As today, in post-Renaissance Northern Europe, and particularly in what is now the Netherlands, social position, wealth, and class determined one's dress. In addition to fine fabrics imported from foreign ports, hand-sewn lace was a perceived indicator of high economic and social status, the 1%. Because lace was fragile, expensive, and pristine white, it required frequent and careful laundering and bleaching, which necessitated numerous servants, always women.

During this period and following the Reformation, painters could no longer depend on the church to support their craft. They then turned to wealthy patrons, the new mercantile 1%, for their livelihood.  Often living in precarious positions, these artists offered their services to paint portraits of members of the patron class, who sat in their costumed finery to have their likenesses memorialized.

In these portraits based on paintings from that time, I hope to rectify and alter this arbitrary portrayal of one's worth. Everyone, even members of the 98%, the marginalized and the 'other', deserves the honor of memorializing and recognition.

Portraiture Redressed in some ways harkens back to my early childhood, where I assiduously and obsessively copied faces from magazines. My drawings from those early times rarely consisted of anything more than a face and a torso. For my 13th birthday, I asked my parents for a subscription to Look Magazine, which I thought had better photographs to copy than those in Life magazine. It was assumed I would become a portrait painter, in fact. But curiosity and the need to explore more of the world took me to parts unknown, and I became enamored of history, politics, foreign cultures, exotica. And then work and family. My current interest in portraiture allows me to spend time again looking at great art, but this time, it’s 17th century Dutch masters and their use of light that have my attention and my desire to emulate.

 

Portraiture redressed   2011, 2018

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