Wednesday, April 4, 2018

17C Portraits - Families Head Outside as Man Becomes "the Interpreter of Nature"

The Renaissance, from the 14-17C, marked a turning point in portraiture. Renaissance artists began to paint secular scenes, breaking away from the dominant religious art of medieval painters. Partly out of interest in the natural world & partly out of nostalgia for classical Greece & Rome, portraits became valued as symbolic & allegorical objects & as depictions of earthly success & status. The period in Europe was the cultural bridge between the Middle Ages & modern history. The relationship between man & nature was evolving as Francis Bacon (1561-1626) promoted man as "the minister & interpreter of nature." Portraits began to depict the wealthy & the middle class in natural landscapes & in more formal garden settings, where man was obviously controlling the nature around him.  Thus, the Renaissance garden became as much as symbol of the owner's wealth & culture as his house or art collection.
1745 copy of 1625 original by Cornelis Janssens van Ceulen (British artist, 1593-1661) The Capel Family pose safely on a draped terrace with their complicated garden in the background. Arthur Capel 1st Baron Capel of Hadham,his wife, Elizabeth Morrison and their children, Mary, Henry, Charles, Elizabeth and Arthur. In 1632, Hadham Hall was inherited by Arthur Capel, who made many additions and alterations to the property. These included the building of a Banqueting Hall that fully enclosed the courtyard to form a quadrangle, and an Italian garden. This he embellished with four fountains, classical statues, and a large terrace overlooking the deer park and woods. 

This painting is a c 1745 copy of a larger 1625 original. It is thought that the this copy was made for one of the daughters in the painting, Bridget. She was married & would have taken this painting with her, when she moved to her husband's house, Croxteth Hall, Liverpool. The "original" still hangs at Charlecote Park in Warwickshire, the ancestral home of the Lucy family. The painting shows Sir Thomas & his wife, Alice, with 7 of their 13 children. The 2 boys at the front of the painting are wearing petticoats. This was usual for the time, when boys were not "breeched;" until they were aged between 4-7. Their their bodices (top of their dress) are like their father's doublet (his short, tight jacket), not like their mother's dress. The baby at the back of the picture is probably a boy whose clothes are made from the same material as the brothers' clothes. The eldest boy on the left, Spencer Lucy, is probably between 10 & 13 years of age. At the time boys of this age were dressed as young adults rather than as children. The faces of the family would have been painted from individual studies. The clothing may have been arranged on a dummy or another stand-in figure. This would have meant that the family, & in particular the children, would not have had to sit for any uncomfortable length of time.