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''Margaret Laton''


''Margaret Laton'' ''Margaret Laton''
''Margaret Laton''
''Margaret Laton'' "Margaret Laton" ''Margaret Laton''
 
  Marcus Gheeraerts, the Younger - Oil on oak panel – 81,5 x 62,5cm, 1620 - Victoria and Albert Museum, London
 
 



This painting is an intriguing example of English painting of the early 17th century when portraits of noble or wealthy men and women became increasingly common. Important as it was to dress magnificently, it was also essential to be portrayed in one's finery, to emphasize their status. Although its author and date are not known with certainty, the painting has been attributed to Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger (c.1561-1636), the most fashionable portraitist in the two decades around 1600 in the English court. This theory is backed by the similarities shown with other female portraits ascribed to Gheeraerts in the handling of details on the costume.


Margaret Layton (1579-1641) was the daughter of a wealthy vintner and grocer of Surrey, who was knighted in 1603 and she may have been a Lady-in-Waiting at the court of Elizabeth I. She married Francis Layton (1577-1661) of West Layton and Rawdon, West Yorkshire, who served as one of the Master Yeomen of the Jewel House for Kings James I, Charles I, and briefly after the Restoration, Charles II. This portrait shows her as a young lady and indeed it was most common for a woman to sit for her portrait at the time of her marriage. The size and plain setting of the work and the relative informality of her costume make it unlikely that it was designed to commemorate a great public occasion. The sitter is shown as a model of propriety, with her eyes slightly evading the viewer and a small missal in her hand alluding to her religious virtue.

Acquired with the actual jacket depicted in the painting, it is an extremely rare case of a portrait surviving for more than 350 years together with part of the costume worn by the sitter. Comparison with the bodice shows that the artist has painted its distinguishing features with great care, reflecting the value that it held for the sitter. She is wearing a skirt with an apron, an open gown with hanging sleeves, and a full complement of accessories: plumed cap, falling lace ruff and matching cuffs, and elaborate jewelry. But the most magnificent component of her ensemble is the jacket, in a style fashionable between 1600 and 1620 made of line, lined with pink silk taffeta, embroidered in colored silks, silver threads, and beads forming a curvilinear pattern. The artist paid particular attention to reproducing the richly detailed plants, fruits, flowers, birds, and insects.


 


 
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