18th-Century French School Portrait Of A Lady with A Bonnet
A dark ‘lost in time’ portrait of a young lady wearing a beautiful green dress with floral embroidery along with an impressive bonnet held with a ribbon. Her hair is powered and styled according to the fashion of the day.
During the 1770s, it was all the rage to wear your hair high and style it with powder. Typically hair extended to around 1.5 the size of a lady’s head and was created using ‘toques’ or ‘cushions’ which were made of cork or fabric.
The height of one’s hair was quite a talking point as demonstrated by the content of a letter from Queen Maria Theresa of Austria-Hungary to her daughter Marie-Antoinette:
“Likewise I cannot help but touch upon a point that many of the papers repeat to me too often: it is the hairstyle that you wear. They say that from the roots it measures 36 pouces (inches) high and with all the feathers and ribbons that hold all of that up! You know that I have always been of the opinion that one should follow fashion moderately, but never carry it to excess. A pretty young queen full of charms has no need of all these follies. Quite the contrary.”
To which Marie-Antoinette replied:
“It is true that I am a bit occupied by my hairstyle, and as for the feathers, everyone wears them, and it would look extraordinarily out of place not to.”
Given its timeworn appearance, this portrait would make an intriguing centrepiece in the right room. Certainly a talking point.
Medium: Oil on canvas
Overall size: 18” x 24½” / 46cm x 62cm
Year of creation: c. 1770
Condition: Scattered losses but the paint layer seems broadly stable. Craquelure throughout. Darkened over time but could be cleaned with a profound effect if required. Relined c. 1920 and stretcher replaced.