Monday, August 3, 2009
The Ladies Waldegrave
Joshua Reynold's iconic painting is probably familiar to many of you. Three heavily-powdered ladies in white sit around a table humming and hawing over their crafts. But before you get up to put the kettle on I'd like to share a bit about this painting.
The Ladies Waldegrave are specifically Elizabeth, Charlotte and Anna Horatia who were each 20, 19, and 18, respectively, when Reynolds painted them. Their mother was the vivacious and enterprising, Maria Duchess of Gloucester. It was she who commissioned this portrait, with a plan in mind. You see, Maria knew marketing and was a good PR rep, especially when it came to making sure her daughters married well, despite their mother's past sins. That's how The Ladies Waldegrave came to be.
The painting contains everything that would lead potential suitors to believe that these are the perfect little wifeys. First of all, they are all dolled up and pretty TO THE MAX. Take it easy on that powder Waldegrave sisters, you don't quite need that much! They are also in white for a reason, they're all virgins. To show that all sisters can employ themselves in a useful manner they are portrayed embroidering. If you saw them all gossiping and playing faro, I doubt that would make you want to jump up and marry them. Men date those girls they don't marry them!
Now exposure was no problem, that was the whole reason for getting Reynolds to create the depiction. Anything that came out of his paintbrush was considered gold and therefore, exposing the single man market to this billboard would not be a problem. It almost garenteed itself a spot at the Royal Academy exhibition where all the fashionable set would be.
Maria's plan worked. Elizabeth married the Earl Waldegrave (marrying your cousins allows you to keep your last name), Charlotte became a duchess when she married the Duke of Grafton (can you say: dark and mysterious hunk?), and Anna married Admiral Lord Hugh Seymour. Not bad catches to reel in with a painting! Art does speak volumes.