Spectacle and Splendor at the Jacobean Court

Portrait of a Young Woman possibly Jane, Lady Thornaugh, 1617, by William Larkin

By Yale Center for British Art

Portrait of a Young Lady, possibly Jane, Lady Thornhaugh (1617) by William Larkin, ca. 1580–1619, BritishYale Center for British Art

Although this painting is not signed, it is instantly recognizable as the work of William Larkin, who was active in London in the second decade of the seventeenth century.

The inscription on the left of the painting tells us that it was made in 1617 and that the sitter was in the seventeenth year of her life. While we can't be certain about her identity her sumptuous costume is indicative of her status.

Before Larkin's true identity was rediscovered in the 1950s he was known as 'The Curtain Master', in recognition of the voluminous curtains in many of his pictures.

Larkin was an expert in imitating the appearance of textiles. He manipulated the brush to drag paint and follow the intricate network of lace…

…loaded the tip of the brush and placed the paint in a blob so that when it dried it stood proud from the surface and caught the light, resembling the shine of the silver-gilt embroidery on the sleeve…

…and blended the paint with strong highlights and shadows to imitate the texture of velvet and the sheen of silk on the red and blue mantle worn across the body for warmth.

Her magnificent silk skirt is embroidered with depictions of flora and fauna that dart merrily between a watery surface, with the folds of the fabric mirroring ripples and waves.

The cut of this jacket was the height of fashion time and was worn at court by the queen consort Anna of Denmark. This example was embroidered with a stitched design of insects, birds and flowers and decorated with a plaited braid of silver-gilt thread.

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