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All Walks Beyond the Catwalk


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Sally-Ann Provan, Headpiece: Momento Flori, 2014.


The main emphasis of Sally's research focussed on the visual symbolism used within in the portraits in the Reformation gallery as a public demonstration of the sitter's perceived status, wealth, and good character. Many of these symbols also reinforce the perceived value of a woman's virtue and purity.


Carnations or pinks, as seen in the Reformation gallery in the portrait of Margaret Tudor and Lord Methven and again in the portrait of Esther Inglis, are a symbol of bethrothal and a woman’s love. Butterflies as seen in the painting of Margaret Tudor and Lord Methven are a symbol of the brevity of life, and the cycle of life. The rose had religious connotations, as the medieval symbol of the Virgin Mary, and was continued to be used as a symbol of her piety and viginity. The Tudor rose was used in Elizabeth I's portraits to refer to the Tudor dynasty and the unity that it brought to the realm. Finally, the honeysuckle – for fidelity, love and devotion (as seen in portraits of Elizabeth I, Anne Boleyn and also Esther Inglis). These symbols are repeatedly used in paintings of the period, and I have worked them into lace patterns based on Sophie Hallette lace designs. These are then laser-cut and laser-engraved into transparent Perspex.


Silhouette is explored through the forms and styles of the accessories worn during the period and the fine detailing within them. Ruffs, as worn by wealthy men and women, were expensive since they were often made from the finest handmade lace and linen, with each having to be starched and ‘set’ with heated rods every morning. They were white and this added to the expense of keeping them bleached and clean. The shape of the exhibition headpiece is based on the ruff but is raised up from the neck and is worn around the head, framing the face.


The piece has a delicate lace edge beaded with facetted crystals and pearls, and delicate hints of gold. Inspiration for the construction of the piece is also taken from garments of the period where elements were often joined together using pins. The headpiece is held together using gold plated pins. Pearls are also incorporated into the construction and decorative detailing (themselves a symbol of both wealth and purity – they were often given as a gift to brides of the time. Wives of wealthy men were portrayed wearing jewels that were part of the dowry, family jewels, or special wedding gifts; so it was important to their families and husbands that these women were seen to be displaying them.“Female bodies are thus used to display the male accumulation of power and wealth.” (Tinagli 51). It is written that pearls (because of their resemblance to the moon) were used to present Elizabeth I as the goddess of the Moon, Cynthia (also known as Diana), who was a virgin and therefore pure.




Sally-Ann Provan, Headpiece: Memento Flori. Laser-cut acrylic, gold-plated pins, glass pearls and crystals.

Collection of the artist (c) Sally-Ann Provan.

Photo: Alastair Clark Photography