Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Dolly Madison's sister Anna & Gibby's nose

billowing drapery as background in Anna's portrait

In the last two posts we learned that First Lady Dolly Madison saved the Stuart portrait of George Washington; she escaped before the British captured her in the war of 1812, not only with the celebrated portrait but also with the founding documents of our country, including the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution that her husband, James Madison, had been responsible for writing.

Pictured above is the drapery in the Gilbert Stuart portrait of Anna Payne; eleven years younger than her sister Dolley, Anna Payne (1779–1832) sat for Stuart about the time of her marriage to Richard Cutts, congressman from Massachusetts. She and Stuart reportedly enjoyed her sittings and discussed his belief that the nose was the telling feature of the face. He then mischievously formed the billowing curtain behind her — (as you have by now figured out, a fixture in portraits of the time)—into a caricature of his own profile.

Anna Payne Cutts by Gilbert Stuart 1804
The White House

from George Mason p.140; “’On the day when I was sitting to him the second time,’ said Mr. Binney, ‘I said to Stuart, ‘What do you consider the most characteristic feature of the face? You have already shown me that the eyes are not; and we know from sculpture, in which the eyes are not; and we know from sculputre, in which the eyes are wanting, the same thing.’ Stuart just pressed the end of his pencil against the tip of his nose, distorting it oddly. ‘Ah, I see, I see,’ cried Mr. Binney."

1 comment:

emikk said...

What a guy!....his putting his character in the painting oh so subtley reminds me how Alfred Hitchcock would always include a low profile cameo appearance in his movies. Two great masters of there respective arts!

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