Blog post alert: Cabinets of curiosities, gardens, elegant glass instruments, paintings, frames—the post Science, gardens and the Baroque frame has everything! Or anyway scads of related topics and images that reflect my particular fancies. For a hi-rez version of this painting, click here.
Picturing a World
Okay, so not a female artist, but I couldn't resist William McGregor Paxton's portrait of a woman in a kimono contemplating a Japanese doll. (A female artist connection: the model may be his wife, painter Elizabeth Vaughan Okie.) What's useful to me in my musing on Japonisme as part of Jeanette's story is the way the picture can lead to thoughts about how a particular woman might react privately to a particular Japanese object. Is this Jeanette or one of her friends? Does the character hold a doll or teacup? What is the emotion aroused in her? in the reader? Looked at this way, there's no need worry about the Male Gaze or other scholoraly or critical criteria. As for the golden frame, well, of course, I had to include it when I took a screen shot!
Image via Sotheby's.
Well, I do love seeing paintings in picture frames. And I'm fond of dogs. I even collect images of medieval and Renaissance dogs with lion-cut hairdos. But, no, not $279,400's worth. And I wouldn't take Sotheby's word for it that this is Marie Antoinette's Pompon—though it must have been somebody's celebrity pooch, poor thing,
It's not hard to find 19thC depictions of women wearing kimonos painted by male artists—Monet, Stevens, Whistler, Chase. But what interests me as I think about how Japonisme might touch my character, Jeanette, is the extent to which female artists drew or painted them. Et voilà, in addition to Marie Danforth Page—Fanny Fleury! She even studied with Carolus-Duran.
In The Posthumous Papers of the Manuscripts Club (p. 481), Christopher de Hamel reports that Belle da Costa Greene " had a miniature portrait of herself painted in 1910 wrapped in apricot silk like an odalisque of the Middle East, explaining it to [Bernard] Berenson as showing 'the Belle of one of my former incarnations — Egyptienne.'" The artist, Laura Coombs Hills, was an exact contemporary of the real Jeanette Smith, which was enough to interest me in her. For her part, Greene was the great librarian of medieval manuscripts for J. Pierpont Morgan, an endlessly fascinating woman. And then I saw the portrait in its frame! Oh, that frame!
Blog post alert: A 2014 post, Mind's Eye from a Different Frame of Reference, discusses how curators at the Dallas Museum of Art chose frames from their collection to mount pictures in an exhibition. The images in the post are small, but they give a quick look at some unusual frames. There's really no connection to writing, but it's a good reminder by analogy that reframing a question or a plot point can reveal new insights.
Website alert: Attention art lovers and historical novelists: Essential Vermeer has links to all sorts of illustrated articles about topics such as Vermeer's palette, his paintings in their frames, music during his time, sources on the web of high-resolution images of his works, and much, much more. If you want to learn about the artist, his family, and his society, start here!
Image via Wikipedia.
Man, had I forgotten this one! But I see why I saved it. A 19th C artist, his studio, a lay figure, mirror images, picture frames—so much to linger over. An art-appreciation teacher might point to the way verticals and diagonals direct the eye, or the way the lighting picks out the gilding and that impressive mechanical figure. But what attracts a writer? What stories does His Favorite Model suggest?
This drawing of a priest looking at an album of pictures appears in Framing the drawing. an article about Renaissance artists who drew frames around drawings they collected. I found the whole thing interesting—more ways to frame! —but what electrified me was this particular image. It's so suggestive for a character in a story. Look at the man's concentration, the delicate tension in his extended finger. Connoisseur, scholar, merchant, alchemist? He seems to be pointing to something on the upper edge of the page. Why? Pick up clues where you find them, I say, and let your imagination run.