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Lady Butts, by a short mantle edged with fur. The cap more especially favoured those whom, now-adays, we consider the worst treated. The decided colours of its materials, the jewels along the border, and the gold tissue often interwoven with scarlet threads, enlivened the duskiest complexion, while the stiff angular forms relieved the hardest features. The mask of the face stood out sharply defined, but well supported. The profile told nobly. The side of the cap descending along the cheek assisted to give the perfect oval in the young, and to conceal that junction between the throat and jaw-bone on which time is most legible. Altogether it was a head-dress too old in itself for any one to look very old in it. In this costume we see much to account for that peculiar truthfulness in Holbein which, to our view, so amply compensates for the absence of the laxer graces of a later period. With forms so settled and rigid no latitude was left to a painter. All ages looked stiff and decorous alike, or, if they did not, it was no fault of the dress.
But lest this should be thought too hard upon the young,
it is evident that some choice was left to them, especially in the way of head-dress. This is seen in the drawings of Catherine Howard, of the Lady Audley, and of the exquisite Lady of Richmond with her downcast eyes, where a small circlet with drapery pendent from it fits on about half-way of the head, advancing over the ears, and fastening under the chin ; the hair being divided down the centre, and laid in simple bands low on the cheeks.
This is a head-dress which the youngest beauty would find it no hardship to adopt, while, to show how much the costume makes the painter, Holbein's pencil is as graceful here as if it had been guided by Eastlake. The partlet too was made to come off on dress occasions, as we see in Anne Boleyn's and Jane Seymour's pictures—the square form of the stomacher showing the bust to advantage; and even when on, a button or two left unfastened answered the same purpose.
Queen Catherine Parr by Holbein is a good model also for those ladies who, though not precisely in the yellow leaf, are somewhat on the turn, Catherine herself not being above thirty years of age at the time. Her dress is black, in ample folds about the person; the throat seen, though the bust is covered ; a slender border of hair visible beneath the closesitting matronly hood ; while the drapery pendent from it, and the large bustling sleeves, get rid of all that precision of outline which no one has any occasion to show or see.
From Holbein to Vandyke we may reckon a century; for the one died in 1554, and the other in 1641; and no century in English history shows such a complete revolution in female costume. In Queen Elizabeth, about half way between them, with her enormous ruffs, hideous wigs, allegorical garments, and equally overladen and exposed person, we see the representative of all that was extravagant, tasteless, and indelicate ; and in the Queen of Scots, with her sweet hood, small lawn ruff, high sombre dress,
and transparent veil over it, the model of all that was simple, graceful, and decorous :-Each the head of a fashion of which our galleries afford us plenty of specimens ; the elder and the plainer portion of the community, perhaps, oftener imitating the follies of her spinster Majesty than the proprieties of the widowed Mary, and vice versâ :--a circumstance, we understand, especially observable at some late Fancy Balls.
Still there remains no general picture on the mind; for the diversities of form were endless. Vandyke, like Holbein, seemed to lock the wheels of fashion for a time, and has bequeathed a distinct type. The great-grandchildren of those who had sat to Holbein now sat to him, but as differently apparelled as can well be imagined. Hair playing, drapery flowing, dropping laces, delicate linens, glossy silks—the stiff, wide, standing petticoat supplanted by a slender lengthened train—the head, the throat, the bust, the arms all bare—the contour of the figure all given, except where some rich drapery, secure in its own strength and glittering in its own light, wandered apparently at random across the figure, and was either caught up by a massive aigrette, or fell in ponderous folds below—a costume of apparent ease, but of infinite care-graceful, natural, withal a little indecorous--one which Vandyke alone seems to have been entitled to paint, and the young and the lovely to wear.
Instead of the mean average of a lady's age being now rated at fifty and upwards, it fell to fifteen and under; for some of Vandyke's female
portraits have even almost an infantine appearance, and with their playful hair curling all over the head, their short waists, tight pearl necklaces, thin transparent skins, and wandering artless eyes, and their full fair busts with only a rose by way of a tucker, remind us of some round-chested child who has outgrown her frock, or of those waxen dolls, with expansive pink necks, which lie about without shame and without chemisettes in the open shops.
But, as we have explained before, a costume which is the special friend of youth and beauty is a terrible tyrant to old age and homeliness. Any covering of Nature is better than any imitation of her, and imitations there will be when Nature herself is the Fashion. All whom she refused to help now did as they do still and ever will do-- they helped themselves. Those who had neither fine hair nor fine complexions wore false ; and what they could not mend they did not cover the more for that. We hardly remember any very old woman by Vandyke, except such as his Infantas of Spain and his Margaret of Parma, who are painted in their conventual garments; but there are plenty of specimens of a time of life for which such a costume as this was desperately out of
His Alathea Talbot is an example. She had evidently always been ugly, and apparently never been young. Nevertheless she is represented with her hair curling all over her head, and low on to her eyebrows-a decided wig-her cheeks doubly painted, first by herself, and then by Vandyke-a heavy double chin-a dress sedulously
open, and all deterioration of quality carefully made up for by a proportionate increase of quantity. Doubtless a fine Vandyke, but, for all that, a quiz ! Even the heroic Charlotte de la Tremouille, Countess of Derby, whose young and graceful picture by Cornelius Janssen was one of the greatest attractions at the British Gallery last summer (1846), appears, when sitting to Vandyke, with at least ten years thrown off her dress, and many more than that added to her age.
It must be admitted, too, that the airy ringlety style of coiffure, which is one of the distinctive marks of this painter, was only becoming, even in the young, to the most evanescent species of beauty. To the higher styles of physiognomy it can never have been favourable. It suited small delicate features and waxen complexions, where it played in light golden or chesnut curls, and cast violet shadows on pink foreheads. It became the round pearly Flemish faces, always fair and always fat, of Terburg's and Netscher’s ladies, who generally appear in this coiffure. It did well for faces like trim little villas, which may be overgrown with creepers, or
, overhung with willows; but fine features, like fine mansions, want space around them, and least of all can the smooth expanse of the forehead be spared ; and dark complexions require the relief of still darker masses of hair; and dark massive hair is meant to lie languidly in grand easy forms, and not to twist and twirl and stand on tiptoe in trivial transparent curls. We grudge the fine foreheads that have been frittered away by this coiffure, and long to lift up