The Portrait of a Lady (or two)

I am always intrigued by interiors that feature dramatic portraits from the nineteenth or eighteenth century, with dark backgrounds and serious, dignified looking ladies. I cannot get enough of theses in museums and upon seeing a portrait I have to get up close and see the brush strokes, the thickness of paint, the blending of colors and wonder how the artist was able to paint such realistic flesh tones and capture the richness in the fabrics of the women's dresses.

Lady with a Fan, Francisco De Goya (1746 - 1828)

So, it's only natural that I have started to long for a portrait of my own to hang in my home. Although, I look at some of them and wonder if I could tolerate a pair of inanimate eyes looking at me from all angles of the room. Would this bother me, get on my nerves just a little.....?

Girl with Racket and Shuttlecock, c. 1740, Jean-Baptiste Chardin

......a slight scowl on her face making me uncomfortable, seeming to chastise me for sitting on the couch, eating ice cream and watching TV instead of emptying the dishwasher or vacuuming?

Hanna Voss, Kittery, Maine c. 1795, John Brewster

Or, would I just get accustomed to her and appreciate the chance to look at a beautiful painting everyday.

Portrait of Emily Rush, James Peale

Mind you, our family has no ancestral portraits lying around, being handed down from generation to generation--just the usual collection of old black and white family photos with names and dates scribbled on the back in pencil and a few with no names and dates at all.

Portrait of Madame Regnault De Saint-Jean D'Angely (1775 - 1857), Francois Gerard

Which means I'd have to buy a reproduction portrait (okay, fake) within my budget of a complete stranger to hang in my home. Although, if doing so gives me the chance to appreciate beautiful art, why not?

Please leave a comment with your opinion of buying reproduction art. I'm curious as to what the consensus is out there!

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  1. I'm always intrigued by these "ancestor" portraits as well. As for hanging prints, I guess if it were someone obscure (not a famous portrait) and done in a humorous or at least not too serious a manner, it's fine. I'd be inclined to develop a whole back story for Auntie so-and-so and have fun with it!

  2. I love antique portraits too. I know a designer who collects miscellaneous ones and calls them her "instant ancestors." Before you choose reproduction, have you tried looking for them in flea markets or antique "junk" shops? Obviously they probably won't be as pretty as these, but maybe there will be a gem that just needs to be reframed. It's a personal preference, but I do always prefer something original to reproduction. Good luck!

  3. Thanks so much for you kind comment. I am sitting here right now deciding what to do today! I love old portraits,too. One thing you might consider is watching antique markets and flea markets for a portrait - not a fine one like in museums, but occasionally you will find one from the early 20th century that does not cost and arm and a leg. oops - I just read the comment before mine and she says the same thing. I am biased because I just love old things in general, rather than reproductions, BUT you buy what appeals to you. There are probably very nice print reproductions in museum shops.

  4. I love portraits of ladies from a grandeur past. There is something romantic about a portrait. Ax

  5. I too love antique portraits- in fact I have one we call Aunt Menerva (we name everything!) that we found in France. She is reading a book/bible? and she just found her new home in the Reading Room (she was in the guest room in the last house.)
    When you say reproduction art, do you mean a print, or a hand-painted reproduction of another work of art? If it's a print I would say never... as I'm with HCHGirl... you really can find original antique ones out there at antique shops and flea markets. And now that I say that, I'll keep an eye out in our travels and antiquing and email you photos if I see anything that I thik you would like and is in your budget! joan

  6. LOL! Love your post. I agree with you! I've often admired these portraits myself, but have the same thoughts about being creeped out by those faces staring at me. I don't know what it is... perhaps the drab lighting, dark background, blank expressions? Whatever it is, I cannot bring myself to buy one. I did have a portrait one of my children years ago that hangs in my living room and I love it. They look happy in it though! Keep up the great posts!

  7. Just dropping in to say hi...have a lovely day! Ax

  8. I have a few real and bought potraits and just mix them together. Who would know!

  9. I just found this post. I love portraits, and have managed to get a couple high quality paintings (I mean, old, but not hideous, yet affordable, not museum). I also have some that are not great, but they have nice expressions, something I look for. I'll have to post pictures of my favorites.

    YES! I do get reproductions. I've sent pictures to China and received a copy several weeks later. (They were amazingly good, and for a song, especially compared to the price the original went for). Who says losing out at an auction has to be completely disappointing!

    Thanks for the great post.


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