Friday, June 27, 2008

The Rubens Wife Phenomenom

bout a hundred years after Rubens painted a full-length portrait of his Wife, England discovered it. And for whatever reason they could not get enough of it. The so-called Rubens Wife trend in 18th century English fashion was something that either did not go out of style or kept coming back in style. It also bred the Van Dyck trend in fashion, which did not discriminate between the sexes. Both of these Dutch trends in clothing were pricey and would only be sported by the rich at masquerades and in portraits. These displays in portraits varied from trying to directly mimic Helena Fourment's dress and pose to variations on both. Many of the sitters would hold the ostrich feather to show the connection to the old portrait, such as Lady Oxeden (above) in the 1755 portrait by Thomas Hudson. One of the more famous examples is Gainsborough's The Hon. Mrs Graham from 1775. Interestingly, the dress worn by Mrs. Graham was a figment of the artists vivid imagination. This style borders on the Van Dyck style which can usually be distinguished by the lace collar and 17th century Dutch clothing spin-offs. Again, this style ranges in portraits from about the 1730's to the 1790's. A famous example of this style would be another Gainsborough, now known as The Blue Boy (left) from 1770. The Van Dyck style was very appealing to men for their self-portraits, even Georgiana's brother John 2nd Earl Spencer was depicted in Van Dyck style by Reynolds in 1774. Georgiana, however, choose not to go in the Van Dyck style in her accompanying portrait that was commissioned with it. Soon, the two Dutch Golden Age vogues became so common that they were hardly noticeable as distinctively Dutch. They soon melded with the rest of the English styles to form something, well distinctively 18th century English.

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