A real treat

Cover for the Exhibition Catalogue
Cover for the Exhibition Catalogue

Last week, not less than three of my assorted interests combined to give me a real treat.

The Queen’s Gallery in London is holding an exhibition called “In Fine Style“. The exhibition uses portraits of the Tudor and Stuart period to show the changes in fashion during the period, and there was a lot of embroidery and passementerie used, so the painters had a lot of scope. I’m interested in painting, too, so I’m always intrigued to see how a painter depicts texture, structure, and colour. Furthermore, major exhibitions these days often have additional events – not just a Private View on opening, but outreach events for schoolchildren, evening openings, tie-in events with other artists. An additional event caught my eye – an evening opening, followed by a recital of the music of John Dowland (contemporaneous with the paintings) given by the lutanist Jakob Lindberg.

Now, I’m an early music girl, so what with the chance to be nose-to-nose with some famous paintings and then to listen to music of the period surrounded by paintings of the composer’s assorted patrons…

I had a great time. There were some very familiar paintings – Elizabeth I as a princess, in a rose-red gown, with sleeves dripping gold embroidery, and a couple of pearl pendants you could swear you could pick off the canvas, van Dyck’s triple portrait of Charles I, Frances Stuart looking seductive in satin, with an entirely superfluous billow of fabric behind her. Familiar in reproduction, and fabulous. But, my goodness, the painting is even better when you can see it for real! Fur, gold thread, damask figured weaves, embroidery, gleaming pearls, glinting gems.

Then there were some unfamiliar ones. Edward IV, who I’ve read described as a blond beautiful giant, six foot tall, charismatic and something of a party animal. The portrait showed me a thin-faced, introspective man with dark red hair and a marked resemblance to the famous portrait of his brother Richard III – I suppose sitting for a portrait encourages introspection. Frances Stuart, in a buff coat like a man’s, her hair dressed to look like a man’s wig. Various unnamed men and women in the fashions of their time, in masque dress, fashionable clothes, clothes to make a statement. One lady wore a beautiful embroidered gown with a silvery gauze overdress set with crystals – imagine how many tiny brushstrokes you would need to bring a single crystal to life!

There were also some real examples – an embroidered jacket (not the Margaret Laton jacket, but very like it), a nightcap, and some gloves. And a Casket. And what a casket. It had a whole grove of needlelace-leaved trees planted on its’ lid, not to mention a horde of people frolicking around the side. And if I’ve learnt anything it’s that my detached buttonhole stitch is nothing like fine enough or tight enough. Sigh.

And the evening wasn’t over yet – after gloating over all that fabulous painted and embroidered finery, the recital! Jakob Lindberg is a great lutanist and a charming and knowledgeable man, so his introductions illuminated the music, and entertained the audience as much as his playing did. Though I did find myself wondering whether the composer had so attentive an audience when he played in the courts of England and Denmark!

16 thoughts on “A real treat

  1. That sounds amazing. I’ll have to see if I can get to London while the exhibition is still on – though I’m sad to have missed the music!

  2. I’m jealous: I’d love to get to this, although I can’t see it happening. I am pleased to see that so many of the exhibits can be seen on line. The Royal Collection Trust has been very generous with its photo galleries.

  3. Oh my – are you sure they hadn’t called you beforehand to ask what your interests are? This was just so much at one time — I’m sure your senses were overwhelmed (in a good way of course).

  4. Oh I would love to have been there. Art, Music, Embroidery and performance. All of my loves.

  5. I’m really glad that you saw the exhibition – I was hoping that you would.
    That ‘tree’ casket is magnificent, isn’t it!

  6. Oh how I would have loved to have gone to this! I wonder if there are pictures of the “tree casket” somewhere on the internet? I just received this book in the mail yesterday and enjoyed a few brief minutes leafing through. It’s gorgeous! The immersion into the period for an evening was such a brilliant way to see the show..the music, the visual stimulation must have been so inspiring…thanks for the detailed description.

  7. I’m so glad I dropped by today for a catch up. This looks like a great exhibition, I’m already making plans to visit. Thanks for sharing.
    jane

Comments are closed.