I was reading an article the other day about Joanna of Castile the sister of our Queen consort Catherine of Aragon. In the article was a picture of her husband Philip the Handsome who reigned as King Philip I of Castile and was also the Duke of Burgandy. Now the photo in my opinion didn’t do the poor man justice.
This portrait was produced around 1500 when Philip was Duke of Burgundy and around 22 years old.
This picture got me thinking how accurate were these portrait of their sitters?
Well in truth we will never know. But is there a reason for the way the pictures look.
Now I know nothing about art, I was useless at it at school and I only exceled at stickmen. But is a picture’s quality just down to the artist or does the tools they used have an influence on how good the picture was.
Let me explain. In 1500 the quality of the canvas the artist used would not be the same as more modern artists would use. In fact the picture of Philip was painted on an oak board. Now surely this influenced how the paint flowed on the wood. There are natural cracks and marks on the wood. Would this mean the paint went to an extent where it wanted and so the picture was less accurate?
The same is true of the quality of the paint. Oil based paints these days will be much better than the oil paints of 1500. With the development of manufacturing processes paints will be more consistent. Back in 1500 the paints would have been of a much lesser quality so did this mean that they didn’t flow as well and thus made a lesser quality painting.
So did the development of the materials account for the increased quality of artwork or did the talent of the artist increase?
This picture of King Henry VIII was painted by Hans Holbein the Younger around 1540, just 40 years after the picture of Philip the Handsome. The quality of the picture thought is so much better and it is well documented that this was a true likeness of the King. This is an oil painting but was done on a canvas rather than wood.
So comparing the 2 picture you could say that the artist of Philips picture was just not as good as Hans Holbein, but the since they are not on the same canvas then that could make a difference. The only true way to compare whether wood or canvas was best would have been for an artist to paint the same portrait on both wood and canvas.
Also the cost of the painting would probably have an impact on the quality. Henry VIII wasn’t known for scrimping on his spending so the Holbein painting probably cost a great deal. Maybe Philip used a lesser known artist would didn’t charge as much and so you could speculate that he used lesser quality paints and this resulted in the above portrait.
If you think about it the same is true for with the photographs of our ancestors. Early photos are of very stern looking people with absolutely no character to them. This was due to the quality of the camera and the long exposure needed. My camera can take a photo in 1/4000 of a second so I can catch the image instantly and so smiles and movement can be captured.
So was Philip the Handsome portrait a true likeness of him or not, we may never know but we can say that the quality of the artists material may have had an impact on the final picture. Whether it was a true likeness or not his wife Queen Joanna of Castile loved him dearly.
This week I bring you some Easter genealogy fun.
I officially have brain freeze and cannot thing what to blog about so I have made for your pleasure a genealogy based word search. So grab a cuppa and a biscuit and settle down and play away.
One thing I both love and hate about genealogy is the amount of information you can find out about your ancestor. With time, patience and skills you can find out where they lived, what they did and so much more. But you can’t find out everything as even within the family many things were never noted.
I got thinking about this when on Pinterest I saw a video of a little girl taking her first steps. Can you image being able to capture this momentous event for posterity. But for our ancestors we will never be able to find out this information as to when they took their first steps unless it’s recorded in an old family book or become folk law in the family.
So for the record I learnt to walk when I was 7 months old and used the Christmas tree to practice pull myself up and then I eventually toddled out of the sitting room. Needless to say in the practices the tree may have fallen down on me, but a piece of string to tie it to the radiator stopped that. First test flights usually have hiccups. I was tiny and am told I looked like a baby walking. The shoe shop had to specially order shoes for me as my feet were so small and I wanted to use my new skill as much as possible.
We may never know when our ancestors first walk, what their first words were, what they liked and disliked and even what they may have looked like. Now no amount of searching online will ever tell us when our ancestors took their first steps or said their first words. But is there information we think we may never know which may be available.
Well let’s start with the newspaper archive. They are a wonderful source of information. From the old averts for things which you would never get away with selling these days to the articles about sheep sales they are a wealth of information. So how can these help. Well in more local newspapers you may find a mention of one of your ancestors. If you read my blog on musical ancestors you’ll know I found a mention of a piano duet played by my twice great Grandad and his brother. This meant I could google the piece of music and here it being played. So I know the level of musical skill the brothers had. Another way is if they is a description of you ancestor. Maybe they were involved in something shady and a description was circulated so people could be on the lookout for them. Another way I have used the newspaper archive to learn more about my ancestors was when I found a description of a wedding day. The article described what the bride and bridesmaids wore and even what the mother of the both the bride and groom wore. The descriptions were fantastic and gave me a true insight into their special day.
Another great source for learning about our ancestors is military records. In all records will be a description of the soldier. It usually states their hair and eye colour, how tall they were and their chest measurements. Also if they have any scars or marks on their body this may be noted. So suddenly we can have an image of their build and colourings. Military records can also give you an indication of their character. Where they often on a charge, or did they have an exemplary service. Did they spend long periods in the hospital or even have more mental conditions. I once read a military record of a very distant ancestor in which the medical assessor described him as insane.
So although there are things about our ancestors we definitely will never be able to find out, there are things we can discover with time, skill and a whole lot of patience and sometimes a lot of look.
The SS Great Western was at the time the fastest way to cross the Atlantic Ocean. This meant that passengers could get from England to New York much faster. Thus emigrating to America would have been quicker for our ancestors.
So first a little about the ship. She was built by the Great Western Steamship Company owned by amongst others Isambard Kingdom Brunel. She was built at the Patterson and Mercer ship yard in Bristol. She was 76.8 metres long and 17.5 metres wide. She was an iron cladded wooden ship with 2 steam engines giving out 750 horse power which was used to power 2 side mounted paddle steamers. She also had 4 masts for sails just in case. In total she had 60 crew members to run the ship which could house 128 1st class passengers (with their 20 servants). On her maiden voyage leaving from Bristol on the 8th April 1838 she arrived in New York on the 23rd April. The Great Western was in service from 1838 until 1846 when she was sold after a number of incidents including a grounding to the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company. She ended her life after the Crimean War where she had been used for troop transport.
Now I know the ship only transported 1st class passengers but she did open the doors to faster transatlantic travel. With a sail powered ship in the early Victorian period it could take up to 6 weeks to cross to America. SS Great Western did it in 15 days on average.
So what did this mean for our ancestors? Well for many 6 weeks to cross the Atlantic was far too long a prospect. It perhaps stopped them from making the journey to a new life. I know I wouldn’t want to be on a ship for that long, I’d have gone stir crazy. 4 and half hours to Jersey was enough for me thank you very much. Now with the advent of these new faster ships that meant that you could get to New York faster and faster. Admittedly it probably cost a lot more than going by sailing ship and initially probably only attracted the wealthier but things were heading in the right direction.
Now a lot of us will probably have ancestors who left our shores for America and Canada. I know I have. I have ancestors who left in the mid 1840’s on board the sailing ship Hottinguer. They were druggists (chemists) in England and moved to New York State to set up a successful business Hudson County. Now John and Hugh Wardle were just19 and 20 and from Leek, Staffordshire when they left so I would assume a first class ticket on board a steam ship was beyond their reach. But did they ever use a steam ship if they ever came back to England? (I don’t think they did as their mum was dead and their father died in New York State so he must have joined them).
But the advent of the steam ship didn’t just reduce sailing times across the Atlantic. You may have had ancestor who decided that Australia was they place they wanted to emigrate to. Warm sun, gorgeous beaches, wombats why not! But by sailing ship this was a voyage of around 4 months. 4 months of seasickness, cramped conditions and poor food, that probably wasn’t mentioned in the brochure. Enter the steamships. In 1888 the SS Australasian could get you from London to Sydney in just 50 days with 640 passengers on board.
So SS Great Western was the first of the steam ships built with the purpose of crossing the Atlantic and by doing so she paved the way for faster travel for our ancestors and thus made the prospect of emigrating to a new country and my quicker one.
Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my Family History Ramblings on genealogy and history in general. I hope you find it informative and hopefully funny!