Elizabeth Poulett, 1616
Oil on panel
Inscribed and dated, 1616 / AE te. 22
31 x 25 in. (78.7 x 63.5 cm)
Elizabeth Kenn (1593-1663) married John, 1st Lord Poulett (1586-1649), in 1613. John Poulett was an ardent supporter of Charles I and an active Royalist commander in the Civil War. When he died in 1649, Elizabeth married his old friend and ally Jack, son of John Ashburnham (see his portrait in the Berger Collection by Hieronimo Custodis). The ties between the Poulett and Ashburnham families were further strengthened when Elizabeth's youngest daughter, also named Elizabeth, married William Ashburnham, Sir John's eldest son by his first marriage.
Robert Peake's picture of Elizabeth shows her at age twenty-two, three years after her marriage to Lord Poulett. Seated, she wears the latest fashions of the day. Around her neck she has a stiffly starched lace golilla, or standing band, with matching cuffs. Her exquisitely embroidered dress, with its revealing, low-cut neckline, contrasts with the gown worn by Anne Knollys in her portrait by the same artist, which is done up right to the neck in the style of the 1580s. Elizabeth's hair is softly brushed back and surmounted by a jeweled and feathered caul, an indoor head-dress worn by ladies. The black spot on her face is not a blemish but a patch of either velvet or silk applied with glue. Such patches were considered highly attractive and remained in vogue until the end of the seventeenth century. But the lavish use of material decoration visible here - embroidery, jewelry, precious metal thread, bows, earstrings, and starched lace - ceased to be fashionable after 1630.
By descent to Earl Poulett, and always at Hinton House; Hinton House sale, Sotheby's, February 19, 1969, lot 17; with Thomas Agnew & Sons, London, 1969; Lady Merton; with Thomas Agnew & Sons, London, 1977; private collection, Australia; with Thomas Agnew & Sons, London
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