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Isaac Oliver (c. 1565-1617)

Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales (1594-1612) c.1612

RCIN 420058

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Henry, Prince of Wales, first son of James I, was the first English prince to embrace the convention of being painted in military dress. In this portrait, Henry wears a ruff constructed of delicate geometric needle lace with a repeating pattern of circles, which has been starched and set into soft pleats. Needle lace of this type has its origins in the cutwork of the sixteenth century which involved cutting away pieces of linen fabric and filling the gaps with buttonhole stitches. Designs typically had a geometric foundation in which circular motifs and stars are contained within a regular grid of squares. Given the expense of this type of ruff, and the work involved in keeping it pristine and shaped into pleats, it is unlikely that it would actually have been worn in battle. Instead such items were probably reserved only for ceremonial occasions – or sitting for a portrait.