“There are only two styles of portrait painting,” Charles Dickens famously quipped, “the serious and the smirk.” Indeed, portrait painting – or more appropriately, profile painting – dates back to the early days of ancient Rome & Egypt where noble figureheads could be found on the sides of currency, captured in bronze and marble, or painted in public frescoes as examples of moral values and political might. The subject’s expression was typically grave or serious, as it would be throughout the Dark Ages, during which many portraits were intended for observation in churches, and then in the later Byzantine era where symbolic motifs were favored in place of realism. Thanks to the artists of Renaissance Italy, masters of expression and light such as DaVinci, Raphael, and Michelangelo introduced realistic facial features and a wide-range of expressions for their models and corresponding tableaux.
These ideas would temper during the Baroque period, where a hierarchical range of subject matter would see portrait painting as second only to historical genre scenes, and portraits became, as they did in Ancient times, a symbol of the very powerful and very wealthy. Canvases had been elongating in size since the Venetian School with artists such as Titian, Veronese and Tintoretto. Thus hundreds of years of European art are rife with imposing figures gazing from behind their finery in opulent settings as indications of their historical significance and authority. The tradition of full length portraiture would continue, predominantly in the upper class, during the Romantic periods of the late 18th and early 19th century, where subjects were not only portrayed for their wealth and status, but for their beauty and fashion. Facial expressions, however, were close-lipped and serious.
In keeping with this gaze into art history, Great Gatsby’s Auction Gallery is pleased to be offering three ‘palace size’ or standing portraits as part of their upcoming auction, which will take place on October 14, 15 and 16, 2016. The first is an imposing and richly detailed 19th century portrait of Queen Anne of Britain by a follower of Sir Godfrey Kneller (British, 1646-1783), depicting the royal in an embroidered gown wearing a bejeweled crown and holding a scepter. Her blue silk robe with ermine trim seems to cascade from the edges of the canvas, the Queen herself serene yet serious, as if treating the viewer like a royal subject. The portrait measures 106”h x 71”w and is housed in an exquisitely carved gilt wood frame.
Also on offer is a pair of 19th century portraits by the British artist Richard Bucker (1816-1861) depicting the young and robust Sir George Jenkinson and his beautiful raven-haired wife, Lady Jane Jenkinson in classically wooded settings. The portraits, which will be sold separately, measure an impressive 92”h x 55”w each and would make a fantastic addition to any great room. The relaxed yet stately stance of Sir George, whose generous facial hair fails to detract from his youth, speaks to a sort of country intelligence, a modern man wearing the latest fashions befitting the interior and out-of-doors lifestyle common among the British upper class. Lady Jane is a vision herself in a smart and attractively lace-trimmed black dress, her wrists demurely crossed as if to show the detail of her sleeve. Her hair is parted and a necklace shines at her milky throat, – a picture of pastoral loveliness among the Capriccio inspired-columns behind her. The paintings are so finely executed as to stand alone in a warmly hued living room or entranceway; yet don’t miss the opportunity to acquire them both this October for a chance to add a ‘palatial’ feel to your home sweet home!