Looking at Mary of Guise

Rush, S. J. (2020) Looking at Mary of Guise. Etudes Epistémè, 37(2020), (doi: 10.4000/episteme.8092)

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This paper examines the symbolic value of the headdresses worn by French women at the Scottish court following the marriage of King James V and Mary of Guise in 1538, using the Stirling Heads, portrait medallions from the Renaissance palace at Stirling Castle, as visual evidence. While several of the headdresses shown are conventional examples of the French hood, others are rare glimpses of elaborate Italianate gold hairnets or cauls worn at the French court in acknowledgement of the French claim to the duchy of Milan. The Italian associations of these gold hairnets brings into question the underlying metaphoric meanings of the materials used to make them and a deeper symbolic value. They were made of gold wire or thread and, when worn, blurred the distinction between precious metal and shining hair into a single visual conceit. The meaning of this this is considered with reference to Petrarchan canons of ideal beauty and visual metaphors of virtue. The royal accounts show that cauls worn by the gentlewomen at the Scottish court were not brought from France but were gifts made by the royal goldsmiths using Scottish gold from the king’s own mines,extracted with the assistance of miners sent by the Duke and Duchess of Guise. To read the female portraits among the Stirling Heads merely as a sartorial display of dynastic allegiance is, arguably, to miss a deeper message of female beauty paying tribute to a new Golden Age of Scottish peace and prosperity heralded by the Stewart-Guise dynastic alliance.

Item Type:Articles
Keywords:Gold, hair, caul, virtue, mining, rubies, medallion, portrait.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Rush, Dr Sally
Authors: Rush, S. J.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Culture and Creative Arts > History of Art
Journal Name:Etudes Epistémè
Publisher:Institut du Monde Anglophone
ISSN (Online):1634-0450
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2020 Etudes Epistémè
First Published:First published in Etudes Epistémè 37:2020
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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