Attire in Portraiture

Attire in Portraiture
From self portraits to elaborately staged photo sessions, artists have used clothing and accessories as props, symbolism, and for religious reasons (from head to toe). I will discuss this fascinating subject.

Starting from the top, head armor/helmet or pot helm was vitally important protection during the High Middel Ages, from the 12th – 14th centuries.

From Jan van Eyck's "Ghent Altarpiece" (1432) is a portrait of the donor Elisabeth Borluut wearing a veil.

Northern Renaissance artist Albrecht Durer painted the second of three self portraits in 1498 wearing a hat and fine gloves. This was during the height of his career and acclaimed position in society.

Italian Renaissance artist Rafael painted "Saint George and the Dragon" in 1506. The theme inspired the film series "The Lord of the Rings."

From the same region came Giorgio Vasari who painted "Woman with Veil" from 1512-1515. At that time, the veil implied that the sitter was married.

Jewelry conveys class status, wealth, religion, and marital relationships. A brooch is worn by the Queen (1533-1603) in "Elizabeth" by William Faithorne the Elder and "Elizabeth" from the British (English) school.

Dutch artist Rembrandt possessed lavish clothing, jewelry, and accessories which he wore himself and on models for his portraiture. A self portrait from 1660 and another from 1669 show him wearing a hat.

His painting "Lucretia" (1664) is of the sitter wearing jewelry (necklaces and earrings). This painting can be seen at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

Rembrandt's estate was auctioned in 1655, subsequently filing for bankruptcy a year later.

In 1911, the Parisian hat industry was said to have contributed to the death of 30 million birds per year.

During the early 20th century, hats were extravagant, some two feet wide. Milliners were considered the 'aristocracy' of working-class women in Paris.

French Impressionist Edgar Degas painted "The Millinery Shop" from 1879-1886.

Dressed like a typical Frenchman, Pierre-Auguste Renoir wore a hat and painted others wearing variations in "Luncheon of the Boating Party" (1881) and "Dance at Bougival" (1883).

Vincent van Gogh painted "Self Portrait with a Straw Hat" and "Self Portrait with Gray Felt Hat" in 1887.

He also painted "A Pair of Shoes" (1886) and "Shoes" (1888), staples of a painter's apparel.

French Neoclassical artist Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres painted the sumptuously decorated stage for "La Grande Odalisque" (1814). Her turban and the ruby and pearl brooch in her hair is an attention-getter and evokes mystery behind the sitter.

His "Turkish Bath" (1862) portrays women wearing headscarves.

Mexican artist Frida Kahlo dressed in her native attire and wore flowers in her hair. For her, they symbolized fertility. A photo by Nickolas Muray, a Hungarian born American, is considered one of her finest portraits, from 1938.

Queen Elizabeth II was photographed by American Annie Leibovitz in 2007 and 2016, wearing (one of) her regal tiaras.

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This content was written by Camille Gizzarelli. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Camille Gizzarelli for details.