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British School, 16th century

James V of Scotland (1512-42) c.1540

RCIN 402712

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James V wears a gown with sleeves of cloth of gold, a fabric woven with expensive gold thread. Such a material, which could be melted down to release the precious metal, was a conscious demonstration of wealth and kingship. The collar is encrusted with hundreds of pearls – a style of which the Scottish king appears to have been fond. His wardrobe inventory of 1539 describes a gown with a hood and collar ‘stitched with 49,500 pearls’. The large-scale undulating design seen on the sleeves falls into the category of motifs later classified as pomegranate. Pomegranate patterns for fashionable clothing were increasingly replaced by smaller-scale designs during the sixteenth century, although later artists such as Anthony van Dyck continued to use them as backdrops in their portraits.