Portraits in disguise - NPG 804
This ironic portrait of the poet and courtier the Earl of Rochester (1647-80), known for his 'scathing wit and turbulent licentiousness' is surely a record of a witty collaboration between artist and sitter. Rochester's classical tunic denotes power, intellect and statesmanship, yet we see him crowning a jabbering monkey with the laurels of a poet. In turn the monkey proffers shreds of his own torn poetry.
John Evelyn's description of a young man of 1661,
"It was a fine silken fop which I spied the other day through Westminster Hall, that had as much ribbon about him as would have plundered six shops, and set up twenty country pedlars: all his body was dressed like a maypole, or a Tom-a-Bedlam's cap."
The easier, more relaxed style of menswear developed into the vest and tunic of the mid-1660's, settling down, after an experimental period, into the happy combination of coat and waistcoat worn with breeches. Women, however, in the words of Thomas Mace, 1676, were,
".......so pent up by the straightness, and stiffness of the gown-shoulder-sleeves, that they could not so much as scratch their heads for the necessary remove of a biting louse; nor elevate their arms scarcely to feed themselves handsomely........"
The poor Restoration English Court looked to France for styles in dress and Charles II banned import of French lace in 1675. The Spectator of 1711,
"Great masters in Painting never care for drawing People in the Fashion, as very well knowing that the Head-dress, or Periwig, that now prevails, and gives a Grace to their Portraiture at present, will make a very odd figure, and perhaps look monstrous in the Eyes of Posterity. For this reason they often represent an illustrious person in a Roman habit or some other dress that never varies."
attributed to Jacob Huysmans
The black silk doublet is open from mid-chest, revealing a white linen shirt. A swathe of silk gives a flourish of Van Dyck style to this arty but sombre Commonwealth garb.