It is very nearly my birthday and the Medieval Historian has to do work of national importance on that day, clearly, so on Sunday I had my official birthday. We went to the recently refurbished and generally made-over Holburne Museum in Bath to see a small exhibition of sumptuous portraits: Painted Pomp: Art and Fashion in the Age of Shakespeare. The exhibition is very small and is mainly portraits with a few examples of clothing of the period, as well as a pair of costumes from the Globe theatre and a video showing you how the clothes were put on, but it is really gorgeous. The paintings glow and if you are interested in textiles you can clearly see examples of just about everything you might be interested in from embroidery (including blackwork), beading, passementerie, pleating, pinning and printing. It really ought to be called ‘Attention all lacemakers’, though, because there are wonderful examples of lace, both painted and in person, as it were, as well as lots of illustrations about how items such as ruffs were worn. If, like me, you love decoration to the point of excess, it is sheer delight. I was very taken with the pom poms at the knee in the example above with the gold lace hanky affairs hanging from them. As the Medieval Historian pointed out, these people can not have done any work at all, and given that they changed their undershirts several times a day, they must have stayed indoors at court for most of their lives.
The paintings are now owned by English Heritage, and are full-length portraits by William Larkin, painted around 1613-18. The Exhibition is on until 6 May 2013, half price for Art Fund members.
This crop is the only other image I could find, but again gives a good idea of the lace and, in this instance, the rather wonderful proto-punk slashing on the underskirt.
Our enjoyment of the show was enhanced greatly, not, by a group of elderly Bath residents braying loudly all the way round, talking about their mother’s frightful snobbery. Not having money is apparently no excuse for not having a pretty dress. So I learned something there too.
Otherwise, there was a surprisingly wonderful exhibition of folded linen napkins, which sounds dull, but as they were folded into castles, fish, goddesses with cornucopia, and the double-headed Hapsburg eagle, they were genuinely delightful. There was also a helpful video tutorial and hands-on station that would make Martha Steward jealous.
Finally, the remodelling of the museum has been a big success, I thought. It looks like the same architect who did the Ashmolean and medieval wing of the VandA, all steel and glass, but the cafe is really lovely:
You really got a sense of being in the park, and in summer, I imagine, it will be lovely to sit outside.
Brayers apart, then, a lovely afternoon and highly recommended if you can get to Bath.