Looking Good at the SNPG


A reader has kindly brought my attention to a new exhibition at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh, which, among other themes, looks at ‘the elaborate hairstyles and fashions of the courtiers and cavaliers of the 16th and 17th centuries’.

With the newly saved-for-the-nation Van Dyck self-portrait as a centrepiece, the exhibition comprises 28 works of art from different eras, exploring male appearance and fashion to the present day.

Alongside the great Sir Anthony himself, and the doomed Lord George Stuart, 9th Seigneur of Aubigny (below, from National Portrait Gallery, London), contemporary Daniel Mytens also makes an appearance with his 1629 portrait of the 1st Duke of Hamilton. John Michael Wright’s Sir William Bruce is on display as well.

NPG 5964; Lord George Stuart by Sir Anthony Van Dyck


Mytens Hamilton
James Hamilton, 1st Duke of Hamilton, 1606-1649, Daniel Mytens, ©SNPG

Bruce by Wright
Sir William Bruce, c.1630-1710, Architect. By John Michael Wright. ©SNPG

I’ve heard mixed reviews about this exhibition, but if I were in the area I’d probably make the effort, if just for another look at Sir Anthony’s impressive self-portrait on its only stopover in Scotland at the end of a three year tour. If any readers have the opportunity to visit, let us know what you think!

The SNPG website has further details here and there is a review of the show here.

The exhibition runs until 1st October 2017.

Leave a comment


  1. Whoops, I didn’t get around to commenting!

    What were the mixed reviews saying? Were the problems with lighting, information, layout?

    I woube all over that exhibition given the chance. Not for the later pieces (ugh) but for 17th century portraits and fashion. Be curious to know if they’re using the term “the male gaze” with any of its political/social meaning (which is far more about how it affects women) or just making a pun, effectively.


  2. Bendor Grosvenor had a number of issues with it, from the annoying ‘soundscape’ playing in the background, to how the different themes of fashion, gender and sexuality didn’t really hang together. Also the lighting, and the fact that you have to go to this exhibition even if it’s not to your interest, just to see the Van Dyck,. I agree, it should be in its own show as the sole focus. http://arthistorynews.com/articles/4737_Antoon_in_Scotland!


    • An exhibition with built in noise?! [insert wholly unprintable negative comments here]

      They’re trying to combine those themes? And what the divvel do they mean by gender and sexuality anyway? Sexual orientation? Hardly relevant when the concepts scarcely existed, it was about the acts, and whether or mot they were sins (and some of those acts got men executed). Gender? Gender is a two-tier hierarchy and I will bet my back teeth they’re not talking about that at all. Bet they’re conflating it with sex, as in, male and female. ::snorts derisively::

      I really enjoy watching Bendor Grosvenor on Fake or Fortune. Not least for the moment Fiona Bruce described as “Believe it or not, this is Bendor’s happy face,” lol.


      • That’s exactly what people found so frustrating about the exhibition, it seemed a bit of a muddle with no central point. There’s a lot of LGBTQ/sexuality/gender-themed events and programmes in the UK at the moment, so they probably thought this show would be a perfect fit for the current climate but it doesn’t seem to have worked.

        So glad Fake or Fortune is back! First episode was last Sunday, about Constable. Irrelevant but I met Fiona Bruce a year ago. A very nice lady. 🙂


      • Ooh you lucky beggar, I like Fiona Bruce (we have a lot of Antiques Roadshow recorded). I hope F or F comes here again soon. There are never enough episodes aired at a time, grr. And an episode on Constable would be so worth seeing. Nice coincidence, I was rewatching an AR episode last night, and it included an early Constable drawing. 🙂

        The whole LGBTalphabet soup business in the UK is alarming – what was a human rights movement has essentially been taken over and become a regressive, misogynistic mess. It’s also way keen on lying about history, though I don’t know if it’s as bad there as in the US. Sounds like this exhibition was doing some serious pandering.


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