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Esther Kello (née English, Inglis, Langlois)

  • Object:

    Print

  • Date:

    ca. 1850-1904 (engraved)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Aikman, George W., born 1830 - died 1904 (engraver)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Engraving on paper

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Sir Ambrose Heal

  • Museum number:

    E.859-1965

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level D, case PP, shelf 66

  • Image unavailable

Physical description

Engraved portrait, half-length, facing slightly left, of calligrapher and miniature painter Esther Kello (née English, Inglis, Langlois) (1571-1624) wearing hat and ruff. After an anonymous painting in oil on panel, dated 1595, lent by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. Lettered 'Esther Inglis' and 'G. Aikman'.

Date

ca. 1850-1904 (engraved)

Artist/maker

Aikman, George W., born 1830 - died 1904 (engraver)

Materials and Techniques

Engraving on paper

Marks and inscriptions

'Esther Inglis' 'G. Aikman'

Dimensions

Height: 26.5 cm cut to, Width: 20.7 cm cut to

Object history note

After the anonymous painting in oil on panel, dated 1595, lent by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. The engraving appears as a plate in ‘Notes relating to Mrs. Esther (Langlois or) Inglis…’ by David Laing, facing p.290, vol. 6 of Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1868. The painting, then the property of the author, is mentioned on pp.289, 290.

Historical context note

Fifty-nine manuscript books written by Esther Inglis and dating from 1586 to 1624 are known. Most of them carry dedications to royalty, members of the nobility, or people of rank and influence, and were evidently presented in hope of reward. Two early works, ‘Discours de la foy’ in verse, dated 1591 (Huntington Library, HM 26068) and the Psalms in French of 1599 (Christ Church, Oxford, MS 180), were made for Elizabeth I, and four for Henry, prince of Wales; another patron was the poet and courtier Sir David Murray of Gorthy, whom she addressed as ‘mon treshonoré Mecoenas’ (BL, Harleian MS 4324, fol. 2). But despite these wealthy patrons the family was not well off, and Esther was in debt at the time of her death. The manuscripts are written in a wide range of scripts, including the French secretary hand, chancery script, mirror writing, and the highly ornamental hands practised by contemporary writing-masters. Some of her most ornate books, executed between 1599 and 1602, contain over thirty different styles, but from 1608 she tended to use only roman and italic, often on a tiny scale. Several manuscripts written in 1615 measure about 45 × 70 mm and contain lines of text less than a millimetre in height. The decoration in her manuscripts changed too. The earlier works often have introductory pages, headpieces, and initials incorporating designs and elements copied from printed books. In contrast, her later manuscripts make use of colour but have far less decoration, and this often takes the form of flower paintings. Many of the manuscripts contain a self-portrait in pen and ink or in colour, sometimes accompanied by verses in her praise by the Presbyterian divines Andrew Melville and Robert Rollock.

Esther Inglis signed and dated most of her work. Among the undated manuscripts are two collections (NL Scot., MS 2197, and Edinburgh University Library, MS La.III.522) probably intended as specimen books and modelled on the published works of writing masters such as John de Beauchesne. She certainly knew Clément Perret's Exercitatio alphabetica (1569), since she copied parts of its decoration in several manuscripts written between 1599 and 1601, notably in ‘Le livre de l'Ecclésiaste’ dedicated to the vicomtesse de Rohan (New York Public Library, Spencer Collection, French MS 8). But the most striking example of adaptation is a manuscript made for Prince Charles in 1624 (BL, Royal MS 17.D.XVI), a version of Georgette de Montenay's Emblemes ou devises chrestiennes (1619), in which Esther dedicated each emblem to a different English courtier. As with eleven other books made for royalty, it is in an embroidered binding which is probably also her own work. Another outstanding manuscript (privately owned) is ‘A book of the armes of England’ made for Henry, prince of Wales, in 1609. It contains paintings of the arms of the nobility and its velvet binding is embroidered with the prince's crest in pearls.

In contrast to her elaborate manuscripts, Esther Inglis wrote at least ten small books between 1614 and 1617 which are relatively plain and very similar in design. They contain little decoration, the script is a small roman hand, and the texts are either the ‘Quatrains’ of Guy du Faur, Sieur de Pybrac, or the ‘Octonaires sur la vanité et inconstance du monde’ of Antoine de la Roche Chandieu. Esther frequently copied these texts as well as drawing heavily on both French and English versions of the Genevan Bible. She also wrote out an English translation by her husband and incorporated verses by him in her work.

While other women calligraphers are known from this period, the quantity of work by Esther Inglis to survive is remarkable and her manuscripts have always been admired. Although her draughtsmanship was weak and she lacked originality, preferring to reproduce designs by others, the delicacy and precision of her calligraphy, particularly when working on a very small scale, was outstanding.

Yeo, Elspeth. Inglis , Esther (1570/71–1624). In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Descriptive line

Engraved portrait, half-length, facing slightly left, of calligrapher and miniature painter Esther Kello (née English, Inglis, Langlois) (1571-1624) wearing hat and ruff. By George W. Aikman.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Victoria and Albert Museum Department of Prints and Drawings and Department of Paintings Accessions 1965 pub. HMSO 1966
Full text of entry is as follows:
AIKMAN, George W. (1830-1904)

Esther Kello (née English, Inglis, Langlois) (1571-1624), calligrapher
and miniature painter. Portrait, half-length, facing slightly left,
wearing hat and ruff. After the anonymous painting in oil on panel,
dated 1595, lent by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland to the
Scottish National Portrait Gallery.
Lettered Esther Inglis and G. Aikman.
Engraving. Cut to6 ¾ x 5 3/8 (17 x 13.6cm.) E.859-1965
Bequeathed by Sir Ambrose Heal
Note: This plate appears in ‘Notes relating to Mrs. Esther (Langlois or
Inglis…’ by David Laing, facing p.290, Vol. 6 of Proceedings of the
Society of Antiquaries of Scotland
, Edinburgh, 1868. The painting, then
the property of the author, is mentioned on pp.289, 290.
Yeo, Elspeth. Inglis , Esther (1570/71–1624). In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/15292, accessed 1 Feb 2010]
'Inglis [married name Kello], Esther (1570/71–1624), calligrapher, was probably born in London. She is generally known as Inglis, the Scottish form of Langlois. Her parents, Nicolas Langlois and Marie Presot, moved to London from Dieppe in France as Huguenot refugees about 1569. By 1574 they were settled in Edinburgh, where, after initially receiving assistance for debt, Nicolas became master of the French school and died in 1611. Esther, the second of five children, was taught calligraphy by her mother, who was a skilled scribe. She married Bartholomew Kello (d. 1631) about 1596. John Kello, her husband's father, had become minister of Spott, Haddingtonshire, in 1567, and was hanged for the murder of his wife, Margaret Thomson, in 1570. Bartholomew Kello was a minor government official who occasionally went abroad in the royal service. He and his family appear to have moved to London by 1604 and from 1607 to 1614 they were in Essex, where Bartholomew was rector of Willingale Spain. They returned to Edinburgh in 1615, and Esther died at Leith on 30 August 1624. She was survived by her husband and four children.'

Materials

Paper; Printing ink

Techniques

Engraving (printing process)

Subjects depicted

Portrait; Hats; Ruffs; Inglis, Esther

Categories

Prints

Collection code

PDP

Qr_O696575
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