Saturday, 28 March 2009

heraldic body

This very particular period of British painting [Elizabethan/Jacobean] [Peake, Larkin, Oliver, Hilliard] seems to use the body as eschutcheon. In heraldry the field is the whole surface of the shield, the ground upon which tinctures, furs, ordinaries and charges are represented: the provenance, position and aspiration of the sitter made emblematic within the field of painting. This seems especially evident in this portrait of Crompton, although his quartered arms are depicted top right, the portrait seems to function entirely as an heraldic body. If read literally, the three chains drawn from sinister to the dexter side of his body are a bend sinister -a device rarely found in coats of arms as it is reckoned an abatement, denoting illegitimacy. The arms actually depicted - three pheons in two of the quarters, a tower rising from the waves of water, a chevron with three eagles heads erased and the crest comprising a sea horse's head in a coronet - point towards the misidentification of the sitter.

  • 'In colouring the Crompton is warm and bright: a black suit decked with gold chains worn sashwise, a gorgeous blue-tinted ruff and a scarlet flower in his hand. The Background is a plain buff-coloured light brown, the inscription is in yellow, and he has not hesitated to use gold leaf in the delineation of the arms, although he has not used it for the jewels.' Elizabethan Painting: An Approach Through Inscriptions - 1: Robert Peake the Elder, Author(s): Roy C. Strong Source: The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 105, No. 719 (Feb., 1963), pp. 53-57

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