Portrait painting was an artist’s bread and butter. In addition to capturing a subject’s physiognomic likeness, some portraitists attempted to suggest the sitter’s essential character. Clothing, setting, accessories, gesture, and stance might have carried associations that enriched the meaning of the image. Produced to commemorate a life milestone or simply to preserve a likeness for posterity, portrait commissions—unlike other types of art—were the result of a direct collaboration between the sitter, almost always of the upper classes, and the artist.

Next >