This mid-19th-century German oil painting depicts a dapper pair of newlyweds.
Here’s a happy couple who have thought long and hard about their wedding portrait - discussed it for many hours. If you’re married, I’m sure you’ll empathise with the attention to detail required ahead of the wedding photography. Well, this is the mid-19th-century equivalent.
Aside from their carefully coiffed hair and delightful outfits, the pair are also remarkable for their symbolism. He holds his right hand under a jacket, traditionally a sign of calm leadership, but perhaps here to simply place it over the heart - a gesture of love. While she holds a handkerchief between them both, which has various romantic connotations.
Since the middle ages, hankies have been far more than mere instruments of nostril cleaning. Gallant knights would wear them to treasure a loved one, while maidens tossed them from windows when seeking a suitor. Women also sent hankies to their love interests with embroidered patterns requiring decoding. “She loves me, she loves me not, is that a turtle?”
But here, we see the hankie dangled between the pair, which is an intriguing one. The only reference we can find to this symbolism relates to a rather cheeky suggestion - as a ‘hankie in the middle’ is an invitation for a midnight rendezvous. The correct response to this saucy request is an enthusiastic wave of the hankie by the fortunate gentleman. So perhaps that’s what he’s reaching for… It was their wedding night after all.
And if you’re wondering about the dress, it was a common custom for brides to wear black on their wedding day in the early to mid-19th century. Occasionally even with a black veil.
Monogrammed ‘AS’ on the right (small), dated and held within a 19th-century gilt frame.
Medium: Oil on canvas
Overall size: 29” x 23” / 74cm x 59cm
Year of creation: 1850
Condition: Craquelure but the paint is stable. Historic repairs. Frame with some light wear.