Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Two Exhibitions: Charles I: King and Collector and Charles II: Art and Power

Charles I: King and Collector – at the Royal Academy, Piccadilly, 27 January to 15 April 2018. Adult £20. Book:  Charles I: King and Collector Catalogue  256 pages, over 200 colour illustrations. Hardback £40. Paperback £28 

Charles I was an eclectic collector and the ten rooms at the Royal Academy bring together many of the items of his collection that were sold by order of Parliament after the King’s execution. Many are back in the Royal Collection, but other have been borrowed from museums across the world. As an interesting side note the catalogue of the collection, taken in 1637, still exists and many of the items have a comment saying where the painting was originally displayed.

The exhibition starts with the fantastic triple portrait of Charles by Van Dyck, which is also the poster for the exhibition. The painting was for Bernini to sculpt a bust of Charles. The bust was lost in the great Whitehall fire of 1698, when much of the Palace burnt down, and though many have berated Cromwell for selling off the collection, one wonders how much more would have been lost if they had still been in Whitehall.

The start of Charles’s collecting career was when, having gone to Madrid in 1623 for marriage negociations, he came back with paintings by Titian, Veronese and others. He also purchased six of the Raphel cartoons for the Sistine Chapel tapestries, for £300, and the Mortlake tapestry workshop founded by James I in 1619 copied these, one room is dedicated to Mortlake Tapesteries.  In 1627-32 Charles purchased the Gonzaga collection from Mantua, including  Mantegna’s Triumphs of Caesar, which have a whole room to themselves at the exhibition. 

Other rooms in the exhibition include two of Italian Renaissance paintings, one of Northern Renaissance, and a room containing works that had originally been in the Queen's Hose at Greenwich. There are also vast amounts of Rubens and Van Dyck, including Van Dyck’s “Greate Peece” of 1632, and his painting of the two sons of the assainated Duke of Buckingham (shown left). 

An excellent exhibition.

Charles II: Art & Power – at The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace, Friday, 8 Dec 2017 to Sunday, 13 May 2018. Adult £11.00. Book: Charles II: Art & Power  464 pages with over 400 colour illustrations. Hardback only £29.95

Detail from the Embarkation at Scheveningen
The Charles II exhibition starts with less of a bang than his father’s. The first room contains many prints, rather than paintings, including The Act abolishing the King,  and for even handedness Eikon Basilike, it also has the last portrait made of Charles I in his lifetime. However when you get into the room with John Michel Wright’s portrait of Charles II, Charles II dominates. The art, generally speaking is not as good as in the Charles I exhibition, though it does have the wonderful Leonardo da Vinci  drawing and many of Holbein’s drawings. Much of the portraiture of Charles court is by Lely, Kneller, Wright and Cooper. There are many depictions what is happening for example, Charles setting off for England in The Embarkation of Charles II at Scheveningen, and the Anglo-Dutch Wars of the 1660s in Holme’s Bonfire, and a couple of unusual portraits, The Chinese Convert by Kneller  and Bridget Holmes aged 96 by Riley.

 Much of what is on display is on the Royal Collection’s excellent website for the exhibition. Also you can take photographs at the Charles II exhibition, you can’t at  Charles I.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Charles I: clothing terminology

Charles I by Mytens. NPG

I have been putting Charles I’s clothes as listed in wardrobe accounts (Strong, 1980) into the Stuart Tailor database, and here I try to analyse how the terms used in accounts are depicted in portraits. This is Charles I by Daniel Mytens, the hyperlink is to the high res version of the low res version to the right. The portrait in the National Portrait Gallery is from 1631, so earlier than the wardrobe accounts I quote here, which are from 1633-5. 

The King normally buys suits, these consist of a doublet and hose (breeches), not always in the same fabric, and usually there is a matching cloak, for example “a suite the doublett lead cullor tabie the cloake and hose of cloth”.

The portrait depicts him in grey and there are several grey suits in 1633-5, as in: “a suit of grey cloth lined with tabie”, “a suite of lead cullor satin”, “a suite of mist grey drapbery cloth.” The braid that runs around the edges of the doublet and down the side of the hose is always referred to as lace, as in: “edged with a gould and silver edging lace,” in addition each seam has lace, sometimes this is the same as the edging lace, though in this portrait it would appear to be different. There are other portraits showing is style of layout of lace, and there is a black wool example in the Victoria and Albert Museum, unfortunately the museum website has no photographs. Seam laces are usually referred to as: “trimmed with two silke laces in a seame”, or “with two gould and silver laces in a seame”, or similar. 

The doublet seen in the portrait is cut into panes on the body and sleeves, in the accounts they would say “the doublet cut in panes”, if the panes were edged with the same lace as the seam lace it would say, “and laced with the same lace.” To the left is a detail of a paned doublet in the collection of the Gallery of English Costume at Platt Hall, Manchester. 

It is not the case with the suit shown in the portrait, but sometimes there would be two layers of fabric, one “cut upon” the other, so Charles has a suit of grass green tabby “lined with rose cullor tabie, cutt with and upon rose cullor taffaty”. This effect of this fashion can be seen in the Cotton suit of 1618 in the Victoria and Albert Museum, which is described as an “oyster colour silk satin with an under layer of blue silk.” (Braun, et al., 2016) 

The doublet and hose are tied together with points, these can be seen at the waist of the doublet in the portrait. Different types of points appear in the accounts, for example: “flatt points”, “square points” and “round points.” In addition suites of matching points, garters and shoe roses were purchased. In the Mytens portrait he is wearing boots, but in this portrait by Van Dyck his points, garters and shoes roses all appear to be the same colour.

Detail of Charles's spur leathers
He purchases large quantities of accessories. The gloves seen in the portrait are plain with a simple fringe. Among a vast number of other gloves, in 1633-4 he buys “2 dozen pairs of thick stags lether gloves with gould and silver frindges.” His boots are also plain, he buys (in one year) “24 paires of bootes” and “20 pairs of strong riding bootes”, not to mention the 189 pairs of shoes. Spurs can also be seen on the boots. These come in different types, and I don’t know enough about spurs to identify the differences. We have “hunting spurs”, and “Bramspith spurres.” He also buys spurleathers, that piece of butterfly shaped leather across the instep of the boot, and the straps that attach the spur to the boot. These can be seen clearly in a detail from the equestrian portrait of Charles I on horseback by Van Dyck. There are references to “hatching and guilding” spurs and to “trimming” spurs. Worn under the boots you can see at the knee his boot hose, which he buys “3 dozen pairs” at a time. 

His linens, as in his band (collar) and shirts, do not appear in his wardrobe accounts.

Braun, M, et al. 2016. 17th-century men's dress patterns 1600-1630. London : Thames & Hudson, 2016. 978 0 500 51905 9.
Strong, Roy. 1980. Charles I's clothes for the years 1633-1635. Costume. 1980, Vol. 14, 73-89

Monday, 20 November 2017

10th Knitting History Forum Conference – a report

Joyce Meader's collection of knitting gauges
An excellent day at the conference of the Knitting History Forum. The papers given covered 2000 years of knitting and crochet history, with three excellent papers on the early modern period which is of special interest to me. In addition there was a show and tell table or two where Joyce Meader had brought along her collection of knitting gauges (right), and a lady, whose name escapes me (sorry) had brought along samples of wool from different English breeds, and was talking about what we would lose if some of these breeds become extinct. Please note that the very brief comments below are my own and my apologies if I have misinterpreted anything someone said. Taking the papers in chronological order, rather than the order in which they were given.

Ruth Gilbert – On a complex knitting technique from Egypt. 

Ruth was looking at very early, mainly pre-modern knitting examples ranging from a 3rd century AD Egyptian sock from Antinoupolis made in what she described as a “crossed encircled loop,” to a 13th to 15th century Egyptian uncrossed two course simple knit fragment now in the V&A. Ruth also demonstrated how some of these very early techniques were worked. It is always easier to see what is going on when someone is demonstrating.

Lesley O’Connell Edwards – Of stockings and sleeves: insights from 16th century knitted items in the Museum of London. 

Lesley was the Pasold/Museum of London Research Fellow in 2015/6 and kindly gave us a handout listing all the items she had looked at as part of the project, unfortunately many of them are not on the Museum’s online database. She had looked at 14 whole or part stockings, three sleeves and a child’s mitten. Among the stockings were some with a heel like this example (Museum ID A26851), where the heel is created by working an area of “reverse stocking stitch”. As far as I can see, and Lesley had knitted a sock using this technique so we could see how it worked, you get to the point in the tube of the leg where you want to create the heel, then you reverse the knitting for a length, then go back, so you have put two or three rows into the same stitch, and continue this getting wider and then narrower, so that you produce a “bulge” which forms the heel. That is not a very clear description; you can see it on the original I have linked to above, and below is close up photograph of Lesley’s reconstruction. The toe on this was produced by several rounds of knit two together. The silk stocking foot that Lesley looked at has a more complex heel. Lesley said that the sleeves were narrow and came in different lengths. I believe the longest was 49cm. They were knitted at around 4 stitches and 6-7 rows per cm, and one had two rows of reversed stocking stitch at the top. The wrist sizes were between 15 and 20 cm.
Lesley O'Connell Edwards reconstruction

 Maj Ringgaard – The development of stockings 1600-1800: evidence from the Copenhagen excavations.

Copenhagen has had several excavations which have turned up textiles from the 16th and 17th centuries, particularly where old canals/moats have been filled in and the textiles can therefore be dated to pre the infill. Maj looked at the main components of early modern stockings: the welt, false seam, clock and heel. It is at this point that I realise my notes are not nearly comprehensive enough. There was a lot of discussion about the use of, or rather the lack of use of, purl stitches. Many of what we think are purl stitches are created when the knitting is turned inside out and knitted in the opposite direction; this creates the appearance of purl. So the welt at the top of some stockings was created by knitting a couple of rows, turning inside out and knitting a couple of row in reverse and then turning back. Maj commented that the false seams appear to be more elaborate in the first part of the seventeenth century. For the clocks, where you have an embroidered clock, there is almost always a decorative knitted clock underneath. Maj showed a couple of close ups to illustrate this, but unfortunately I didn’t make a note of whose they were. The stockings showed a variety of heels including the Balbriggan heel, though the most common used was the “common” heel. Maj noted that repairing and refooting of stockings appeared to be taking place across all levels of society. 

Helena Lundin – Shipwrecked knitting: fragments from the Swedish 17th century flagship Kronan.

The Kronan (Royal Crown) exploded and sank during the Battle of Oland on 1st June 1676. She lost most of her bow, and the majority of the 842 souls on board (which included 300 soldiers) were lost. A vast amount of material has been excavated from the ship and is at the Kalmar County Museum. Helena examined fragments from around 80 items, 86% were wool and 14% silk. Among the items were gloves, headgear, waistcoats and stockings. At least one of the gloves has the wrist knitted on thinner needles, and gauges of 2.5 to 3 stitches per cm, and 4 rows per cm. There is a hat knitted in the round with the brim knitted double at a gauge of 1.5 stitches and 3 rows per cm. Fragments of a knitted silk waistcoat with silver embroidery has silk pile on the inside which has been stitched in and not knitted in. The woollen stockings can be long, with legs up to 84 cm, some are heavily fulled, and there are two heel constructions used.

Barbara Smith – Wools for the world: Wakefield Greenwood of Huddersfield

Barbara examined the history of the Wakefield Greenwood company, founded by Clara Greenwood (b.1898) and Harold Wakefield (b. 1898). They opened their shop in Victoria Street Huddersfield in 1919, selling haberdashery, needlework supplies and knitting yarns. By the 1930s they were advertising in magazines such as Stitchcraft, and Vogue Knitting offering a postal service and with a 60 page mail order catalogue. They traded as Greenwoods until 1946 when the wholesale yarn business became Wakefield Greenwood. They sold a wide range of yarns including rayon, and were the first to sell nylon yarn. They also started doing their own patterns. They moved from Huddersfield in 1962 and the company ceased trading in 1966.

Matteo Molinari – Crocheting cultures: traditional Italian crocheting practice in private and public spaces in Veneto

This paper came from the work Matteo did for his PhD. It looked at current and recent production of crocheted items within families in one small area of the Veneto. Matteo did a lot of filmed interviews, some of which we viewed,  with people who would talk about and show the dollies, curtains, bedspreads, etc. That they had produced for themselves and their families.