Painted Lace

I have a total fascination with Tudor portraiture. The costume, the faces so full of poise and character, the refined painted surface, often on wood, the symbolism, all appeals to me. On a recent visit to London I was fortunate to see quite a few paintings, here’s a flavour of them, focussing especially on the fabulous painted lace…

Let’s start with this fantastic small portrait of Elizabeth I. The sleeves are pretty amazing aren’t they? Love that lace ruff though don’t you? So softly painted, I love how the artist has blocked in a haze of pale grey to suggest the depth of the lace, but then painted on top with the finest of brushes and semi-opaque paint to add the detail of the lace patterning and structure. Artist unknown as far as I’m aware, but British school, approximately 1590s, oil on wood.

Moving on, but staying with Elizabeth I, this is one of the three Armada Portraits. I just love this don’t you! This version is in the Queen’s House, Greenwich and I had the privilege of being the only person in the room with it. That makes such a change when so often the galleries in London are just packed out. This is a much larger painting than the previous one, but still oil on wood and it has a fantastic bellied surface. Artist unknown, but again British and from about 1590.

Looking at the lace in more detail on this one, you can see that the artist this time has taken a much flatter approach with the lace appearing more one-dimensional. It’s exquisite in its level of detail.

And look at the cuff. See how the artist has conveyed everything you need with just that wavy white line?


The men in Tudor portraits also have fantastic lace collars and I thought this was a great example. This is James Lancaster and painted in 1596 by an unknown artist, oil on wood.

This painting is in the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London, the others are in the Queen’s House Gallery also in Greenwich.
Hope you enjoyed these paintings as much as I did.
Love Laura