Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Question from Jeniann - Pierced ears

I haven't been able to find info on this anywhere! Did Tudor women pierce their ears? I know in most movies you see pierced ears, but I always figured that was because the actress had one. I'd imagine they had earrings of some kind, and in one portrait of Elizabeth I (Rainbow) you can see a pair that don't look like clip-ons. Does anyone know anything else about this?

5 comments:

Lara said...

I'm pretty sure they did pierce their ears... at least it looks like Elizabeth I did. In this hi-res version of the Sieve Portrait, it looks like she has a simple hook holding a large pearl:
http://www.shafe.co.uk/crystal/images/lshafe/Metsys_Elizabeth_I_The_Sieve_Portrait_c1583.jpg

I'll try to remember to take a look at a book I have on Tudor and Jacobean jewelry... I thought it was at home, but it must be in my office at work because I can't seem to find it here. I seem to recall photos of Tudor earrings with hooks, implying pierced ears.

PhD Historian said...

Yes, pierced ears were fairly common throughout medieval and early modern Europe, including England, on both women and men. King Charles I (died 1649) was well known for his large baroque pearl earring worn in the left ear. And one need only look at various jewelry collections from the entire period to see just how common pierced ears were. The famous Cheapside Hoard, a collection excavated in London in 1912, has been dated to the end of the Elizabethan period. It includes a number of pairs of pierced earrings. One of my personal favorites is a pair made from amethysts fashioned to look like tiny bunches of grapes. The Hoard was large enough for it to be split up and displayed in several London museums, including the Museum of London in the city's Barbican district, the nearby Guildhall Museum, the British Museum in Bloomsbury, and the Jewelry Room at the Victoria and Albert Museum (the last is currently closed for renovation, however). You can search on the Internet for "Cheapside Hoard" to read more about that particular collection and to find photos of portions of it. Diana Scarisbrick also has a few pictured in her book "Tudor and Jacobean Jewelry," as I recall. And as Lara notes, pierced earrings are indeed seen in a number of Elizabethan portraits.

Lara said...

Looked at my book (which is the Diana Scarisbrick one mentioned above) and she has a nice close-up of the earrings in The Rainbow Portrait. I didn't see any images of surviving pieces, so I must be thinking of another book. But, I love that Elizabeth is wearing an earring of an armillary sphere in the Ditchley portrait!

One thing she notes is that while the gable and French hoods were popular, apparently pierced ears weren't, since the hoods mostly covered the ears. She mentions a traveller from England in 1542 remarking on the silver loop earrings he saw on women in Spain. So I'm guessing that means that the early-Tudor women didn't wear them much. Since we know they were worn in earlier periods, I guess it is just one of those trends that waxed and waned occasionally.

Diane said...

I know they spoke of ear bobs and I've seen vintage jewelry from the period.
But about pierced ears, good question. If the women had pierced ears in Franc and Spain I would guess some of the women of affluence pierced their ears too

Karen said...

See http://www.larsdatter.com/earrings.htm (although the page is, at the moment, a work in progress); see also the essay on pierced ears in Encountering Medieval Textiles and Dress, "Marked Difference: Earrings and 'The Other' in Fifteenth-Century Flemish Art."