Painting Flesh in 16th Century Europe

Antonis Mor, Portrait of a Lady with a Parrot, 1556, oil on panel, bequeathed by Charles Hepburn, 1971, Acc: GLAHA 43764"Her nose, her cheek, pure ivory wears.
No purer then the pretty ears,
So that therein appears some blood,
Like wine and milk that mingled stood"‎

Sir Phillip Sydney‎, "What tongue can her perfections tell?",16th century

‌Sixteenth century Europe is rich with portraits of the great and good, which line our national collections’ walls with their milky skin and meaningful stares, and looking upon their faces is something which has always occupied me. But what I am particularly interested in now is how these faces were crafted to stare out at us over hundreds of years. My project aims to answer this by focusing upon three portraits from across Europe in the Hunterian Art Gallery, demonstrating the international reach of the collection and what it can tell us about painting methods 500 years ago.
Being an artist in the sixteenth century usually meant being apprenticed from an extremely early age to a master, and studying the treatises published by those masters before them. A huge amount of emphasis is devoted in these artistic tracts to the painting of skin-tone and faces, changing depending upon gender, rank and age. My research will use technical photography and paint analysis to establish working methods and reveal how much these instruction manuals translated into everyday practice.

‌My research will be undertaken upon three works in the Hunterian Collection;
• Antonis Mor, Portrait of a Lady with a Parrot, 1556, oil on panel, bequeathed by Charles Hepburn, 1971, Acc: GLAHA 43764
• Michele Tosini, Portrait of a Gentleman and his Dog, c.1523-1577, oil on panel, bequeathed by Charles O’Neill, 1846, Acc: GLAHA43831
• Alonso Sanchez Coello, Anne of Austria, c.1570, oil on canvas, bequeathed by Charles Hepburn, 1971, GLAHA4381

These works present ideal subjects for a full technical study, and as well as contributing to the knowledge of this period in European painting, this research will provide a fascinating expansion to some of the highlights of The Hunterian's art collection, add to the limited body of work upon Mor’s painting techniques, and compliment the planned 2016 exhibition. This research links to work undertaken on Mor's portrait by my PhD supervisor Dr Erma Hermens and colleagues. More here

Follow my Progress on twitter, @Wine_and_Milk and at

Hannah Woodward, PhD Candidate – History of Art

PhD research:
My PhD research uses a technical art historical approach to establish a sense of working practice of Scottish artists in the sixteenth century before James VI became James I of England and removed the court to London.