Monday, 18 March 2013

William Larkin's Beautiful Jackets

William Larkin is not a name that registers immediately as that of a famous painter - there are many who are much better known to us. But he was one of the most faithful of portraitists in the time of James I of England. Born in England sometime in the early 1580's, his life was relatively short - he died before he was 40 in 1619. But I simply love the way he adores embroidery and lace! As you can see those early Stuart dresses were a little risky. There is a story that in 1860 Ismail Pasha of Egypt had the experience of a court lady curtseying rather low before him and falling out of her corsage - to whom he said: Mais, madame, il ne faut pas perdre ces belles chose-là, comme ci, comme ça, etcetera.

But I digress - just look at this detail of the jacket with its gold work, braid stitch tendrils and bright coloured, satin stitched flowers, all sprinkled around with paillettes. And the lace of the cuff is pretty spectacular too, isn't it?
Here is another detail of the embroidery on her arm.
And then we look down and see that the design of her skirt is totally amazing - those sea creatures swimming around, creating ripples are totally fabulous in every sense of the word.

This portrait by Larkin is in Kenwood House London. Painted around 1615 it is of Lady Dorothy Cary. It would seem she is embroidered and laced to within an inch of life. I find the designs here of the jacket, skirt and cloak to be utterly magnificent

Here you can see a little more of the design - and note those extravagantly expensive double lace cuffs.
Above is another fabulously revealing jacket by Larkin - this time belonging to, it is thought, Lady Thornhagh and below is the Jacobean beauty, Elizabeth Honeywood - but note the sea-change in design on her jacket and skirt. This picture was once in the collection of Sir Elton John.


  1. Amazing embroideries! It would be both satisfying and maddening to work on such a project. :)

  2. Thank you for today's fascinating blog!

    Way back in 2007 I had three opportunities to work on The Plymouth Jacket, and got caught up in its unique patterning like so many folks did. While leafing through a D&K book on cathedrals I came across a thumbnail snap of one of the galleries in Saint Basil's in Red Square. Staring right back at me was The Jacket.

    One thing always leads to another...

    In May of 1553, a group of wealthy merchant adventurers set out on a mission to establish a trade route Eastward, and made their way to Moscow, where they met with Ivan the Terrible and his court. As Ivan was responsible for having Saint basil's constructed, the Englishmen would most certainly would have seen it, and all sorts of other exotic things.

    Trade between the two countries was established, and eventually the English delegations built their own quarters in Moscow. Over the years, did they bring back with them sketches/images of the interior walls of Saint Basil's, which may have found their way, eventually, after many years, into the workrooms and onto the frames?


  3. A litlle risky?

    Kilometers of double-sided tape, these days...