I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people say that nineteenth century young men and ladies looked very different from people today. I disagree. Or, sure there are stylized portraits that make them look rather unworldly, and some artists have more skill than others. I’ve heard the arguments that poor dental care made mouths look sunken, or people were afraid to smile because of their teeth. Then there are those who insist that because some ceilings were lower and surviving clothing is smaller that people were a lot shorter than we are. (I shudder to think who lived in the remarkably high-ceilinged rooms of some of the country estates!) Certainly hairstyles and fashions have changed over time.
People had their portraits painted for a number of reasons: to commemorate a major event like a military victory, to announce their success in their careers, or to document their family. Recently I’ve come across a number of portraits that seem to me to be straight out of Hollywood today. See what you think.
This is the French miniaturist Francois Jean Baptist Isabey and his daughter, right around 1800. Compare him to Keanu Reeves. Ancestor, perhaps?
How about this one? Young Mr. Fleetwood is dressed for riding to the hounds, his knee hooked up over his saddle, around 1803. Shia LaBeouf, anyone?
And then there’s Elinor, either the 1810 version in this miniature or Emma Thompson’s version from Sense and Sensibility.
So, what do you think? Have we changed so much in 200 years?
Oh, and just so you know—we will have one post next week, Wednesday or Thursday, so we can spend more time with our families over the holiday. Carpe diem, my dears!