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September 18, 2013

Before photography was invented the only way to capture the image
of a loved one was through a drawing, a painting, or a sculpture.
Like photographers today, early artists knew that their patrons were
more generous ($$$) if the rendition was, well, more flattering.

Who knew that photoshop (or, rather, oil
painting-shop) was so prevalent in the 17th century?

  Judith, by Dutch artist Eglon van den Neer, was painted in 1676.
After noting the plump wrists, substantial forearms, and the full face and
throat, I'm questioning the accuracy of the subject's 17 inch waist.  

Portraiture of the 17th Century had a certain Olan Mills-esque look about it:

Sir Francis Leicester by Thomas Murray, left, and William Rolle
by  Johan Kerseboom, right, were both painted in the 1690s.
Bring in the aristocrat, stand him in front of a pre-painted screen,
plop on a wig, place hand on hip, boom, you're ready to go.

Germanic National Museum
Gentleman's wig composed of human hair
and horse hair, c 1695

Awkward Family Photos
Anyone who thinks that awkward family portraits are
a new phenomenon clearly never studied 17th Century art:
In this family portrait by Nicholas deLargilliere, the Marquise de Noaillies
is pointing to a picture of her husband, the Marquis, who apparently was
too busy at the wig makers to sit for the painting.  Or maybe she's indicating
to send him the bill.

Maria Luisa of Savoy, Queen of Spain, was painted by Mario Leuel,
left, and a few years later by Francisco Melendez, right:

Which artist do you think she preferred?

Not surprisingly, Maria Luisa favored Leuel's work on the left.


Below are two portraits of Anna Maria Luisa de Medici:

The rendition on the left was painted in 1691 but the artist is unknown.
The portrait on the right was painted by Jan Frans van Douven in the late
1690s.  The unknown artist's 'interpretation' of the subject is not as
flattering as van Douven's and probably the reason he remains unknown.

In 1708 van Douven was commissioned to paint the royal couple and
Anna Maria appears even more attractive than she did in his earlier
effort.   Van Douven definitely knew how to handle the golden goose.

Van Douven's last painting of Anna Maria in her
widow's attire, pointing to her late husband,1715.

So, what have we learned in Art History 101 today? 
17th Century artists had women point at their husbands a lot?
Source                                                                                                                                                                                               Source

Or that serious young men were more attractive than serious young
women?  Or maybe that we shouldn't take art history too serious.


  1. I remember studying about this-that the painters were way ahead of their time in "fixing" their subjects to make them more pleasing to the eye. You found some great examples here-xo diana

  2. I think many of the noble subjects did expect to be "improved" in their portraits; verity was not paramount lol. I do love the phenomenal handling of Judith's dress though (don't you love how cool she is while her servant is futzing with Holofernes' head in the background!).

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