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Anne Clopton Post-conservation image

Styled: Women and costume on canvas in the 17th Century

Friday 8 March 2024

This mini-exhibition celebrates 10 of the council’s 17th century female portraits as pieces of historic fine art, but further exploring the sitters and the messages left to us in the depiction of their likenesses.

Whether the closest you come to a self-portrait is a photo in a passport booth or a selfie for social media, irrespective of the parameters defined by either of those media, you want to best control the image of yourself and what other people will take from it.

Four hundred years ago when portraiture suddenly became available outside the Royal courts, as the only form of personal image preservation, one can assume that the utmost importance would have been placed behind how one’s personal image was captured. Who ultimately made that brush stroke execution’s executive decision? The artist – perhaps, if they had reached the eminence of Sir Peter Lely, or perhaps not if they were still building up their early portfolios. The sitter? Almost certainly if you were Mary Beale, both the subject and the painter. Or maybe not if you were fourteen year old Anne Clopton, freshly orphaned, newly inheriting, and quickly married. Quite probably the patron. The person who paid for the painting, who was not necessarily the sitter, and more often than not, in 17th Century England, a man. Using ten of its Fine Art 17th C. examples of female portraiture, including some of the biggest names within the collection for this period (Beale, Lely, Moyse’s Hall Museum’s ‘Styled’ mini-exhibition asks you, it’s audience, who do you think constructed these ladies’ images?

Working alongside the artist and textile specialist Juliet Lockhart, the exhibition explores further the intricacies behind their costume’s detail and composition. The emotive difference between the miniature and the three quarter length portrait through recreation and reinterpretation.

The service also celebrates the beautiful recent restoration of its picture of Ann Clopton of Kentwell Hall (Long Melford) C.1626 thanks to funding from the Woodmansterne Conservation Fund and its first time shown in public since.

The exhibition runs until 12 May and there are two Art textile costume workshops available for members of the public to book on to on 21 April and 2 May. For booking or more information please contact:

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