Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Enlightened Family Portrait, Part 2 Husbands and Wives

Originally when I began this post I intended to do it with a jumble of paintings. But of course, once I got carried away with the portraits I realized I had to divide the paintings up by categories. The portraits of husbands and wives served a new purpose in the 18th century as previously discussed. Instead of showing the man's vast wealth and property (wife included in that) these now displayed the sitter's Enlightened sense of family values and even love for his spouse. With the rise in the sense of woman's rights by ladies such as Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Robinson, these portraits displayed the new sense of unity between husband and wife. Showing affection toward one's spouse is something that shows one's superior character, not lack thereof. Take into account also how the couples are usually placed in nature; another Enlightenment sensibility.

Thomas Gainsborough, Mr. and Mrs. William Hallett, 1785

Henry Raeburn, Sir John and Lady Clerk, 1790

Thomas Gainsborough, Mr. and Mrs. Andrews, 1750

William Hogarth, David Garrick and his Wife, 1757

Women and Children


  1. Oh!Oh!Oh! One of my favorite paintings falls into this category -- David's portrait of Monsieur Lavoisier and His Wife(Marie-Anne-Pierrette Paulze)

    Although this one is perhaps more overtly passionate than the English ones? You know how those French are ;) I'm always amused by the 'and Wife' part of the title; if anything to my eye Madame Lavoisier is the primary figure in the painting. It's rather as though she casually wandered in and took over the sitting. Monsieur doesn't seem to mind.

  2. Oh yes I looove that painting! There is something kind of English about it, despite David being die-hard French. There seems to not be as many Enlightened French portraits of husbands and wives in this period.

    But I think I am most attracted to this painting for the very point you bring up, Madame Lavoisier really does steal the show!