18th-Century Portrait Of A Lady With Roses In Her Hair

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A beautiful late 18th-century portrait of a fashionable Rococo lady wearing flowers in her hair.

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.”

The portrait is housed within, what appears to be, its original gilded foliate frame.

Medium
Oil on canvas
Size including frame
15½” x 20” / 40cm x 51cm
Year of creation
c. 1780
Provenance
Denmark
Condition
Craquelure in areas but generally in good condition following a historical restoration. Canvas relined. Frame with age-related wear including losses to the gilding.