L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Lives grown together - four family portraits

Unknown French family, unknown artist, possibly Jean Jacques Hauer, circa 1789-91.
"The Contest for the Bouquet", The Family of Robert Gordon in Their New York Dining-Room, by Seymour Joseph Guy, 1866.
The Saithwaite Family, by Francis Wheatley, circa 1785.
Stephen and Virginia Courtauld with their pet ring-tailed lemur Mah-Jongg, by Leonard Campbell Taylor, 1934.


  1. These are all wonderful. You have to love how "The Contest for the Bouquet" hits all the fashionable notes for an upper middle-class interior of the era: walls painted in "drab", patterned carpet, gilt-framed oil paintings, Renaissance Revival sideboard, ferns growing in a Wardian case in the window, gas chandelier.

    And, naturally, the Courtauld's lemur's name would be "Mah-Jongg". What else would they have called it?

    Mrs. Saithwaites' feathered hat deserves an essay all its own.

    1. Yes, the details! I recently did another post on family portraits, but these had so much going on I had to save them and "break them down". Indeed "The Contest for the Bouquet" is a complete course in Victorian interior design. Perfection. And I love the mix of crude and refined in the first and third paintings. I'm often drawn to paintings like this, ones that give you everything - all the telling details - but then get so much "wrong"; surely the portrait of Mrs. Saithwaite is wretched - the vestigial nostrils! - and the precarious tilt of the carpet. But there are so many things about the room - the furniture, the urn upon the mantel, the door handle - that are exquisite.

      Another odd bit about the Saithwaite painting is how the armchair on the left - melds - into the sofa. In the detail you can see the straight sofa leg in the shadow - right under the chair - but there is no room left for the two unseen chair legs. I guess Mr. Wheatley worked himself into a compositional corner and though we wouldn't notice... ah, but I did, dear Francis! ; )