Friday, December 18, 2009

Festive Family Portrait

Joshua Reynolds, Portrait of the Harcourt Family, 1780

From Left to Right: William Harcourt 3rd Earl Harcourt, Elizabeth Countess of Harcourt, George Simon Harcourt 2nd Earl Harcourt

This is the family portrait on the front of my Christmas cards this year; I like it a lot more than the ones I get in the mail! In truth, it's a quirky little family portrait, one that is quite unique to the time. Lord and Lady Harcourt are portrayed in their peers' robes and were nice enough to invite Lord Harcourt's little brother to stand in the background looking awkward. I'm sure Reynolds was driven mad by the formality of the portrait. Another unusual aspect of the painting is how the coronets are included in the depiction; usually peers didn't bother visually bragging during the Enlightenment. I thoroughly enjoy how Lady Harcourt stylishly perches her coronet on the side of her coiffure as well.

For some strange, sad reason this three-person portrait hasn't been seen by the public since the mid 19th century according to Culture 24. The Ashmolean Museum needs to stop holding out and let the masses gaze upon its noble glory.


  1. Yes please Ashmolean Museum, show us a big picture of this one! Because it's just lovely!

  2. There is a exhibition of Joshua Reynold's paintings at Plymouth City Museum at the moment.

  3. I agree that it's lovely, though I have to say that I think it looks like two separate individual portraits. There is no real connection between the couple; to me his gesture doesn't quite link them. I like her sleeve tops and the jaunty angle of her coronet.

  4. Exactly, there isn't that same connection to the sitters that Reynolds usually incorporates

  5. The red and white is very xmasy!