Recently brought out of the vault for display in Gallery #5 is a portrait of Margaret, Lady Tufton (1636-1687). A beauty of the English court, she was the granddaughter of Edward, 1st Baron Wotton, a diplomat and court official for Queen Elizabeth I.
Margaret is shown in her elegant silk gown (which is actually an informal dress because of the loose, flowing fabric and lack of lace collar and cuffs; it shows a significant amount of bare skin!). She has beautifully arranged curls and wears expensive matched pearls. To accentuate her loveliness, she holds delicate roses in her lap.
When this painting entered the Milwaukee Art Museum’s collection in 1956, it was heralded as a masterpiece of the Flemish painter Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641). Van Dyck was one of the greatest portrait painters of all time. He influenced generations of later portrait painters, including Thomas Gainsborough (English, 1727-1788). Using brilliant brushwork, elegant compositions, and luscious textiles, he gives his subjects an easy aristocratic air while still making it clear that they are beautiful, virtuous, and powerful.
But now the artist of this work is listed as “Anthony van Dyck and Studio.” What does this mean?
“Face jugs” is a term created by art historians, historians and archeologists to refer to turned stoneware vessels with applied faces. The eyes and the teeth are made of kaolin, a white river clay that is one of the primary components of porcelain. You will notice when you visit the exhibition that there are also face cups and face pitchers.
Many different cultures have created pottery with faces or human elements, but the Edgefield face jugs are unique.