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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.