Portrait of a Lady of the Hampden Family
Unknown artist, Anglo; Flemish, England
Portrait of a Lady of the Hampden Family, ca. 1610
Oil on canvas
201.3 x 120 cm (79 5/16 x 47 5/16 inches)
Gift of Miss Lucy T. Aldrich 42.283
This extraordinary example of private portraiture depicts a young lady standing between palm and laurel trees on a grassy terrace above an enclosed garden. It is an example of an elaborate and highly mannered Elizabethan court style, practiced by Marcus Gheeraerts, the younger, and Robert Peake, both active in England in the first decades of the 17th century. The subject’s fashionably red tresses, crowned by a diadem, fall loose upon her shoulders to indicate her virginal status, befitting a bride. Her magnificent dress and elegant gestures reveal her participation in an Elizabethan masque, an elaborately staged entertainment performed by members of the court for a royal audience. Her costume, composed of a carnation-colored taffeta mantle over a dress embroidered with gold and silver threads, resembles one worn in a wedding masque performed for Queen Elizabeth I in 1600. Although opulently encrusted with pearls, the gown is worn gracefully, its profusion of blooms mirroring the young woman’s role as a fair flower in this courtly garden.