Thursday, December 20, 2012

Lady with Dog

National Gallery of Canada
Lady with Dog
17th c. Quebec

Sorry for not providing the artist's name with this one. I would have done so, had I known it.
But that's another story.

The woman portrayed in this work, has rather ordinary or common features.  But even this statement groans under the weight of culture. Artists have painted so many women for their beauty that its easy to fall into the 'beauty trap'.  Let's face it. If an artist painted a man with features like William Cromwell, who purportedly told his portrait painter, "Paint me......warts and all," surely there is room to accommodate 'everyday folk'. In many respects it takes a person with a depth of understanding of life to go beyond the surface and to search for the inner being. Isn't that what it should be all about?

The lady has a Mona Lisa presence. She has a hint of a smile on her face but if my vision isn't  deceiving me, I would think that one of her eyes stray. Even her dog is a rather ordinary little animal. I found myself focusing on the spot on its head and playfully wondered if one of its eyes had wandered. Now that's silly. Maybe even not suitable for 'The Portrait'.

Besides all that our woman is a lady of financial means and status.  Her clothing is rich and ornate. She wears a little pinky finger, which suggests that she is a woman of wealth .and this finger separates itself and goes it own way  If it were a painting of a man, it wouldn't be difficult to imagine that with a slight modification of wardrobe it could have been a bishop.

Two readers of 'The Portrait' suggested that the dog might be a King Charles Spaniel, which was a dog noted to be a favourite among genteel ladies. It was said to have been a much favoured lap dog.
Which is another indication, that our subject was a lady of status.

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1 comment:

  1. I couldn't take my eyes off of her forehead, myself.
    I've noticed this high forehead in many old photos as well and wonder if the severity of pulling hair back into a bun caused this ? ... perhaps quickening hair loss at the hair-line ?
    Her clothing does look very 'haute-couture' and the artist has definitely spent a good deal of time making that lace.
    I have no right to criticize, because I don't 'do' animals, but doesn't the spaniel looks a bit flat ? ... maybe the artist was rushed to get this portrait finished on time.
    Would love to know who painted this and of whom !


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