Tudor and Stuart fashion at the Royal Collection
May 15 2013
The Royal Collection has put on yet another excellent exhibition at the Queen's Gallery in London. Hot on the heels of the superb 'Northern Renaissance', the new show 'In Fine Style - The Art of Tudor and Stuart Fashion' looks at the sumptuous costumes worn at court in the 16th and 17th Centuries. Says the Royal Collection website:
This exhibition explores the sumptuous costume of British monarchs and their court during the 16th and 17th centuries through portraits in the Royal Collection. During this period fashion was central to court life and was an important way to display social status. Royalty and the elite were the tastemakers of the day, often directly influencing the styles of fashionable clothing.
In Fine Style follows the changing fashions of the period, demonstrates the spread of styles internationally and shows how clothing could convey important messages. Including works by Hans Holbein the Younger, Nicholas Hilliard, Van Dyck and Peter Lely, the exhibition brings together over 60 paintings, as well as drawings, garments, jewellery, accessories and armour.
There are many fine pictures on display, including Van Dyck's Portrait of Charles I in Three Positions. This is hung next to both Charles' Garter sash, and what is thought to be one of his lace collars (though personally I suspect it is too large to have been worn by so small a man). The pictures have been hung quite low, which makes them wonderfully accesible, and you can really peer into all the details of the costume. And don't forget that thanks to the Royal Collection's enlightened policy on photography (National Gallery please take note) you can snap away to your heart's content. Regular readers won't be surprised to hear that I took the opportunity to stock up on Van Dyck details. Note the smoother modelling of the flesh that Van Dyck appears to have used for his portraits of Charles I and Henrietta Maria - was this highly finished technique the result of a special command from the King and Queen?
In amongst the pictures are illustrated storyboards which tell you all you need to know about the clothes of the period, and in that respect the show is notable for what is not in it: I suspect (without naming any names) that other institutions faced with mounting an exhibition on Tudor and Stuart fashion would have gone down the route of talking mannequins, clever lighting, and fancy dress boxes for da kids.
As ever with the Royal Collection there's also a faultless and lavishly illustrated catalogue, written by the exhibition's curator Anna Reynolds.
Update - Richard Dorment in the Telegraph calls the show 'superlative'.
Update II - a reader writes:
I keep thinking you could have been the sitter for Van Dyck's Portrait of Charles I in Three Positions.