Tuesday, September 3, 2019

20 Essential Questions To Ask When Attempting To Date An Elizabethan Portrait By Costume: Men's Portraits

Horatio de Vere. Gorget on neck indicates military background. Mini-skirt-like bum roll (with only minimal stuffing) and attached canion leggings. Cuffs. Pronounced peascod bulge to doublet (turned inward, a downward hook). Padded Bishop sleeves. Falling linen band collar with open V neck. Jerkin skirt medium. Hair short. (See correct date of portrait at end of post.*) Artist is George Glower (Royal Armouries, Tower of London, image via wikicommons).
Below are 20 question that should help you date any Elizabethan portrait of a male courtier

Two recommended links for further delving:
--The Essential Glossary of Elizabethan Costume
--A More Extensive Guide to Dating Elizabethan Portraits By Costume: the Men

THE 20 QUESTIONS:
1. Is the sitter wearing a standing collar hugging the neck (up to the ear at times) that supports an open-at-front neck ruff? Maximum collar height to ears was during 1560's, then 70's, kept subsiding.

2. Is he wearing cuffs or ruffles at the wrist? Cuffs came into fashion .c 1583. Ruffles all but disappeared within a few years.
Above: detail Robert Dudley by van der Muelin (Yale Center for British Arts). Standing collar peaks at ear, pickadil tabs at all hems of doublet with double row at wings, wrist ruffles, non peascod doublet with no stuffing at sleeves, small figure-of-eight neck ruff open at neck. Date revealed at bottom of post.**
3. Is there a peascod bulge to the lower doublet? Peascod style was in fashion from 1575-c. 1596. If bulge is comically pronounced, turned inward like a hook (see top photo) then it's probably early 1590's--aka "peak peascod"--especially if the doublet is paired with very short, puffy upper hose.

4. Is his hair fabulously permed? 1585-88 was the glorious Armada perm. Curled hair remained stylish into 1600's. Hair mostly short in 60's and 70's. Curly and a bit longer in the 80's. Could fall too the ears and shoulders in the 1590's onward. Short hair always remained in style as well.

5. Is he holding or wearing a gauntleted glove, meaning the kind with wide fabulously decorated wrists coverings? Gauntlets came into fashion starting c. 1590. Note: holding a gauntlet in a portrait was a pose of nobility.

6. Does his upper hose (called trunk hose) resemble a stuffed mini skirt? The  mini bum roll (see top photo) short but stuffed wide at hips and often paired with canions (tubular leggings to the knees) popular 1580's until mid 90's. 

7. Are the trunk hose a bit longer to mid thigh and puffy? Before 1570, this popular onion-shape style of upper hose was called the kettledrum.

8. Is he wearing baggy breeches to lower thigh or knee? These "Venetians" were most popular, and at their most pear-shaped, from the 1580's through the 90's. First introduced in 1570's but at that point hugged the thigh.
Above: Martin Frobisher by Ketel (Bodleian Library). Baggy Venetian hose, picadils at skirt, wing, and collar of doublet. Standing collar with ruff. Leg-of-mutton sleeves (stuff from shoulder to elbow but taping toward wrist). Med-long doublet skirt. Wrist ruffles. See bottom of post for dating ***
9. Is he wearing thin or thick chains across his chest? Thick chains worn like jewelry throughout 1560's for both men and women. Thin chains, often combined into ropes, came into fashion in the 70's and remained popular forever.

10. Is there a pickadil series of tabs hemmed along any garment? These tabs (see Dudley and Frobisher portraits above) were used for support and decoration at the end of the sleeve, collar, or skirt. Often looped, they were very popular in 60's and 70's but not as much in the 80's onward.

11. Are there garishly large buttons on the doublet and/or doublet sleeves? These buttons were popular starting c. 1587 but only for a few years. Not a 90's thing.
Above: closed figure-of-eight ruff with large buttons. Peregrine Bertie by H. Custodis. Image from Weiss Gallery via wikicommons. Date of portrait revealed at bottom of post.****
12. Are the sleeves padded from upper shoulder all the way to wrists? Known as bishop sleeves (see top photo) they came into fashion c. 1575 until 1600. Note how whole doublet looks inflated. Very popular in 80's sometimes without wings on shoulders.

13. Are the sleeves padded only from the upper shoulder to the elbow so that the arms resemble a leg of mutton? (See photo below.) Similar to the bishop sleeves (see Frobisher portrait above) in popularity c. 1570-1600. Like all puff it peaked in the 80's.

14. Is there no padding in the sleeve? No padding was poplar 1550-70's and again in the 1590's onward. During the 90's onward fashion started to dispense with bombast padding in doublet and sleeves, and returned to the natural male form of the 1560's-70's.   

15. Is there a circular linen ruff figure-of-eight collar that encloses the entire neck? If so, it's likely mid to late 1570's to 1590's. French cartwheel atrocity ruff started early 80's. Ketel's portrait of Richard Goodrick contains earliest cartwheel I've found c. 1578.

16. Does that figure-of-eight collar have several layers, sometimes convoluted, and/or a slightly crushed-looking figure-of-eight pattern? Popular 1590 to 1620's. 

17. Is there an Italian cutwork collar shaped like a fan or shield behind the sitter's head and tilted forward by an unseen support system? Italian cutwork first became popular in 1590's. The fan-frame style called a whisk or golilla became fashionable c. 1600.
Above: Sir Thomas Overbury (but you can pretend he's Will Shakespeare if you want!) c. 1610 (Cobbe Family Collection, image via wikicommons). Fan-like Italian cutwork collar known as a "whisk" (rabato support system visible). Doublet and sleeves without padding. Hair short and brushed upward with gum.
18: Is there only a narrow falling band for a collar? Plain neck band, often turned down on shoulders, or round neck with V opening became popular c. 1585-1620, but falling bands are always present in Elizabethan fashion. Often layered with transparent upper one 1590's-1600's.

19. Is the doublet skirt narrow, a mere border? This style was popular between 1575-85.

20. Does he look like an inflated and vainglorious popinjay? 1580's were the decade of bombast stuffing and of the most asinine fashion--most of it imported from France. 90's onward a reaction against 80's back to human form of 60's and 70's with no or little stuffing. 

Final exam:
Above: called Martin Frobisher, explorer, after Custodis. (Dulwich Picture Gallery, image via wikicommons.) Portrait date below *****
Portrait dates:
* portrait of Horatio Vere 1594.
** portrait of Dudley c.
***portrait Frobisher 1577 
**** portrait of Bertie 1588-90.
*****portrait of Frobisher c. 1590.
Sources consulted
--DRESS IN THE ELIZABETHAN AGE (BT Batsford Ltd) by Jane Ashelford
--FASHION IN THE TIME OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE (Shire Books) by Sarah Jane Downing
--HANDBOOK OF ENGLISH COSTUME IN THE 16THCENTURY (Plays Inc) by W. and P. Cunnington

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