After another night disturbed by tooth pain, I finally (this has been going on for weeks) walked into town bleary-eyed and made an appointment to be tortured by the dentist. I didn’t even ask how much it would cost. I don’t care as long as the offending tooth is obliterated along with the attendant pain, sleepless nights, and the need to eat mushy food. The green salad I had for breakfast required far too much chewing for comfort! By the end of the week I should be half a size smaller (fortunately I have lots of sizes to spare). After getting the appointment out of the way I walked over to my favorite charity shop to see if they had anything interesting. I found a box of old magazines entitled Discovering Art. One covering Japanese Medieval art had the picture below on the back (it doesn’t make any sense to me either).
It turns out this painting is in the Louvre (Paris, France) and was one of Thomas Gainsborough’s early bucolic double portraits. No one knows who these people are. It was originally thought to be the painter and his wife. I can see the resemblance, but his wife wasn’t a blonde and her cheek bones were more pronounced. The man could almost be Thomas, but he doesn’t quite look like him. I wouldn’t be surprised if Gainsborough made the painting as a conversation piece rather than a portrait and used himself and his lover as models, but changed what they looked like to fit the colour scheme and what he wanted to portray. The fact the woman is looking directly at the artist (viewer) is quite interesting and suggests she knew the painter. Most English ladies having their portrait painted in this era are seen looking away from the artist because it was considered indelicate to sit returning the gaze of a man one didn’t know (not least one who was a socially on par with the dancing master or the cabinet maker).
The more I stare at this picture the more I love it and the more I wish there was a thought bubble over the lady’s head to tell us the story. We know he’s talking about something, probably his book. Importatly, he’s not actually looking at the young woman. His eyes look past her at some higher point, but the girl is looking right at us. What is she thinking? Here are some possibilities, feel free to offer your own suggestions.
-I could kill him with my fan!
-How many poems can one man know about trees?
-(to the painter) He thinks I’m listening, but I’m admiring your nose.
-I know I’m as beautiful as a summer’s day, why does he have to rant for hours before proposing? Get it over with man, I have an indelicate need for a chamber pot.
-If he compares me to a rose one more time I’m going to bite his hand.
-Mother said, ‘Act like a living doll and you’ll win a handsome wealthy husband’, she never mentioned he’d insist on teaching me Greek before breakfast. Hmmm breakfast…chocolate and buttered toast…
-I’m going to insist we sit here for another three hours until his backside is numb. That will punish him for making me listen to him practice his speech for parliament.
-He’s like this all the time. Since falling off his horse he can only talk in metaphores and similies.
-I love these wide paniers they keep all my seated lovers at a distance. Any minute now he’ll lean over and try to kiss my breast, but he won’t be able to reach…he he he…