Today we have hundreds of photographs in files on our computers, or shiny pieces of pasteboard shut away in a cupboard. We select and filter them when we choose the ones to put in our albums, digital or physical.
Since Victorian times people have collected photographs of themselves and others. Now we have photo filters and Photoshop to alter the pictures, to make ourselves beautiful, or to look like a cat.
Back then, they had portraits. During the early sixteenth century the Long Gallery became popular.
A long room made for exercise or physical pursuits when the weather didn't allow it. At least, that's what they said. But it also displayed family portraits.
The portraits were as manipulated as our Photoshopped photos, and seen through the eyes of a painter. After Classical painting, portraits were considered high in the heirarchy of painting, higher than landscapes. They were also a painter's bread and butter.
The great painters would often only do the vital parts of a work, usually the head and hands, but if the sitter was important, like Charles I to Van Dyck, then the painter would do everything. He would train students and some of his studio would have specialities they would use - the ability to paint trees or drapery. Van Dyck himself was a wonderful painter of fabric. In the eighteenth century Gainsborough and Reynolds led the pack, and during the Regency the glamorous paintings of Lawrence became all the rage.
Most sitters wanted a likeness, but they wanted a flattering likeness. Some, like Oliver Cromwell, demanded they be shown "warts and all," but most wanted to be seen at their best. There were no happy snaps back then! Charles II had his mistresses painted by Sir Peter Lely, most of them half naked, or with silk and satin robes falling artfully from their shoulders.
The best artists showed people, so you feel that you could talk to them and hear their reply. You can sense their characters.
Even though they are all staring down at you from the walls of the Long Gallery.
Danger In White is on offer this month for 99 cents/99 pence. All the buy links are on this page, with an excerpt link