Friday, April 29, 2011

Two early modern royal souvenirs

Well, royalty is the theme of the day, so I thought I'd post two early modern royal images, or (at a stretch) souvenirs. My first is this quite astonishing portrait miniature in silk, from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's collection. They don't have it on show, and one imagines its colours are most probably kept from the light of day in a black velvet-lined box. But their web exhibit is very good, here:,29.23.8

As they rightly say about it, "this embroidered portrait miniature ... is one of the most beautifully executed examples of professional embroidery from the seventeenth century". It is all worked in stitching: "All of the elements, from the lace collar and medallion of the Order of the Garter worn by the king, to the highlights in his eyes and hair, are rendered in minute stitches of silk and metal thread." The Met's website gives magnified close ups so you can appreciate the work that went into it:

The image of the martyr-king is after Wencelas Hollar, and before him, of course, Van Dyck. The same image is used as the frontispiece for the 1651 Reliquiae Sacrae Carolae. The execution of the portrait is a work of extreme skill, and reverence too: this level of work could only be paralleled in vestments or copes (which sometimes have pictorial elements). The Met site says that "a number of similar portraits survive in public and private collections". Someone bought a late example at this sale for £3,400:

Here's the other end of the scale, from the single sheet publication of 1613, The Royall line of kings, queenes, and princes, from the vniting of the two royall houses, Yorke and Lancaster

Here are the Tudors and the Stuarts: Henry VII and Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary and Elizabeth, James I, Prince Henry (who has just died), Anne of Denmark, the youthful Prince Charles, Princess Elizabeth and her husband, Frederick, Count Palatine, labelled 'R.B'. for Rex Bohemiae. The verses are these:

OF these, the first, is He, that did Unite,
The two sweet Roses; made Contention, Peace:
The second, He, at whose Majestique sight,
All that opposd him did recoile and cease.
The third, young Edward, of that name the sixt,
Where pious thoughts and Royal blood were mixt.

The Fourth Queen Mary; (in this steame, a staine,)
To Rome, a friend, but to the Truth, a Foe;
The Fift Eliza, in whose blessed Raigne,
Not any room was left, for Rome, to show
A wooden God, to kneele to: Truth and She.
One Septer swayed, with one cleere eye did see.

The Sixt is He, that now makes Englands Seat,
The Seat of Vertue, (that including all,
The Stock of Goodnesse) One, as Good as Great,
Before whose Shine, Clowded abuses fall:
The seaventh, that Prince, that while he here did liuv,
As Faire Hopes gave, as ere fresh youth could giue.

The Eight, Queene Anne, The Ninth, the Royall Charles:
The Tenth Elizabeth (of these) the last
Her Royall Husband: All these, Lucent Pearles
That in their Vertues, such a luster cast,
As all admire, and Love. Who to the Fame
Of these bear Envy, may they end in Shame.

The prominence of Frederick makes this a souvenir for the 1613 royal wedding.

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