Garshin is more than just a beautifully rendered head. In this painting I feel like I am seeing the whole story of a man’s life depicted in the eyes alone. When I first saw Garshin, I immediately did some research to discover who he was in real life. I learned he was an idealistic author who lived during the Russian revolution, and he committed suicide at a young age. I only know Garshin from a portrait, but I was not surprised to learn that his real life personal anguish was so similar to the sadness I had already seen in his face.
Pair of gloves, ca. 1600 English Leather; satin worked with silk and metal thread, seed pearls; satin, couching, and darning stitches; metal bobbin lace; paper
Portraits from the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries are replete with minutely detailed representations of garments and accessories decorated with emblematic motifs. The gauntlets of these gloves are embroidered with motifs which also appear on other objects made in the late Elizabethan era—a disembodied eye raining pale blue and silver tears, a colorful pansy flower, and a bright green parrot with pearls on its wings. The weeping eye is related to a contemporary emblem book, Henry Peacham’s Minerva Britanna, or A Garden of Heroical Devises of 1612, though this motif was known as a symbol of unrequited love well before the publication of Peacham’s book.
The pansy, watered by the tears of the weeping eye, was a popular flower in the Elizabethan era. It was known to be a favorite of the queen herself and the pansy continued to appear in embroidery well into the seventeenth century.
Despite the present fragile and somewhat degraded condition of these gloves, they retain enough of their sumptuous embroidery to convey the luxury of the highest quality needlework of the late Tudor and early Stuart era.