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Francois de Lorraine

Lady Bennet

The portrait of Lady Bennet below, who once lived at Temple Newsam, is hung on the Oak staircase in the house. The date of the painting is not known but has been shown in inventories of the house contents from 1688. 


Portrait of Lady Bennet from before 1688.  She is wearing dark clothes and hat with ruffs at the sleeves and neck.
Portrait of Lady Bennet (before 1688)

What Clues does the Portrait Contain?

  •  Lady Bennet wears dark-dyed, expensive fabrics, showing her aristocratic status.
  • What is Lady Bennet holding in her hands?  She is holding a 'sweet purse' holding sweet-smelling rose petals, lavender and spices. These purses were used to hide bad smells, as people washed more rarely in Tudor time, or could be held to a lady's nose if she came across a horrible smell in the street. 

Detail from Portrait of Lady Bennet's Sweet Purse
Portrait of Lady Bennet (detail)

  • At first glance, you might think that Lady Bennet is quite plainly dressed. She certainly does not wear as many jewels as Queen Elizabeth I! But she still shows that she is wealthy and important by wearing decorative, costly lace on her cuffs and ruff. Her dress is also embellished with a v-shaped line of pearls.

Detail of Painting of Lady Bennet's Clothes showing lace edge of neck ruff and strings of pearls.
Portrait of Lady Bennet (detail)

  • The painter draws attention to Lady Bennet's very white skin, by painting her against a very dark background and in black clothes. White skin was very fashionable for Tudor ladies at this time.
  • The feather in her hat is from an ostrich. During Tudor times there were no ostriches in England and their feathers would have been brought over from Africa. To have an ostrich feather in your hat would show your importance and wealth.  
  • Have you noticed the chair Lady Bennet is sitting on? It is a rich red fabric, with real gold fringing - another statement about how wealthy she was. 


Painting of Lady Bennet detail of furniture showing a dark red velvet chair with gold tassels
Portrait of Lady Bennet (detail)



Aristocratic - belonging to the most wealthy and powerful class in society
Embellished - made more beautiful
Inventory - a list of things, usually someone's property
Statement - making people understand something either by showing something or telling them in words