miniaturist such as Hilliard or Oliver might have painted the portrait. 

A video recently popped up on my youtube that made me recall this portrait of Elizabeth Vernon in her boudoir. The video, by a contributor called Priorattire, demonstrated the step-by-step agony of dressing an Elizabethan woman endured every day. The video can be found at the bottom of this post.
Above: bling-box detail from unknown artist's portrait of the Countess of Southampton (Private collection Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry, image via Wikicommons)
Above: The inscription on the comb reads, "menez moi doucement," which means "handle/lead me gently" (Private collection Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry, image via Wikicommons)
Above: stylish doggie wearing ruff collar. (Private collection Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry)
Above: 3rd Earl of Southampton c. 1593 (Cobbe Family Collection).

1 comment:

  1. I thought this portrait that came up for auction last November looked very similar to the 3rd Earl, especially the ears.

    https://www.bidsquare.com/online-auctions/stair-galleries/circle-of-robert-peake-active-1598-1626-portrait-of-a-boy-believed-to-be-charles-i-at-age-5-1199389

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