Dueling Fashionistas: Lady Jane Harrington v. Jane Halliday

The latest edition of Dueling Fashionistas is fresh from the press, and ready for a vote.  First though, let’s see where the ladies who bear confusingly similar names stand in Reynolds’s portraiture:

The two Janes before you are painted in a pastoral style by the great Sir Joshua Reynolds.  In both portraits one hand is outstretched, as if directing the viewer toward the majesty she alone has seen.  Their flowing gowns are reminiscent of their muses.  Whereas Halliday’s whips on a violent breeze, Harrington’s seems composed, an extension of her easefulness.  The scenery around Harrington is also less elemental than her opponent’s disturbed backdrop of air and shadowed land.

In terms of movement, I find Halliday’s portrait irresistible.  A pale wrapper streams across her arm; her coiffure is romantically askew.  The wind is an influence she cannot control, and in rippling with it she becomes sylph-like.

Harrington’s portrait possesses more restraint.  Her hair is partially undone where it grazes over her shoulder and her gown puddles where she stands, but her general appearance recollects sublimity.  Overall, her tableau is gentler and dignified, the urn and Grecian style robes a nod to classicism over naturalism.

Lady Jane Halliday, 1779 | SIr Joshua Reynolds
Lady Jane Halliday, 1779 | Sir Joshua Reynolds
Jane Fleming, later Countess of Harrington. 1778-79 | Sir Joshua Reynolds
Jane Fleming, later Countess of Harrington. 1778-79 | Sir Joshua Reynolds

Which style do you prefer, and, moreover, does the triumph go to Lady Harrington or Jane Halliday? Which Jane is fairer and why? And do you think Reynolds did the ladies justice?

I’d love to hear your opinion! (Especially regarding Lady Halliday’s shoes — they’re sandals, right?)

16 thoughts on “Dueling Fashionistas: Lady Jane Harrington v. Jane Halliday

  1. This is pure opinion but I prefer the Countess of Harrington’s portrait to Lady Halliday., even though Halliday’s gladiator sandals are epic. The Countess has got the pouf, but more importantly she’s rocking those fabulous ostrich plumes. Her gown’s got a Grecian, diaphanous thing going on…she just looks put together. It’s more of a portrait while it seems a lot of imagination was sifted into Lady Halliday’s portrait. She looks like Dorothy when the twister’s a-comin’. I don’t really think Lady Halliday held that pose or stood outside facing the onset of a wind storm. If she did, power to her, especially wearing sandals with all that oncoming debris blowing in!

    1. “Dorothy when the twister’s a-comin” — hilarious. I admit, Halliday’s nature portrait looks staged. I hardly think a lady would brave inclement weather but I like that it’s different than other portraits of the period. Plus, despite my love of the Georgian era and all its opulence, I’m a total nature girl 🙂

      Lady Harrington’s portrait is beautiful, truly what a noble person would desire for her gallery. I’ve seen Harrington’s so much that I’m a bit inured to its attraction. I, however, think she’ll be the winner of this dueling fashionistas…despite Halliday’s “epic” gladiator sandals!

      Thanks for the lovely comment, la Dauphine. Your take on the merits and demerits of either portrait made me laugh.

      1. Now that I know Lady Halliday’s portrait is unique to the time, new appreciation is sparked! I don’t know my Georgian that well. *blushing*

        I am so happy to hear I made you laugh. It’s the most esteemed achievement for me.

      2. I think Halliday’s portrait is a hot mess…and that’s why I like it. Women are rarely depicted in tousled styles in the Georgian period and there (at least for yours truly) lies the charm.

        Your comments are just as fun to read as your blog, la dauphine! Which, by the way readers, you should visit now. If you like reading Life Takes Lemons, it should be right up your alley.

  2. Lady Harrington is the undisputed winner for reasons uncountable: better hairdo, lovelier face, a more distinguished gown, everything, really. except the roman sandals… which one can barely distinguish when distracted by the tornado- struck damsel.

    1. I had to squint very hard to ensure that they were, indeed, sandals! It’s certainly a windswept scene, perhaps to the extent that Halliday becomes unbecoming.

      Thanks for your vote! Lady Harrington appears to be the clear favorite.

  3. I have to go with The Eventual Countess. For completely subjective reasons.
    I visit the Huntington Mansion almost every weekend with my 16month-old daughter (it’s nearby and has a big yard). Just last weekend in fact, we wandered into the gallery containing this painting. We were both stunned at what a regal beauty she is (actually, I think my daughter was more interested in the frame).

    My only pedantic criticism is the perspective on the large urn to her right. Qu’est-ce-que c’est que ce bordel ici? Very mediocre, high-school-art-class attempt.

    I love the Heathcliff-bonkers quality of the weather in the Halliday painting, but there’s several things going wrong here in my opinion. Romantic and elegance are tricky to balance – when it fails, it looks a bit like this. The lofty and elegant facial expression in this environment seems incomplete, leaving her looking more like she’s an agent showing a house. Her hair for some reason seems less windswept and more like a washerwoman’s headscarf. Lastly, there is a subtle, weird and unfortunate effect in how the lighting combines with the position of the irises in her eyes – the first millisecond impression is that she’s a little googly-eyed. Just a subjective opinion.

    The shoes/sandals certainly have a interesting Greek neo-classical specificity, as in Poussin’s “et in Arcadia ego”. Or in this case ventosa Arcadia.

    1. Another one for the countess! You’re lucky to have seen her portrait in person. Always feels more intimate that way, at least to me.

    1. I’d almost completely forgotten about the saint and sinner sisters until you reminded me. Lady Worsley was a card. Delightful, but I can imagine Lady Harrington groaning about her sister’s depraved life on more than one occasion.

  4. Lady Jane H.’s graceful gracelessness charms me. Her fabrics and fripperies are devolving before our eyes, in front of a frankly superior sky. Her face is not as pretty as our Later Countess, but the buffeting winds have startled a blush into her cheeks, making her the more lively subject.

    I enjoy her dress more – it has shape, it clings, it has a deep, daring scoop of a neckline. It ripples with golden light, rather than wrapping around its lady like a statuesque cone. Touches of blue at her elbows and tightened waist – as well as frolicking about her shoulder make it even more delightful.

    Her hair is of interest, too – there is a trace of remaining braid…perhaps it was a buoyant as Jane F.’s before the winds came?

    I’ve settled on the side of Halliday. Although I am afraid I am not too keen on those sandals.

  5. What a lovely idea to present two Lady Jane portraits by Joshua Reynolds for comparison. As I age, I am so attracted to CALM, so I would favor the eventual countess. But what about a third Lady Jane? I can find no image of her, and yet there is some evidence a portrait exists. Perhaps it was a mistake? “…mention of an acquisition and exhibition loan by Gift of Andrew Norman Foundation and Museum Acquisition Fund / Mrs. Edward Archibald Hamilton (Lady Jane Montgomerie; by descent), Rozelle, Ayrshire, to 1860 . / ON DEPOSIT National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1969. – This is a blog response to “how did a highland portrait end up in LA?” On a further note, see “Lady Jane’s Cottage” on Wikipedia. She is the most interesting Montgomery I have ever found, yet is so obscure, even though touching on some very flamboyant events in history. I would love to find an image of her. There is a description of what she was wearing at The Eglinton Tournament Ball. Can anone enlighten me further? She is an ancestress to me.

    1. What a charming cottage! I had never heard of it, or the lady, before. I’ll have to see if I can dig up a bit of info about her but from just a quick google search, the documentation seems slim. Yet another of history’s mysteries :). Obscure people do seem the most fascinating.

      1. Lady Jane Montgomerie Hamilton is my favorite ancestress. I did find an image of her. It was highly stylized, but I was thrilled to find it. I have it pinned on “LADY JANE MONTGOMERIE HAMILTON 1775 – 1860”, my board on PINTEREST, As yet, it does not show up by browser searching. I would love to find another picture of her. (I may have found a pic of her mother, but I question the credibility.) P.S. Roger Griffith, now retired ranger from Eglinton Country Park, is a living wealth of info. Mary ~(:-)

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