Sleeve Questions…

As I was pulling images for another project today, I came across a pair of portraits of Elizabeth of Valois that left me pondering the possibilities.

The first painting is in the Toledo Museum of Art (click on “Enlarge Image” under the portrait to see the details). This painting was made by the French court painter, Francois Clouet, in 1559, probably just before she left for Spain and to celebrate her marriage to King Philip of Spain. In it, she is clearly wearing French style of clothing.

The second portrait is in the Museo Nacional del Prado (click on the portrait, and then on the next image that loads, to view the largest version). This one was made just a few years later, around 1563-1565, and was done by her friend, art teacher, and one of the Spanish court painters, Sofonisba Anguissola. This one clearly shows her in the Spanish style of clothing.

Despite the drastic differences in the clothing, both portraits show the exact same sleeves, with the same gold and pearl embroidery, and the same slashing pattern. But each sleeve is in a different color and has a different lining. The first pair are white with gold lining that looks more smooth than the lining of the second pair. The second pair are red, with heavily gathered white fabric lining them.

This interesting tidbit leaves me intrigued. Did Anguissola copy Clouet’s portrait, simply changing the clothing that wasn’t Spanish in style, or did Elizabeth actually own these sleeves? If the latter, what colors were the original sleeves? Was the lining changed in the 3-5 years between the portraits, or are the differences merely interpretation by the artist? Or were the sleeves unlined, and what we see is actually a second sleeve in gold and the white of the shirt? We’ll never know for certain, but the possibilities fascinate me…

Categories: Clothing | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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