The Face of Queenship: Early Modern Representations of Elizabeth I (Queenship and Power)


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Katherine Butler's Research Blog

Clad in the same jewels and hairstyle, this queen is less fairy than harridan, her skin no longer snow white, but dunly weathered next to her pearls. Wrinkles plough across her forehead, dragging her mouth down into jowls and double chin. Her eyes are hooded, rather than youthfully alert; the bosom still snowy, but juxtaposed with a robustly raddled complexion. It is a face that fits fact rather than fantasy. Elizabeth, like her counsellors and the regime itself, was less flourishing than withering. Its realism is not unprecedented, but it is unusual.

Age has withered Elizabeth I, after all - Telegraph

Rare portrait of Elizabeth I 'does not cover up the queen's flaws'. Jubilee: criticism grows of BBC's 'lamentable' coverage. Royal family's favourite portrait painter reveals secrets of the royal sittings. For a woman whose youthful, virginal, thus potentially ever fecund body had been the chief metaphor of her reign, what could be more offensive than the suggestion that it — and her rule — might be approaching their demise?

They symbolised not the youthful fecundity that might still imply an heir — that hope was gone — but an immortality that rendered an heir unnecessary, even James I, the belching, farting, uncouth presence beyond the border.

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It fooled no one. I wonder which came first: the euphemistically young, or the uncompromisingly aged Gheeraerts? Did the wrinkled image represent a version of his initial representation of the monarch, later reworked to eliminate all signs of age in the Ditchley?

Bibliographic Information

The cultivation of the arts was thus part of their professionalization. However, the material knowledge of cosmetic ingredients was of special concern to the physician Haydocke.

Among the most widespread cosmetic ingredients from the early modern period up to the eighteenth century was white lead ceruse. Therefore, it could be added to red paint for cheeks and lips on both canvas and the human face and mixed with dyes containing precious substances, such as cochineal, henna, ochre, madder and sandalwood. Thake rock allum one ounce boile it in a pinte of running water, when it is dissolved take it off from the fire, let it coal, then adde to it Vermilion finely powdred one ounce, boile them againe to a consumption of half, streine the decoction and keep it for your use.

This cosmetic recipe simultaneously included four representative procedures for the preparation of rouge by recommending the extraction of a red hue from either vermilion or the more precious sandalwood and binding it either with gum arabic or alum. By the sixteenth century, it was a moderately-priced commodity retailed by apothecaries. Incorporate with a wooden pestle and in a wooden mortar with great labour foure ounces of sublimate, and one ounce of crude Mercury at least sixe or eight houres you cannot bestowe too much lavor herein then with often change of colde water by ablution in a glasse, take awaie the salts from the sublimate, change your water twise every day at the least, and in seaven or eight daies the more the better it will bee dulcified, and then it is prepared.


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Lay it on with the oyle of white poppey. Platt suggests crushing the mercury and binding it with poppy seed oil, a common pigment binder used in both oil painting and for pharmaceutical purposes.


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  • In addition, Haydocke mentions two other methods of binding mercury chloride: one can either prepare a wash for the face with it or use it mixed with a pomatum as a tinted skin ointment. Edith Snook notes that the majority of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century cosmetic recipe collections were gender neutral. In spite of its harmful side effects, white lead was used as a humor-drying anti-inflammatory due to its healing and adorning qualities cooling and drying. Edith Snook, however, concludes that the important categories in distinguishing recommended materials from dangerous ones were gender divergences in the production and use of cosmetics, not the effects of the ingredients themselves: The use of chemical ingredients alongside herbal ones in the practice of beautifying physic illustrates a form of experimental and intellectual authority and a challenge to attempts by scientists and physicians to delineate exclusionary, gendered categories of knowledge.

    The Face of Queenship: Early Modern Representations of Elizabeth I (Queenship and Power)

    Likewise, the young physician Haydocke, in his catalog of harmful cosmetics ingredients, admits the therapeutic value of substances such as mercury and white lead but warns against their use by women. Cosmetic ingredients and medicinal remedies, in sum, overlapped with painting colorants and oscillated between healing and harming, portraying and disguising, adorning and disfiguring.

    The case of white lead very much demonstrates that these connotations were determined by the proportion and composition of the pharmaceutical substances, their preparation, and the gender of the people involved in the production process: as a face-paint, it corrupted female integrity both morally and physically; as a pharmaceutical substance, it was a recommended remedy in medical practice.

    Merging the fields of medicine, cosmetics, and painting, the colors of beauty intersect in early modern writings on art and beauty at the convergence point of the human body and in the work of its male practitioners: in this context, physicians and painters. Different color worlds thus meet at the junction of the human body.

    FRANKLIN HELP

    Practitioners of art and medicine, of painting, physiology, anatomy and pharmacology shared a common interest in observing, examining and describing the human complexion and its colors as a medium of epistemology as well as of professional training and distinction. Resulting from a good balance of the four fluids of the body, hues of red, candido fair , white, vermillion and incarnato flesh-pink were thought to correspond with a healthy constitution.

    I feel I ought to point out a few things about the 'newly discovered' portrait of Elizabeth I doing the rounds, which has gone on display at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington. The fact that it shows Elizabeth with wrinkles has been cited as evidence of its extreme rarity.


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    From The Telegraph :. A draft of Royal Proclamation attempted to regulate the production and circulation of the Queen's portraits, and a order to the Privy Council commanded public officers "to aid the Queen's Sergeant Painter in seeking out unseemly portraits which were to her 'great offence' and therefore to be defaced and no more portraits to be produced except as approved by [the] Sergeant Painter.

    Age has withered Elizabeth I, after all

    He further observed that visitors offered less flattering descriptions. In The Guardian , Jonathan Jones makes this conclusion about the painting:. In the new, unvarnished portrait of Elizabeth I, wrinkles-and-all, the artist has stepped over a fine line. All the accoutrements of her glamour are there, but the painter has gone just that bit nearer to the reality behind the myth than was required to give a portrait plausibility. The result is a cruel unmasking of power. Could this have been a deliberately subversive image, hidden away in the house of some rebellious lord?

    Here is the fairy queen, her spell broken. Sadly, there is little we can deduce from this picture, and certainly not enough to make speculative claims of artistic subversion. First, contemporary portraits of Elizabeth I with wrinkles are not unknown.

    The Face of Queenship: Early Modern Representations of Elizabeth I (Queenship and Power) The Face of Queenship: Early Modern Representations of Elizabeth I (Queenship and Power)
    The Face of Queenship: Early Modern Representations of Elizabeth I (Queenship and Power) The Face of Queenship: Early Modern Representations of Elizabeth I (Queenship and Power)
    The Face of Queenship: Early Modern Representations of Elizabeth I (Queenship and Power) The Face of Queenship: Early Modern Representations of Elizabeth I (Queenship and Power)
    The Face of Queenship: Early Modern Representations of Elizabeth I (Queenship and Power) The Face of Queenship: Early Modern Representations of Elizabeth I (Queenship and Power)
    The Face of Queenship: Early Modern Representations of Elizabeth I (Queenship and Power) The Face of Queenship: Early Modern Representations of Elizabeth I (Queenship and Power)
    The Face of Queenship: Early Modern Representations of Elizabeth I (Queenship and Power) The Face of Queenship: Early Modern Representations of Elizabeth I (Queenship and Power)

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