Artists Illustrating Boys' Fashions: Robert Peake the Elder (England, 1551-1619)



Figure 1.--Here is a portrait of an unidentiied 5-year old boy by Robert Peake. The face seems to be rather naive, but notice the beautiful detail of the clothing.

Robert Peake the Elder was at the turn of the 17th century one of the most notable English painters. He painted the age Queen Elizabeth as well as several portaits of James I's family, including the Prince of Wales Henry Fredeick. Robert Peake who was born in Lincolnshire (about 1551). As a boy he was aprenticed to a goldsmith in Cheapside. He develped his skills and became accepted as a Freeman of the Goldsmith’s Company. He worked for the Offices of the Revels (1576). He was one of six "Paynters" that worked on court festivities. He was emoloyed by the court to do decorative work for several years. Gradually his work became well enough established that he opened a portrait studio. He is mentioned in Francis Mere’s Palladis Tamia (1598) and was one of the leading English portraitists. It is at this time that he received commissions to paint Queen Elizabeth, including a procession portrait (1600). He was careful to depict her as a young woman. James I ascened to the throne (1603). James was an avid huntstman, but rather scholarly and an avid theolgian. He tended to defer to his wife, Anne of Denmark on artistic matter. Peake received a commission to paint portraits of the two elder Royal children, Prince Henry and Princess Elizabeth. The portraits had many original features. A art historian writes that the paintings, "... with their inter-related landscape settings, two of the most ambitious and original images yet seen in British royal portraiture". The results were much appreciated. Other royal commissions followed, including one of Prince Charles. James and Anne had several childre, but only three survived infancy. Peake painted several portraits of all three: Henry, Elizabeth, and Charles. Peake amd John de Critz were appointed as "Serjeant Painter" to James I. Princess Henry also had an artistic bent. Prince Henry made Peake his official artist. In that capacity, Peake was very active. The most impressive work was a powerful equestrian portrait of ’Henry Prince of Wales’ at Parham House. Scolarly study shows that the paunting was altered after Henry and Peake's death. Peake did not just paint royal portraits. He did many portraits of important persons during the late Tudor and early Stuart era. As a portraitist, Peake had some limitations. But he depicted clothing in great detail, leaving a remarable historical record. The boy here is a good example.








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Created: 2:42 AM 7/24/2006
Last updated: 2:42 AM 7/24/2006