This impressive Jacobean portrait was painted in England in the early 1620s and has survived in excellent condition.

Portraiture at this date was as much about flaunting wealth as it was about capturing an accurate likeness, and costume, therefore, played a central role in projecting one’s success in life. Although the identity of the lady in this portrait is at present unknown, it is clear from her exquisite costume that she was from a wealthy family. She wears a black over-gown with a bodice and skirt of embroidered silk decorated with floral motifs and tied at the waist with a striped ribbon. Matching ribbons hold in place the impressive ‘virago’ sleeves which are slashed vertically to reveal fine white linen beneath. A broad collar draws the eye towards the sitter’s head which is decorated with five small sprigs of flowers matching the colours of the dress and ribbons. A fine white gauze is worn around the neck as...

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This impressive Jacobean portrait was painted in England in the early 1620s and has survived in excellent condition.

Portraiture at this date was as much about flaunting wealth as it was about capturing an accurate likeness, and costume, therefore, played a central role in projecting one’s success in life. Although the identity of the lady in this portrait is at present unknown, it is clear from her exquisite costume that she was from a wealthy family. She wears a black over-gown with a bodice and skirt of embroidered silk decorated with floral motifs and tied at the waist with a striped ribbon. Matching ribbons hold in place the impressive ‘virago’ sleeves which are slashed vertically to reveal fine white linen beneath. A broad collar draws the eye towards the sitter’s head which is decorated with five small sprigs of flowers matching the colours of the dress and ribbons. A fine white gauze is worn around the neck as an indicator of modesty with strings of pearls, symbolic of purity and virginity, emphasizing both the sitter’s integrity and her wealth.

The identity of the artist of this work is currently unknown, although their style is highly distinctive and around thirty portraits painted between 1597 and 1629 are now attributed to their hand. One of the most notable works by this artist (or workshop) is the double portrait of Stephen and Mary Phesant (previously with Philip Mould & Co.), which was painted around the same time as this portrait in 1623. It is also evident that this artist found a niche in producing posthumous portraits of English royalty; see, for example, the portrait of Anne Boleyn in the National Portrait Gallery (c.1600)[1] and the ‘Brocket’ portrait of Elizabeth I (c.1590) at Compton Verney.

[1] NPG 668

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500 Years of British Art