Monday, 20 June 2011

Possible Approaches to the Princess Problem

Photo from Wikimedia
For the incurably literal-minded, like me, respectable craftswomen who feel puzzled and vaguely insulted to be told to stand "like a princess", I have looked up a non-ridiculous mental image for stock.

Christina of Denmark, Duchess of Milan - Hans Holbein the Younger. This wonderful life-size portrait, which the photograph doesn't do justice to at all, was made as a bride-research project for King Henry VIII. Though happy to be painted, the lady is supposed to have said that if she had two heads, she would gladly lay one of them at the service of the King of England. Proving that if she didn't have two heads, she did have at least one brain.

I think my favourite paintings might all be those by artists who got spectacularly good at one thing. Holbein also designed magnificent metalwork and jewellery, but his fame is as a portraitist. All his portraits have this living presence, coming from a hundred clever technical tricks, like the close backgrounds, and careful attention to asymmetries in the faces, but surely also from a wonderful eye for people. There were others who knew the tricks, but they weren't this good. They couldn't paint a dimple in the act of appearing.

Although this lady is more like me: Anne Lovell - Lady with a Squirrell and a Starling. No doubt the capable manager of a large household, she is not used to being painted, and he has managed to paint her disconcerted awareness of his gaze: look at the squirrel's tail, so like a squirrel-hair paintbrush, tickling. What a craftsman.

3 comments:

Elizabeth said...

..the dimple in the act of appearing.
to paint this is to paint spirit!

But aside: I thought all week about what reference would work re the Princess Problem. As far as lovely posture and walk, my mind went to women who can stride along with baskets or pottery on their heads, or to lanky cowgirls such as my daughter, who stride around like super heroines in mucky boots and ponytails...or like young ladies who play soccer and stand so saucy with hands on hips...waiting. Who else?

David Bailey said...

I can't help but think you're spending a little too much time on this topic MsH :)

msHedgehog said...

@David, I don't understand what your thought is, what is it?