Wikipedia describes 1590 women’s fashion:

“Contrasting fabrics, slashes, embroidery, applied trims, and other forms of surface ornamentation remained prominent. The wide silhouette, conical for women with breadth at the hips and broadly square for men with width at the shoulders had reached its peak in the 1530s, and by mid-century a tall, narrow line with a V-shaped waist was back in fashion. Sleeves and women’s skirts then began to widen again, with emphasis at the shoulder that would continue into the next century. The characteristic garment of the period was the ruff, which began as a modest ruffle attached to the neckband of a shirt or smock and grew into a separate garment of fine linen, trimmed with lace, cutwork or embroidery, and shaped into crisp, precise folds with starch and heated irons.”

Double portrait of Sir John Harington (1560-1612), of Kelston, and Mary, Lady Harington (c. 1571-1634)

Fig. 1 - Anonymous. Double portrait of Sir John Harington (1560-1612), of Kelston, and Mary, Lady Harington (c. 1571-1634), 1593. Oil on panel, transferred onto board; 94 x 77.8 cm (30 5/8 x 37 in). Private Collection. Source: Christie's

Maria Christina, Archduchess of Austria, Princess of Transylvania

Fig. 2 - Anonymous. Maria Christina, Archduchess of Austria, Princess of Transylvania, ca. 1592. Oil on canvas; 110 × 91 cm (43.3 × 35.8 in). Vienna: Kunsthistorisches Museum. Source: Pinterest

Catherine Carey, Countess of Nottingham

Fig. 3 - Robert Peake the Elder (English, 1551-1619). Catherine Carey, Countess of Nottingham, 1597. Oil on canvas. London: The Weiss Gallery. Source: Pinterest

Dorothy, Lady Dormer

Fig. 4 - Marcus Gheeraerts the younger (Flemish, 1561/1562–1635/1636). Dorothy, Lady Dormer, 1596. Oil on canvas. Private Collection. Source: Pinterest


Of 1590 men’s fashion, Wikipedia writes:

“Men’s fashionable clothing consisted of a linen shirt with collar or ruff and matching wrist ruffs, which were laundered with starch to be kept stiff and bright. Over the shirt men wore a doublet with long sleeves sewn or laced in place. Doublets were stiff, heavy garments, and were often reinforced with boning. Optionally, a jerkin, usually sleeveless and often made of leather, was worn over the doublet. During this time the doublet and jerkin became increasingly more colorful and highly decorated. Waistlines dipped V-shape in front, and were padded to hold their shape. Around 1570, this padding was exaggerated into a peascod belly.”

Family Portrait

Fig. 1 - Gortzius Geldorp (Flemish, 1553-1618). Family Portrait, 1598. Oil on canvas. Private Collection. Source: Pinterest

Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex

Fig. 2 - Marcus Gheeraerts the younger (Flemish, 1561/1562–1635/1636). Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, ca. 1597. Oil on canvas; 218 x 127.2 cm (85 7/8 x 50 in). London: National Portrait Gallery, 4985. Purchased, 1974. On long-term loan to Montacute House, Somerset. Source: Pinterest

Portrait of a Man, Possibly an Architect or Geographer

Fig. 3 - Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 1577–1640). Portrait of a Man, Possibly an Architect or Geographer, 1597. Oil on copper; 21.6 x 14.6 cm (8 1/2 x 5 3/4 in). New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1982.60.24. The Jack and Belle Linsky Collection, 1982. Source: The Met


[To come… ]

Two Children Teasing a Cat

Fig. 1 - Annibale Carracci (Italian, 1560–1609). Two Children Teasing a Cat, 1587–88. Oil on canvas; 66 x 88.9 cm (26 x 35 in). New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1994.142. Purchase, Gwynne Andrews Fund, and Bequests of Collis P. Huntington and Ogden Mills, by exchange, 1994. Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

An Unknown Girl, aged four

Fig. 2 - Isaac Oliver (French, 1558-1617). An Unknown Girl, aged four, 1590. Watercolour on vellum stuck onto a playing card and set in an ivory frame; depth: 6 mm, diameter: 64 mm cm (depth: .24 in, diameter: 2.5 in). London: Victoria and Albert Museum, P.145-1910. Source: Victoria & Albert

Anne, Lady Pope with her children

Fig. 3 - Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger (Flemish, 1561–1636). Anne, Lady Pope with her children, 1596. Oil on canvas; 2036 mm x 1217 mm cm (80 1/4 in x 47 7/8 in). Washington, D.C: National Portrait Gallery, NPG L231. Lent by a private collection, courtesy of Nevill Keating Pictures, 2003. Source: National Portrait Gallery


Historical Context

Wikipedia: 1590-1599

Religious Divisions in Europe after the Reformation, 1590. Source: The Norton Anthology of English Literature

  • 1590 – Shakespeare wrote his first play
  • 1598 – Boris Godunov seizes the throne of Russia, following the death of his brother-in-law, Tsar Feodor I; the Time of Troubles starts.
  • 1598 – The Peace of Vervins ends the war between France and Spain.
  • 1599 – The Italian city of Pompeii is rediscovered more than 1,500 years after its burial, following the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79.
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