Close observation of the opulently layered Stuart costume was important to reflect status and wealth...
This portrait, painted in oil on silver, takes its distinctive style from portraits by William Larkin (c.1585-1619), a highly accomplished court oil painter. The sitter’s costume – the lace cap and veil falling over a full lace ruff – is also typical of that worn by Larkin’s sitters – making the partially illegible date on this portrait likely to be 1614.
Although small portraits on metal at this date were usually painted by itinerant Dutch artists, the close relationship between this painting and Larkin’s work suggests that the work is by a British artist. The close observation of costume – from the detailed lace to the gold trim on the slashed sleeves – records the opulent layering of textiles, embroidery, lace, and jewellery during the early Stuart era. This detail was important to record status and wealth, even in a small and presumably less expensive commission than an oil painting.
Frustratingly, few artists are named as painting in oil on metal at this period and it seems to have been part of a broader studio practice or a type of portrait that could be offered by nomadic artists unable to set up a permanent studio. An example of the former was Cornelius Jonson (1593-1661), who offered his clients their portraits ‘in little’ alongside their larger oil paintings after he set up his studio in London in 1618.