The Age of the Ruff, 5

Charles d'Albret, duc de Luynes, 1620s

Charles d’Albret, duc de Luynes, 1620s

Charles d’Albret, duc de Luynes, great favourite of the young Louis XIII of France (not unlike his contemporary, the Duke of Buckingham in England), wears an impressive lace collar. The ruff slowly gave way to the lace collar in the first half of the 17th century.

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The Gozzadini family of Bologna, 1584

The Gozzadini family of Bologna, 1584

The Bolognese Gozzadini family with their little dog. The large canvas, it is two and a half metres high and two metre wide, was commissioned from Lavinia Fontana in 1584. Another dog is seen in the background, in another room. Showing a suite of rooms in the background was to become a popular feature in Dutch painting in later decades.

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At the Balustrade, 3

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Virgin and Child painted by St. Lucas, by Rogier van der Weyden

Virgin and Child painted by St. Lucas, by Rogier van der Weyden

This Virgin and Child, portrayed by Saint Lucas, the patron saint of artists, was painted by Rogier van der Weyden in 1440. He was heavily inspired by Jan van Eyck’s Virgin of the Chancellor Rolin, and again a town is seen in the background, this time Tournai. Also a couple is again leaning over the balustrade in the background. This time it is a man and a woman, while in van Eyck’s picture it was two men, and in a later painting it would be a pair of lovers.

Detail of Virgin

Detail of Virgin and Child painted by St. Lucas

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At the Balustrade, 2

Maitre de la vue de Saint Gudule

Virgin and Child with Saint Mary Magdalene by the Master of the View of St. Gudule, late 15th century

Another painting of the Virgin and Child with the donor in veneration before them. The background is once again made up by a town and river with some figures leaning over a balustrade. This time it is a pair of lovers. The panel attributed to the so-called Master of the View of St. Gudule (Maitre de la vue de Saint-Gudule), who was active in Brusels between 1470 and 1490, was probably inspired by the Virgin of the Chancellor Rolin by van Eyck.

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At the Balustrade, 1

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Jan van Eyck's 1435 Virgin of Chancellor Rolin is the most famous painting with people leaning over a balustrade in the background

Jan van Eyck, Virgin of Chancellor Rolin, c.1435

Nicolas Rolin, a very important man at the court of Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, apparently had good cause to pray to the Virgin Mary and her son, Jesus. This masterpiece by Jan van Eyck is only one of several pictures depicting him in the pose of patron in prayer. Rolin’s power is emphasized by his attire, which shows the typical pomegranate pattern of Italian velvets of the 15th century. In the background appear a town and river with two gentlemen leaning over a balustrade and looking over the fantastical scenery.

The Age of the Ruff, 4

Anne of Austria, Queen of France, by Pieter Paul Rubens, c.1621-1625

Anne of Austria, Queen of France, by Pieter Paul Rubens, c.1621-1625

Anne of Austria, the consort of King Louis XIII of France, was a sister of Philip IV of Spain and in her early twenties when Rubens made this portrait of her. She is sitting on a costly armchair, an accessory rarely missing from rulers’ portraits. Anne was famous for her jewels, which according to Alexandre Dumas got her entangled in a slightly scandalous affair with the powerful English courtier-statesman, the Duke of Buckingham. Rubens portrayed both Anne and her mother-in-law, Marie de Medicis, many times.

The Age of the Ruff, 3

Young Among Roses, by Nicholas Hilliard, c.1585

Young Man Among Roses, miniature by Nicholas Hilliard, c.1585

This young man among roses is almost certainly Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, Elizabeth I’s famous favourite. The roses are eglantines, a flower associated with the queen. Essex is shown in the pose of the melancholy youth; melancholy being a fashionable upperclass condition in the years around 1600.

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Hans Memling, Vanity, c.1490

Hans Memling, Vanity, c.1490

The young lady is holding a mirror, looking at her pretty face. The mirror, a costly product in the 15th century, symbolizes vanity, a mortal sin. Most depictions of vanity show a girl richly dressed, but Memling apparently chose to appeal to his customers’ hidden desires; he also hints at the outcome of the sin of vanity, i.e. fornication, adultery etc. Nudes were rare in Early Netherlandish painting, but far from unknown.

The Age of the Ruff, 2

Edmund Spenser, 1590s

Edmund Spenser, 1590s

Edmund Spenser is most famous for his work The Faerie Queene, an Arthurian-style eulogy of Queen Elizabeth I and her courtiers. Spenser’s early patron was Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, who employed him as one of his secretaries. Later, Spenser lamented Leicester’s death with the poem “A glass upon the water”.