Early 19th-Century Danish School Portrait Of A Lady

Early 19th-Century Danish School Portrait Of A Lady

This exquisite early 19th-century portrait is abundant with mystery - it’s unusually alluring. It depicts a lady wearing a white high-waisted Empire dress with a sumptuous blue sash. Her hair is classically styled after figures from antiquity as she gazes across the decades with a look of quiet defiance.

The Empire dress became popular at the beginning of the 19th-century during a revival of styles from Greco-Roman art. Women began to wear loose-fitting, flowing, almost rectangular dresses, in homage to ancient ‘peplos’ and ‘chitons’. These were a welcome departure from the rigid corsets previously in fashion - ladies could breathe once again.

With this particular outfit, there are some interesting additions - namely the sash and the headdress. Both of these items became popular around 1800 and we’ve discovered some identical headdress examples in a London magazine from 1804. As with all fashions, most are short-lived so it helps to date the piece to around 1810.

But a question remains as to whether the subject is actually French or English rather than Danish. The portrait was acquired in Denmark but it could’ve been imported.

Her full history has been lost over time so she remains an enigma. Another rich story still waiting to be uncovered.

The portrait is housed within a good later frame.

Medium: Oil on canvas
Overall size: 30” x 40½” / 76cm x 103cm
Year of creation: c. 1810
Condition: Craquelure but the paint layer is stable. Canvas relined. Uneven varnish in places.

Conservation & History

We care profoundly about our role as custodians and every piece in the collection has been assessed by our conservator. When required, we undertake professional restoration carefully using reversible techniques and adopt a light touch to retain the aged charm of each work. We also restore frames rather than replace them as many are original and selected by the artists themselves.

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