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ID number:  BIRRC-A0435
Institution:  Research and Cultural Collections
Named collection:  Campus Collection of Fine and Decorative Art
Artist / Maker:  Unknown
Title / Object name:  Portrait of Tom Skelton
Object type:  Painting
Culture:  English
Date made:  17th century
Materials:  Oil on canvas
Measurements:  182.9 x 121.9 cm
BIRRC-A0435(1).jpg

A court jester is depicted in a checked costume with tools of his trade, which are explained in a poem on the left-hand side of the painting.

Notes:  A court jester is depicted in a checked costume with tools of his trade, which are explained in a poem on the left-hand side of the painting. The poem specifically mentions Haigh Hall and the surrounding countryside but gives no clue to the date of the portrait or to the name of the artist.

The nineteenth century label attached to the painting describes the sitter as 'Tom Skelton, fool to the Crawford and Balcarres Family'. Skelton probably sat for the portrait between 1659-1665.

The term ‘tomfoolery’ was coined by Shakespeare in King Lear in reference to the character ‘Tom the Fool’. It is thought that The Bard was paying tribute to Tom Skelton. Whether Skelton inspired Shakespeare is up for debate. It has been proposed that the two were friends. However, other sources suggest that they would never have met.
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