Students explore secrets of remarkable Tudor women
Press release issued: 14 March 2008
Bristol University students have been delving into the secrets of an important collection of Tudor portraits, thanks to a unique collaboration between the University, the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) and the National Trust.
As part of their MA in History of Art, the students examined ten portraits of important sixteenth- and seventeenth-century women for an exhibition entitled 'On the Nature of Women': Tudor and Jacobean Portraits of Women, 1535-1620 which opens at Montacute House, near Yeovil in Somerset this weekend.
The students first studied the panels and canvases in the National Portrait Gallery conservation studio in London where the images underwent cleaning to remove later additions and restore them to their original appearance.
Then the students had the opportunity to work in the National Portrait Gallery's Heinz Archive tracing the biographical details of the subjects in the portraits. These include such formidable Tudor women as Bess of Hardwick, who married four times and built Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire, Frances Howard, Countess of Somerset, a central figure in a famous scandal and murder during the reign of King James I, and Lucy Harington, Countess of Bedford, a wealthy heiress and patron of the poet John Donne and the playwright Ben Jonson.
Some of the portraits are of unknown women and so the students looked for clues in the images to try to identify who the sitters might be.
The students then wrote all the text for the exhibition and captions for each portrait. They also took a major role in the design and layout of the display, and will give gallery talks throughout the summer.
Dr Tania String of Bristol University’s Department of History of Art said: “This type of partnership is the first of its kind and has benefited everyone, especially the ten students involved in the course. This project has given them first-hand experience of curatorship and all the dimensions that go along with it. As art historians this direct contact with works of art is extremely valuable.”
The exhibition opens this Saturday (15 March) at Montacute House and runs for two years.