Thursday, May 15, 2014

Larkin, William

Portrait of Mary Radclyffe
circa 1610-1613
oil on panel
101 × 91 cm
Denver Art Museum, Colorado, USA

William Larkin (c.1585-1619) is an English portrait painter.
Little is known of William Larkin's life. It is almost certain that he was the son of an innkeeper named William Larkin and lived in the parish of St Sepulchre. His father was a close neighbor of Robert Peake, the portrait painter to Henry, Prince of Wales, and it may have been Peake who introduced Larkin to painting. He emerged from total obscurity in 1952 with a publication of his only securely attributed works.

He painted some of the most fashionable figures of the Jacobean period. Among them was Mary Radclyffe, the wife of Sir John Stanhope of Elvaston, who rose to prominence as a courtier during the reign of James I. Mary's costume helps us date this portrait quite accurately. Her low-cut dress, closed ruff, simple pearl jewelry, black silk string ties, and feathered hair were all the rage in the first decade of the seventeenth century; but in 1613 the style fell rapidly from fashion. The painting must therefore have been painted just before that date. Behind Larkin's subject are two elaborately draped curtains. He used this device so often that until he was definitively identified in the twentieth century, he was known simply as the "curtain master."