Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan
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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Eleanor of England, countess of Pembroke and Leicester

Eleanor of England, countess of Pembroke and Leicester (died 13 Aril 1275)


Eleanor of England,
from a fourteenth-century
genealogical roll

Probably born in the year 1215, Eleanor of England, named in honor of her grandmother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, was the daughter John, king of England, and his second wife, Isabelle, countess (in her own right) of Angoulême. 

In order to marry Isabelle of Angoulême, King John had to have his first marriage, to Isabel, countess (in her own right) of Gloucester, annulled--he not only dissolved this inconvenient marriage, he managed to keep his discarded wife's "person" and her lands in his control, but that is another story . . . 

And then, aside from disentangling himself from his own wife, John faced another small difficulty before he could marry Isabelle of Angoulême--she was already betrothed to Hugh IX of Lusignan and living with his family. But that too proved no problem for the determined English king. Isabelle's father "abducted" his twelve-year-old daughter in order for this more desirable match to be made. Isabelle married John on 24 August 1200 in Angoulême.

The marriage caused disaffection and rebellion among the Lusignan family and its allies, and although John eventually prevailed, he also wound up losing Normandy. In a peculiar twist, while John was fighting in France, his second wife seems to have been placed, at least for a while, in the care of his discarded first wife, Isabella of Gloucester.  

John thus spent much of his time during the first years of his second marriage, at least through 1206, fighting on the continent. (A final truce with Hugh IX of Lusignan wasn't settled until 1214.) Either because of their separations or because of Isabella's extreme youth at the time of her marriage, Isabelle bore no child until 1207, when a son and heir, Henry, was born. Four children followed: a second son, Richard, in 1209, and three daughters, Joan (b. 1210), Isabella (b. c. 1214), and Eleanor (b. c. 1215). 

King John died in October 1216, less than a year after Eleanor's birth. After arranging for the coronation of her son, Henry, Queen Isabelle promptly left England for Angoulême, which she held in her own right. The dower queen thereafter married Hugh X of Lusignan, son of the man to whom she had been originally betrothed. In one final note of weirdness, Isabelle had taken her eldest daughter, Joan, with her when she returned to the continent, and it was Joan, not Isabelle, who had been intended as Hugh X's bride . . .

With all that as a preliminary, we can now turn our attention to Eleanor, the youngest of the royal children. Very little is known of her early childhood. After the death of her father and the departure of her mother for the continent, Eleanor and her elder sister, Isabella, were placed in the guardianship of Peter des Roches, bishop of Winchester, one of King John's most loyal supporters. Payments for her household survive in the records of the bishopric of Winchester from the years 1217 to 1221.

As Eleanor's recent biographer, Louise Wilkinson notes, little information survives about Isabelle's education, though she was literate and would have "received instruction in the Bible and other religious works." Letters to her, written in the 1240s by Adam Marsh, a Franciscan friar, contain references to many biblical passages as well as to "Christian models of acceptable feminine behaviour," suggesting something of the education to which she must have been subjected. I appreciate the succinct comment here of the great nineteenth-century historian Mary Anne Everett Green; writing about Eleanor's "early education," she notes, "Small, however, was the modicum of learning which was considered sufficient for females even of the highest rank."

Whatever her childhood upbringing, at some point before 1219 she was betrothed to the eldest son of William Marshall, first earl of Pembroke, her brother's protector and regent of England during the young king's minority. Eleanor was married to William Marshall, second earl of Pembroke, on 23 April 1224--she was nine years old, her husband, thirty-four. (Another one for "traditional marriage"!) Given her age, Eleanor remained at her brother's court, and her marriage was likely not consummated until 1229, when she was fifteen.
 
A thirteenth-century
depiction of
Eleanor of England,
as countess of Pembroke
As the sister of Henry III, Eleanor brought her connections to the royal family with her as a marriage portion, though the young king eventually settled upon her ten manors that were to provide her with a dower income in the case that the were widowed. This gift was made in 1229, probably at the time of the consummation of Eleanor's marriage. 

Although Eleanor accompanied her husband as he traveled throughout England, France, and Ireland, she did not bear him any children, and he died not long after their marriage, on 15 April 1231. 

The second earl of Pembroke's brother and heir, the third earl, sold her estates in order to pay her husband's debts, and the various arrangements that had been negotiated for her support at the time of her marriage were not honored. Increasing tensions between Henry III and Eleanor's brother-in-law, Richard, also complicated matters.

Wilkinson suggests that Eleanor's subsequent vow of chastity, which she took in 1234, was perhaps made as part of her struggle over her dower rights. Green, more fancifully, attributes the "public and solemn vow" to the young widow's grief.

Eleanor spent the next years at her brother's court and at the castle of Odiham, in Hampshire, which the king gave her in 1237. But on 7 January 1238, Eleanor broke her vow of chastity and married Simon de Montfort in a secret ceremony in Winchester.

Although the couple married with the king's approval, the clandestine union resulted in a scandal--while a pregnant Eleanor remained in England, no longer at court but sent by her brother to Kenilworth Castle, Simon traveled to Rome in order to get a papal dispensation (after the fact). A victorious Simon de Montfort returned to England in October 1538, with time to spare before the birth of the couple's first son, Henry de Montfort, in November.

What survives of Odiham Castle,
Hampshire
In February 1239, Simon de Montfort was invested as sixth earl of Leicester, a sign of the king's favor, and a few months later, he was one of the godfathers named for Edward, Henry III's son and heir. On this occasion, Eleanor returned to court for the first time since her marriage.

But the couple were soon in conflict with Henry. In August, on the occasion of the queen's churching, the king, who seemed to have been enraged over the couple's debts, claimed that Simon had seduced his sister and that he had allowed their marriage only to avoid scandal. 

Eleanor and her husband left England for the continent. Simon de Montfort returned briefly to England in 1239, welcomed once more by the king, but in 1240 he left to go on crusade in the Holy Land. Eleanor does not seem to have returned to England at this time. While her husband was on his crusade, she gave birth to a second son, named Simon, after his father.

On Simon's return from crusade, the couple went back to England, and the earl joined Henry III's 1242 campaign against the French king. The queen and women of the court followed the men to France, as did Eleanor, presumably--she gave birth to a third son, Amalric, in 1242 or 1243.

Over the course of the next few years, Simon de Montfort served his brother-in-law, the English king, in a number of ways, fighting with Henry in Wales, acting as his representative in Gascony, undertaking diplomatic missions in France and Scotland, defending the king against his subjects' discontent in the late 1250s.

Throughout these years, Eleanor's principal residence was at Kenilworth, though she did travel with her husband at times (notably, her daughter, Joanna, was born in Bordeaux). She gave birth to four more children: Guy (b. 1244), Joanna (born and died between 1248 and 1251), Richard (b. 1252), and Eleanor (b. 1258). 

But the king's increasingly erratic behavior resulted in increasing baronial opposition, and by 1258, Henry had been forced to come to terms and signed the Provisions of Oxford, agreeing to a council of barons and to calling a parliament every three years. Although he sought--and was given--a papal dispensation, releasing him from this oath, civil war loomed. During the conflict, Simon de Montfort joined the opposition, and fled to France in 1262, returning in 1263 when civil war broke out.

Simon de Montfort proved victorious and took control of the government, becoming de facto ruler of the realm, but his victory was short-lived, and the king regained some measure of control. The ongoing conflict of the Second Baron's War lasted from 1264 to 1267.

It was during this period that Eleanor de Montfort took on a notable role beyond that of the medieval noblewoman. At times, from her manor of Odiham, "she acted as a communication hub between her husband and sons as they took control of key areas of the country while networking with supporters, including the Bishops of Lincoln and Worcester, and housing prisoners such as the royalist Sir Robert de Brus" (for the English Heritage discussion of Eleanor de Montfort's role during the Second Baron's War, click here).

Along with her husband, she also presided over a great Christmas court at Kenilworth in 1264, but by 19 February of the following year, she was in Wallingford. On the 21st, she was in Reading, and then back at her manor, Odiham. 

After learning that Prince Edward had escaped from custody on 28 May 1265, Eleanor moved quickly to Dover Castle, "where she could hope to influence the important Cinque Ports (the confederation of the five ports of Hastings, Romney, Hythe, Sandwich and Dover)." Surviving household records show the haste of her journey: she left Odiham, traveling all night to reach Porchester the next morning; she stayed in Porchester until 12 June, arriving in Wilmington on the 13th; she was on to Winchelsea on the 14th, and arrived in Dover the next day. 

There she remained, in control of the castle, shoring up its defenses by bringing in a siege engine and an engineer. But on 4 August, Eleanor de Montfort's husband and eldest son were both killed at the battle of Evesham by Prince Edward and his allies. Rather than surrendering the castle, Eleanor remained in Dover. She worked desperately to save her remaining children, securing Richard and Almaric's safe departure for the continent, for example,* and she did her best for her remaining allies. But she was soon under siege:
Attacked from both within and without, Eleanor negotiated a settlement in which she was exiled to the continent, all goods in the castle other than personal clothes and arms were handed over to the king, but her supporters would receive pardons. The success of her negotiations is shown by the fact that at least one of the men with her at Dover, the deputy constable Sir John de la Haye, had his lands returned to him as early as 9 November.

The great tower of Dover Castle,
the where Eleanor de Montfort held out against
Prince Edward and his army

Having secured her own safe passage, Eleanor of England, countess of Pembroke and Leicester, left England on 28 October 1265 and made her way to France, eventually entering into the Dominican abbey of Montargis, which had been founded by Simon de Montfort's sister, Amicie. By the terms of a settlement reached with Henry III, she received an annual payment of 500 pounds from her dower lands and financial provision for Simon, now his father's heir. Not satisfied, she continued her negotiations; eventually a further settlement was reached for herself and for her surviving children. Nevertheless, she continued to make claims about moneys owed to her at least through 1273.

Eleanor died at Montargis on 13 April 1275.

I've linked above to Louise J. Wilkerson's biography, Eleanor de Montfort: A Rebel Countess in Medieval England. I do have a great deal of fondness for Mary Anne Everett Green's multi-volume Lives of the Princesses of England, from the Norman Conquest (Eleanor of England's chapters are in the second volume)--with its exhaustive use of documentary evidence, it remains an impressive work of scholarship, and her account of Eleanor's life is full and detailed.

The letters written to Eleanor of England by Adam Marsh are found at Epistolae: Medieval Women's Latin Letters (click here). There is also a wealth of detail from surviving household accounts there, and if you want more, see Wilkerson's The Household Roll of Eleanor de Montfort, Countess of Leicester and Pembroke, 1265: British Library, Additional MS 8877.

To listen to the English Heritage podcast episode "Woman at War: Eleanor de Montford at Dover Castle," click here.

 *Eleanor's son Simon de Montford was at Kenilworth when his father and elder brother died; he was besieged there for six months before escaping and leaving England for the continent. 

Guy de Montfort was held prisoner in Windsor Castle until 1266; he bribed his jailers and rejoined his family in France. 

Eleanor's daughter, also named Eleanor, was thirteen when her father and brother were killed; she left England with her mother and accompanied her mother to Montargis; her father had arranged for her marriage to Llewellyn ap Gruffydd, prince of Wales, and after her mother's death in 1275, the younger Eleanor was married by proxy and set off for Wales with her brother, Almaric. The two were captured en route by their cousin Edward, now king. She was held as a prisoner until 1278, when she was finally released to her Welsh bridegroom. Now princess of Wales, Eleanor gave birth to a daughter, Gwenllian, in June 1282, but she died during or shortly after childbirth, on 19 June 1282. 

After Llewellyn ap Gruffydd's death in battle in December 1282, King Edward of England confined Gwenllian of Wales in Sempringham Priory (Lincolnshire). She remained there until her death, fifty-four years later, on 7 June 1337.




Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Catharina van Hemessen, Portrait Painter

Catharina van Hemessen (married 23 February 1554)


Catharina van Hemessen is "one of the first Flemish women artists recorded and the first for whom several certainly authentic works are known."* Although we have few details about her life, thirteen signed works survive.

Born about the year 1528, Catharina was the daughter of the influential Flemish painter Jan Sanders van Hemessen and his wife, Bárbara de Fevere, the daughter of a wealthy merchant. Like most of her female contemporaries, Catharina was trained by her father, a master in the Guild of St. Luke in Antwerp, where he also had his workshop. She began her career in her father's studio, assisting her father, an artist known in particular for his "multi-figured, abundantly detailed" religious genre paintings. 

self-portrait, Catharina van Hemessen,
dated to 1548 and indicating
her age
In 1551, Hemessen sent his two of his sons, Hans and Gilles, to train as painters in Italy, just as he himself seems to have done. (There is no documentary evidence of Jan Sander van Hemessen's time in Italy, but he is widely believed to have spent time there as a young man, and he is recognized for his "innovative" Italian-influenced style.)

Such a journey would have been impossible for a young woman, of course. But by the time her brothers were sent to Italy, Catharina van Hemessen was already producing her own original work. 

Catharina's earliest known painting is a portrait, a genre in which she seems to have specialized. In fact, it is a self-portrait--a self-portrait of the artist in the process of painting. In a Latin inscription, she both names herself as the artist and dates her painting: "EGO CATERINA DE/ HEMESSEN ME/ PINXI/ 1548." A second version of this painting,  a copy made by Catharina, adds her age: "ETATIS/SVAE/20"(this inscription suggests her year of birth, otherwise undocumented). 

At some point during the decade of the 1540s, she gained an influential patron, Mary of Austria, regent of the Netherlands. In 1555, Catharina is recorded as a "dame de compagnie" at the regent's court. 

Meanwhile, on 23 February 1554, Catharina married Kerstiaen de Moryn, who was soon to be named organist at the Cathedral of Our Lady, Antwerp. I have used this one certain date in Catharina van Hemessen's life--the date of her marriage--as the occasion for this post.

In 1556, when Mary of Austria "retired" from her role as regent and left the Low Countries, Catharina retained her place in the former regent's court and, with her husband, left for Spain. According to the Florentine merchant and writer Ludovico Guicciardini, who lived in Antwerp and whose 1567 Descrittione di tutti i Paesi Bassi (Description of of the Low Countries) contains an enumeration of many contemporary Flemish artists, "this couple [Mary of Austria] took with her to Spain." Guicciardi also notes that the former regent granted an annuity to Catharina. In the words of the eighteenth-century English translation of Guicciaardini's Description, Mary of Austria "bequeathed a sufficient maintenance" to Hemessen.

Another 1548 signed painting
by Catharina van Hemessen.
The sitter's age is given as 22,
and may represent Hemessen's
older sister, Christina
After Mary of Austria's death in 1558, the couple returned to Antwerp, where they seem to have remained until 1561, when they relocated to the city of 's-Hertogenbosch, where Kerstiaen de Moryn had accepted a position as organist for the Illustrious Brotherhood of Our Lady.

After 1565, no further details survive. As Anne Jensen Adams writes, "Catharina and her husband seem to have left the city [of s'Hertogenbosch] by 1565, and subsequently disappeared without a trace.

When he wrote about Catharina van Hemessen in 1567, Guicciardini names her as one of four "living female artists" in Antwerp, so it is possible she had returned to that city. Nothing more is known about her.

What survives is her work--thirteen signed work, nine portraits and four religious paintings. Of these, ten are dated between 1548 and 1552, a fact which has led modern historians (including Harris and Nochlin) to conclude that Hemessen may have given up painting when she was married. (And that her role at the Spanish court may have been in teaching painting.)

Interestingly, Catharina van Hemessen is mentioned in Giorgio Vasari's 1568 version of Le Vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori, ed architettori (Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects)--but he includes her in his discussion of "excellent miniaturists." 

To see more of Catharina van Hemessen's surviving work, a good place to start is with the selection of images posted at ArtUK. I also recommend Ellen Moody's excellent overview and fascinating critique of Catharina van Hemessen's work (click here).

In addition, Anne Jensen Adams's 2005 review of Karolien De Clippel's 2004 Catharina van Hemessen (1528 - na 1567): Een monografische studie over een 'uytnemende wel geschickte vrouwe in de conste der schilderyen'  (unfortunately, for me, in Dutch) includes some biographical information, additional material about the surviving paintings, and some speculation about unattributed work.

*This quotation is from Ann Sutherland Harris and Linda Nochlin's groundbreaking Women Artists, 1550-1950, the catalogue/history/collection of art plates that was published in connection with the first international exhibition of female artists, curated by Harris and Nochlin, and organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The exhibition opened on 21 December 1976. The show featured the work of eighty-three artists from twelve countries, including Catharina van Hemessen. 


Sunday, January 31, 2021

Ermengarde of Narbonne: "Into the Hands of a Woman"

Ermengarde of Narbonne, viscountess of Narbonne (letter to Raymond Trencaval, viscount of Beziers, 31 January 1163)


Most discussions of Ermengarde of Narbonne (1127/9-1197)) begin with a comparison to Eleanor of Aquitaine (c, 1122/4-1204), who was her almost exact contemporary. Both women inherited their titles when they were very young: Ermengarde became viscountess of Narbonne, of strategic importance in Languedoc, while Eleanor became duchess of Aquitaine, with its vast wealth and extensive territory. 

A small street memorial in Narbonne,
posted by Ilsa Andrag 
Both women exerted considerable political influence in the twelfth century, and both participated in the culture of troubadour poetry and "courtly love"--both women are patrons of the troubadour poets and both are cited by Andreas Capellanus in his treatise titled De Arte honeste et reprobatione inhonesti amantis (in English, The Book of the Art of Loving Nobly and the Reprobation of Dishonourable Love, more frequently referred to as The Art of Courtly Love). 

Capellanus claims that Eleanor, her daughter, Marie of Champagne, and Ermengarde were among the greatest ladies of France who had issued "various decisions in love cases" (to see one of the judgments Capellanus ascribes to Ermengarde, click here).

For whatever reason, Ermengarde of Narbonne is much less well known than Eleanor of Aquitaine--perhaps because she never became a queen of anywhere, much less queen of both France and then England. But in her own day, Ermengarde, viscountess of Narbonne was a powerful force, capable of ruling and defending her territory and widely recognized for "her legal and diplomatic skills."

Ermengarde was the daughter of Aymeric II of Narbonne and his first wife, Ermengarde of Servian.* When her father died in battle in 1134, he left two daughters, Ermengarde and her half-sister, Ermessinde. The elder of the two, but still only about five years old, Ermengarde was heir to her father's title and territory.

The county of Narbonne, located in the Occitan region of southern France, was placed--unfortunately--in the middle of the "Great Southern War," fought between the counts of Toulouse and the counts of Barcelona, along with their various allies, including the viscounts of Trencavel, the counts of Poitiers, Rodez, and Comminges, the lords of Montpellier, and the counts of Foix.

In the midst of this ongoing conflict, the two orphaned daughters of the viscount of Narbonne were highly prized objects of desire, not so much for their personal qualities (Ermengarde was just five, Ermessinde younger) but for their political significance. 

In 1139, Alphonse Jourdain, count of Toulouse, asserted his right to the guardianship of the two girls and seized control of the city of Narbonne with the support of the archbishop. Ermengarde and her sister seem to have taken refuge with his great rival, Raymond Berengar IV, count of Barcelona--whose father also happened to be Aymeric of Narbonne's half-brother. 

But in 1142, when Ermengarde had reached the age of consent (she was likely about thirteen years old), the count of Toulouse produced a marriage contract--it seems that Alphonse Jourdain's wife, Faydid of Uzès, had most conveniently (for him) died, or that she had been repudiated. And Ermengarde was somehow compelled to sign a marriage contract, dated 21 October 1142, though exactly how this happened isn't clear. Interestingly, the marriage contract ventriloquized Ermengarde's own voice:
Be it known to all present and future that I, Ermengarde, want you, Alphonse, for my husband and give myself to you as your wife. By the same donation I give you Narbonne entirely without fraud on the condition that we hold it jointly in our lifetimes and after our deaths it will belong to the children we have procreated. If we have none who survive us and you survive me, you shall have and possess Narbonne and all that goes with it as long as you shall live
Alphonse Jourdain's effort to secure Narbonne by forcing a marriage to Ermengarde resulted in an alliance against him--he was defeated in battle and imprisoned. The peace treaty he was forced to sign returned Narbonne to Ermengarde. The marriage to Ermengarde had evidently not been consummated because by 1143, she was married to a cousin, Bernard d'Anduze, viscount of Nîmes--described as "a widower with several children who . . . offended no one, and was not active in Narbonne."

For some fifty years, from the time of her marriage until 1194, Ermengarde ruled Narbonne in her own right with no mention of Bernard (who died in 1157). 

Coins issued by Ermengarde,
viscountess of Narbonne
She was also a constant presence in political disputes and conflicts in the Occitan. In 1148, she provided military support to Raymond Berengar in his siege of the city of Tortosa. In 1154, when Raymond I Trencavel was captured by Count Raymond V of Toulouse, he left his wife and children in the care of the count of Barcelona, but his son and his men to the care of Ermengarde of Narbonne. 

In 1157 she allied the county of Narbonne with Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry II of England, and the count of Barcelona in an effort to seize Toulouse. She served as a mediator in Provence and in 1162 led a force to besiege the town of Les Baux. In 1176 she was a mediator between Raymond of Toulouse and Alfons of Aragon, in 1182, she supported Henry II against his rebelling sons, and a year later, she was at the siege of Puy-Saint-Front with Henry and three of his sons.

In addition to her relentless political and military activity, Ernengarde's court was renowned for its learning--she supported the work of lawyers and doctors, in addition to patronizing a number of the troubadour poets, including Raimon de Miraval, who noted her generosity, and Bernard de Ventadorn, who praised her as "my lady of Narbonne," whose deeds were all "true." The trobairitz Azalais de Porcairagues directed that her "song" be carried to Narbonne, "to her whom joy and youth guide."

Ermengarde also supported many religious institutions, in particular giving a large donation of land to the Abbey of Fontfroide, which had been founded in 1093 by her father, Viscount Aymeri II. By means of her donation, Fontfroide became one of the most powerful abbeys in Western Europe.

Without a child of her own, Ermengarde named her half-sister's son, Pedro Manrique de Lara, as her heir. Unfortunately, Pedro could not wait for Ermengarde's death to succeed her--he had claimed the title of viscount by 1192 and seems to have driven her into exile by 1194. In her last letter, dated 30 April 1196, a letter that took the form of a final testament, she asked that he fulfill the bequests she had made. "And if he does this," she writes, "may God almighty and merciful pardon him on my account for all the injuries, damages, violence, oppressions, vexations, privations, calamities, and all the evil things that I experienced because of him and his."

Ermengarde of Narbonne, countess of Narbonne, died in Rousillon, and as she had asked in the letter she wrote as she was approaching death, she was buried in the Templar commandery of Saint-Marie de Mas-Dieu, near Perpignan.

The ruins of the Templar commandery 
of Mas-Dieu
For further information, I recommend the biographical essay posted at Epistolae: Medieval Women's Latin Letters. You will also find a number of Ermengarde's letters there, including a letter to Raymond Trencavel, viscount of Beziers, dated 31 January 1163, the date of which has been used as the occasion of this post. 

There is also a letter there from Louis VII to Ermengarde, written in 1164--I've drawn a phrase from this letter for the  subtitle of my post. Addressing the "hesitation in [her] area to permit judicial power to women in matters of imperial law," the king assures her that "the custom of our kingdom is far more benign, allowing women, if the better sex is lacking, to succeed and administer their inheritance." Do not acquiesce, he commands. Rather, 
Sit therefore in judgment of cases, diligently examining matters with the zeal of him who created you a woman when he might have [made you] a man, and in his benignity gave the rule of the province of Narbonne into the hand of a woman. By our authority, no person is permitted to turn away from your jurisdiction because you are a woman.

*Although most online sources indicate that little is known about Aymeric II's first wife except for her name, Ermengarde, she has been identified as Ermengarde of Servian by the  medievalist Jacqueline Caille. For the most accessible information, click here or here. Although the elder Ermengarde may have died between 1126, when her name is last mentioned in a charter, and 1130, by which time Aymeric has a second wife, Ermessende, Caille speculates that Ermengarde of Servian may have been repudiated.



Thursday, January 28, 2021

Susannah Hornebolt, Artist at the Tudor Court

Susannah Hornebolt, Tudor Artist (28 January 1547, death of Henry VIII)


Born in 1503, Susannah Hornebolt was the daughter of the Flemish artist Gerard Hornebolt (an Anglicization of Geraert Horenboult) and his wife, Margaret Saunders. 

1534 portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger
of a "wife of a court servant,"
generally identified as Susannah Hornebolt
Susannah's father was a master painter in Ghent, regularly commissioned for work in a variety of media  by Margaret of Austria, regent of the Netherlands--recognized by the regent for his "industry and experience," Gerard Hornebolt was also named as Margaret's valet de chambre in 1515 and awarded a pension. 

Among other projects, he designed stained glass windows, oversaw the production of tapestries and embroidered work, and illuminated several manuscripts, including work on the manuscript now known as the Sforza Hours--originally commissioned by Bona Sforza, duchess of Milan, the incomplete Book of Hours was inherited by Bona's nephew, Philibert of Savoy. As Philibert's widow, Margaret of Austria took the incomplete manuscript with her when she took up her position in the Netherlands.

At some point between 1522, when his name last appears in the accounts of Margaret of Austria (payment for a portrait of Christian II of Denmark, who had visited her in the Netherlands) and 1528, when his name appears in the royal accounts of Henry VIII (when Gerard was described as "paynter"), Hornebolt had arrived in England and entered into the king's service. He was to be paid a monthly wage from October 1528 until February 1538. 

Well, all that is about Susannah's father. What about Susannah? 

When Gerard Hornebolt came to England, he was accompanied by at least some members of his family, including his wife, his son Lucas (also a painter), and his daughter, Susannah. In Ghent, Gerard had run a thriving workshop, specializing in illumination, and it is likely that Susannah had trained and worked there. By the time the Hornebolts relocated to England, Susannah had already been recognized as an artist of some accomplishment. 

In 1521, when she was just eighteen, Susannah had traveled with her father to Antwerp, where she had met the artist Albrecht Dürer, who had bought a work called Salvator Mundi from her (variously described as a miniature, a colored drawing, or an illumination) and proclaimed "It is a wonder that a woman should be able to do such work" ("Ist ein grosz wunder, das ein weibs bild also viel mach").

In England, Susannah Hornebolt secured a place as a member of the queen's household by as early as 1522, with historian Susan James noting her unique position as a female artist at court, her sex making her unable to join the network of other artists in the workshops associated with the king's household.

Susannah married another minor member of the Tudor court, John Parker, probably in 1526. Parker's "mediocre prospects" improved immediately after his marriage, and while Susannah remained a member of the queen's household, her artistic work for the king seems to have come to an end. 

After the death of Jane Seymour, Henry's third queen, in 1537, which coincided with the death of Susannah's husband, John Parker, Susannah Hornebolt faced a number of financial difficulties--the loss of her place at court, the loss of her husband's income, and legal battles with her husband's family over his bequests to her. But in 1539, when Henry married Anne of Cleves, Susannah Hornebolt returned to court. Even more notably, she was sent by Henry VIII to Cleves, where she would be his "personal ambassador" to his soon-to-be bride. Hornebolt also acquired a second husband, a man named Henry Gilman.

While Henry's fourth marriage was short-lived, Susannah Hornebolt remained at court after the royal divorce. She survived the brief reign of Henry's fifth queen, Catherine Howard, and remained in the household of his last, Katherine Parr.

After the death of Henry VIII in 1547, Susannah's her second husband continuing his court employment under both Edward VI and Mary I. Although the date of her death is unknown, Susannah Hornebolt must have died before her second husband remarried in 1554.

After her death, Susannah Hornebolt's reputation as an artist was remembered, at least for a while. In his 1567 description of the history and art of the Low Countries, Lodovico Guicciardini wrote that Susannah Hornebolt "excelled in all painting, in miniature, in illumining." In fact, he claims that it was she who had been "invited by Henry VIII to England." At the time of her death, she was "loaded with wealth and honour." 

Susannah Hornebolt was also included in his masterwork Lives of the Artists by Giorgio Vasari, who wrote that "she was one of a handful of Flemish women who had distinguished themselves by the excellence of their art."*

What is known about Susannah Hornebolt's artistic work? 

About this question, the art historian Hugh Paget noted: "Of her work as a miniature  painter nothing certain has been discovered, but the fact that she lived some years longer than has hitherto been supposed may make it easier to identify her oeuvre. Miniatures of Queen Jane Seymour in the Buccleuch collection and of Queen Katherine Parr at Sudeley Castle appear to be by the same hand: although similar to those attributed to Lucas they differ from them in some respects and may be by Susanna." 

Most sources indicate that no surviving work from Hornebolt can be identified, but James identifies two miniatures, one from 1524 and one from 1526/7, one of them, she claims, bearing Susannah Hornebolt's monogram. The most accessible analysis of surviving miniatures that may be the work of Susannah Hornebolt can be found at the website Tudor Faces--click here to read "Two New Faces: the Hornebolte Portraits of Mary and Thomas Boleyn?" 

A brass commemorating her mother, at All Saints, Fulham, was commissioned by Susannah Hornebolt, and may well have been designed by her. 
The brass commemorating
Susannah Hornebolt's mother,
Margaret, at All Saints, Fulham

Two very useful articles on the Hornebolt family are Hugh Paget's "Gerard and Lucas Hornebolt in England" The Burlington Magazine 101, no. 680 (1959): 396-402 (which I have quoted here) and  Lorne Campbell and Susan Foister, "Gerard, Lucas and Susannah Hornebolt"  The Burlington Magazine 128, nol. 1003 (1986): 719-27 (which specultes about Susannah's designing the brass commemorating her mother). 

I am posting this today because Henry VIII died on 28 January 1547, and he seems to have been a patron and supporter of Susannah Hornebolt for some twenty-five years.


*For the translations from  Vasari, I am indebted to Susan James's The Female Dynamic in English Art, 1485-1603, the most comprehensive source on the life and work of Susannah Hornbolt in English.






Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Women and the 117th U. S. Congress

 Women and the 117th U. S. Congress (convenes 3 January 2021)


I've waited to post on the representation of women in the U. S. Congress--two months after the 3 November 2020 election, the numbers are still not clear.


Graph from Represent Women

Ten days after the November election, reporting for the Represent Women website, Cynthia Richie Terrell wrote that, since numbers were still "trickling in," the final tally was still not clear: "we don't yet know the final tally for the number of women elected to Congress."

Still, she noted, the 117th Congress would show a significant increase in the number of women--and of women of color--elected to office. But, a note of caution: "the results also show that the vast majority of incumbents were re-elected and that while while 162 women ran as challengers just 8 have won as of today, for a total win rate of 4%. These incremental gains place the United States at about 70th globally along with neighbors Mali, Slovenia, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Bulgaria and Iraq [emphasis in the original]."

Today, the situation is still unclear. The Rutgers Center for American Women and Politics published data accurate as of 3 January
In 2020, 126 (105D, 21R) women hold seats in the United States Congress, comprising 23.6% of the 535 members; 25 women (25%) serve in the U.S. Senate, and 101 women (23.2%) serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. Four women non-voting delegates (2D, 2R) also represent American Samoa, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands in the United States House of Representatives.

As a 3 January 2021 CAWP press release makes clear, these figures will change:

• Senator Kamala Harris (D) will be sworn in as vice president on January 20th.

• Representative Marcia Fudge (D) has been selected to serve in the Cabinet as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

• Representative Deb Haaland (D) has been selected to serve in the Cabinet as Secretary of the Interior.

• Senator Kelly Loeffler (R) is in a runoff election on January 5th.

• The House race in NY-22, featuring Claudia Tenney (R), is undecided.

• Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R) will be provisionally seated while the House race in IA-02 is under review by the U.S. House Committee on Administration. Miller-Meeks’ opponent – Rita Hart (D) – has petitioned for the review. . . . 

Counts below do not include 4 (2D, 2R) women who will serve as non-voting delegates in the 117th Congress.

So, the good news. A total (so far) of 144 women will serve in the 117th U. S. Congress, which "surpasses the previous record of 127 . . . set in 2019."

 But if you're a reader of this blog, you will know that I am never satisfied. So the bad news: that new record of 144 women is still pitiful--that represents only 26.9% of all members of the U. S. Congress. 

For previous posts on women in the U. S. Congress, click on the label, below.