I’m sure that you’ll recognise this picture. Its custodian, the V&A, says it “is perhaps the most famous of English miniatures. It epitomises the romantic Elizabethan age and is a masterpiece of miniature paintings by its greatest exponent, Nicholas Hilliard. The large elongated oval shape of this miniature was never repeated in Hilliard’s work and must relate to the now unknown purpose of the object. Possibly it was incorporated into an expensive object such as a looking-glass.”
It’s a portrait of young man in fashionable court dress leaning against a tree behind a thicket of roses. What is there one can possibly say about it that isn’t that obvious. As anyone who’s ever looked closely at paintings of this period will tell you, there’s an awful lot! So here are some questions. Who is he? Why is dressed as he is? Why is he posed in this way? Are the roses significant? and what does the inscription mean – did you even notice the inscription?
Sometimes one stumbles across interesting people by pure chance. Today’s post is one such serendipitous discovery. I was looking for images for another post and found an interesting watercolour painting of a landscape by a woman I’d never heard of, but who seemed interesting enough to do a quick search to see if she’d done any other paintings of interest.
So let me introduce you to Anne Rushout of Northwick Park and Wanstead Grove.
I wrote a couple of weeks back about the origin of the cottage garden, and today I want to take the story forward and look at how by the middle of Queen Victoria’s reign rural cottages and their gardens had become both a cause for social reformers and at the same time a rich subject for artists. But while one group saw only the poverty, squalor and daily grind, the other managed to romanticise what they saw and create idealised chocolate box versions of reality.
Guess which side won in the public perception both then and, I suspect, even today?
Another recent escape from lockdown took me to Hever Castle in Kent, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn. Obviously the castle itself was closed but I’d noticed a short piece about Hever and its display of tulips in Gardens Illustrated and, since I love tulips, that was a good enough excuse to get online and book tickets for the last week in April when they were supposed to be at their best. The 25,000 tulips did indeed make an impressive display but it was the setting that really stole the show.
The castle looks as if it should be in a children’s story. Although it’s small it’s perfectly formed with battlements, a moat with a drawbridge and a flag. In front, lining the approach path is a collection of topiary and behind it what appears to be a half-timbered Tudor village. All lovely but nothing compared with the hidden delights of Hever which are tucked away out of obvious and immediate sight.