Elizabeth Murray’s watercolour sketch shows two figures dressed in a traditional Greek style of dress that was common during the mid-19th century.
The details of the boy’s elaborate costume are clearly defined: over an inner jacket of dark green he wears a richly-embroidered waistcoat and a thick sash, wound loosely around his waist. His white kilt-like garment, a ‘foustanela’, was a traditional item of male clothing worn mainly in the central and southern regions of Greece. This was established as formal court dress by Otto, son of Ludwig of Bavaria, who became the first king of modern Greece between 1832 and 1862. The ‘foustanela’ was composed of sections of triangular cloth sewn together diagonally to form the wide skirt, with deep pleats. The many pleats were said to symbolise the number of years that Greece had been under Turkish rule. It was first worn by Greek soldiers during the 1821 revolution and is still worn today as the official uniform of the ‘Evzones’, Greece’s presidential guard who watch over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Athens. Other elements of the boy’s costume include the green garters (‘gonatoures’) tied around his legs and the distinctive red cap (‘fesi’) on his head.
Elizabeth Murray was born in London, the daughter of portrait painter Thomas Heaphy. In the early 1830s she accompanied her father and brother to Italy, where she made sketches from classical sculpture. In c.1835 she was commissioned by Queen Adelaide to draw scenes in Malta. Following the visit she continued to Gibraltar and married H. J. Murray of the Consular Service, before travelling to Tangiers and Constantinople. In 1861 Murray was elected to the New Society of Painters in Watercolour. In 1864 she moved to America but continued to exhibit in England. Murray specialised in scenes of Mediterranean life. Other works by her can be found in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and the Forbes Magazine Collection, New York.
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