Embroidered Nightcap of Phineas Pett (1570-1647)

Phineas Pett (1570-1647), by John de Critz (?) Phineas Pett (1570-1647), by John de Critz (?) Copyright National Portrait Gallery, London, acc. no. 2035.

Phineas Pett was a shipwright with close connections to the royal court in London. He was the son of shipwright Peter Pett and his second wife, Elizabeth Thornton. The National Portrait Gallery, London houses a portrait of Phineas Pett aged 43. Pett noted in his autobiography that in the autumn of 1612: "About this time my picture was begun to be drawn by a Dutchman working then with Mr. Rock at Rochester" (pp. 99-100).

Mr. Rock was Thomas Rock, a ship-painter. It is possible that the Dutch painter was John de Critz ( c. 1555-1641/2), who was born in Antwerp (now in Belgium) and later moved with his family (some of whom were Huguenots) to London. He was well known for his portraits of wealthy merchants.

In the portrait there is a large crest of the Pett family, to the left of the sitter's head, and a depiction of a ship builder's yard to the right. Pett is depicted wearing a white doublet with slashed sleeves and applied bows made from the same material as the doublet. He also wears russet breeches embellished with a narrow band of gold work embroidery; a sword belt that was decorated with stylised floral motifs in metal thread embroidery, as well as a white nightcap embellished with multi-coloured silk (?) used to create floral motifs including Tudor roses, and with gold coloured lace. The style is that of an informal nightcap that was worn indoors during the day (!).

The British Library has in the Harleian Collection the manuscript of his diary, the 'Life of Mr Pineas Pett', Harl. MSS. 6279.

Source: PERRIN, W.G. (ed., 1918), The Autobiography of Phineas Pett, London: Navy Records Society, pp. 99-100.

National Portrait Gallery online catalogue (retrieved 5th June 2016).


Last modified on Monday, 26 June 2017 13:49
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