The seventeenth century was the period of Baroque art. It was a gaudy and elaborate style that prioritized extravagance that was mirrored in the fashions of the time. The seventeenth century was the age of absolutism and as such portraits expressed wealth and power, of which fashion became a key aspect.
Anne of Denmark was the Queen Consort of James I and VI of England, Scotland, and Ireland. Many of her portraits depict her in elaborate clothing covered in jewels and this image is no exception. The shape of her skirt was formed due to the use of a farthingale, which restricted the wearer’s movement, but gave an amazing silhouette.
Anne of Austria the mother of the eventual ‘King of Fashion’ Louis XIV was Queen Consort of Louis XIII and Regent of France. In this portrait by Peter Paul Rubens, she is depicted in an elaborately designed gown with a large ruff around her neck.
Charles I of England was a prolific art collector and throughout his lifetime he had many portraits of himself in order to emphasize his power. In this portrait by Dutch painter Daniel Mytens, Charles is depicted with his crown, orb, and scepter and wears luxurious red and white robes, a v-shaped doublet, green hose, and a fabulous feathered hat. However, his commitment to his own personal rule eventually led to his execution in 1649.
King Louis XIV of France cemented France as the center of fashion in the seventeenth century. In this equestrian portrait, he uses a horse as the ultimate statement accessory for power while wearing an ornately gold-embroidered coat.
In the seventeenth century, a trend emerged for women to dress in men’s clothes. It was considered risque as it showed the shape of her legs. This portrait by Simon Pietersz Verelst was possibly painted for her husband the future James II of England.
Margarita Teresa of Spain became Holy Roman Empress in 1666 as the wife of Emperor Leopold. Since she was young there were several portraits of her sent to the Imperial court in Vienna. In this portrait, she wears a typical Iberian fashion that is elaborately decorated with red bows that also decorate her hair.
Luis de la Cerda Duke of Medinacelli wears a red coat with gold embroidery, a lace cravat held together with a blue bow, a brown wig, and red-heeled shoes. All of these items of clothing all convey immense wealth and status and the red-heeled shoes were popularised by Louis XIV, demonstrating the far-reaching influence of French fashion during this time.
Madame de Montespan was the mistress of King Louis XIV, as royal mistress was an official title in the French court she had an important role to play in the creation of various fashion trends. During her tenure as mistress, she had more power than the actual Queen of France and was often more elaborately dressed than her, which is demonstrated in this portrait by Pierre Mignard.
Marie Casimire d’Arquien was the French-born Polish Queen Consort of John III Sobieski. In this portrait, by Jacob Ferdinand Voet she demonstrates the importance of matching your hairstyle with your dress and accessorizing wisely with a simple but elegant necklace.
Leopold I Holy Roman Emperor in this portrait is dressed as Acis from the play La Galatea. While this outfit is derived from seventeenth-century men’s fashion, it is definitely more theatrical and flamboyant, especially with the headgear!
Louise Francoise de Bourbon was the illegitimate daughter of Louis XIV and Madame de Montespan and judging from this portrait she definitely inherited her parents love of fashion. She was known for her sharp wit and scandalous behavior during her father’s reign.
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