Daily Archives: June 7, 2010

18th Century Art – Portrait of a Lady with a Book

Antoine Vestier, 1785
Portrait of a Lady with a Book, Next to a River Source
The best thing about portraits is imaging what the sitter is thinking.  The lady, equal parts doe-eyed and longing, upon first glance looks a little pensive, maybe even a touch bored.  I can’t help but think there’s something more going on behind that placid exterior though.  Personally, I’m leaning towards a lady in full marital restraint.  There’s a slight pursing to her lips, her head cocked as if she might at any moment sigh.   Her finger is wedged in a book, keeping place.  Has she been interrupted?  Distracted by a provocative thought?  In my mind, her husband is on the periphery, wading by the river.  And this lady, after reading the heroics of a particularly dashing fellow, is wishing she could wallop her husband with her book.
Now for the record I have never a) lobbed a book at my husband, b) wanted to, or c) imagined doing so.  I may, however, have mentally dressed him in a kilt and gave his deep voice a brogue, but that’s another story! 
What I especially love about this portrait is the lady’s blue sash around her waist.  It’s shiny like the ivory ribbons on her dress.  This portrait also reminds me of the one in my previous post of Marie Antoinette by Vigee Lebrun.  Although the dress here is of fancier fabric, the design is similar to the chemise a la reine with perhaps the exception of long ruffled sleeves.  There are also fat pink roses in the background.  In a wilderness setting like this, I’m not sure where they came but what do I know?  I make stories about people in paintings.