07 January 2013

10 Portraits

A recent post by Mark Ruffner writing the blog All Things Ruffnerian-prompted me to take up this challenge to cull through countless Portraits of Women & fantasize - If I could own 10 ?, which would I choose? Mark followed suit after Yvette of In So Many Words-did the same. You can see where this is going... While I still stretch my imagination on where to hang them & worry about negotiating with the Met, the Hermitage and likewise-I found narrowing down my choices difficult. No portrait-its value-its obscurity or its notoriety has been excluded. A few were easy-sorting and narrowing it to a mere 10 virtually impossible.

Pure fantasy-but doesn't it exercise the eye? Force us to edit-in a world where pinning, tumbling,blogging,linking-blinking tweeting-etc etc. allow us to gluttonous Excess?. Of course seeing Mark's picks and Yvette's IT is Temptation to say-"oh  yes, That one," but that would have been too easy. I must say it shocked me that some of my favorite portrait painters-Boldini, Whistler, Helleu did not make My List-nor did Zubaran-I immediately excluded his paintings of Saints-choosing just ONE would be treasonous-and choosing 10-unfair.

(The 10-in no particular order & linked in the text with insights about the work)

 c 1470.

what can I say? it might be my favorite of them all. It fits the Bacon quote at the heading of this experiment like no other.


El Greco? Yes, one of his mysterious paintings of women-there are few. Uncharacteristic,yet his brush is evident-and while there are disputes about that-it's all the more reason to want it.


Ingres, for me the Master portrait painter-this is one of two Ingres paintings I've included. Can you deny it?

 c. 1749

This portrait satisfies all things- sitter, dress, complexity of patterns, book, flowers and mirror. The 18th century was a period where women like Mary Wortley Montague were forging paths of individualism and leaving brilliant trails of their lives in memoirs and letters. Liotard painted many women of the period in Eastern dress. Almost any of Liotard's paintings would suffice-I would be content with 10 of them.

Another painter I would not leave off any list-Reynolds and again it  is the 18th century with its certain brand of  Beauty and its allure of Exoticism.


It's charms are evident.the Comtesse d' Haussonville, grand-daughter of Madame de Stael- one of the most fascinating women in Europe," was also a remarkable person in her own right.
(I've written about her here & Ingres here)


Sargent. This portrait- his most memorable and he considered his best- was also his most controversial. Of course I would pick this one.Virginie Gautreau was not happy with the portrait-it revealed too much-much too much. Eager to paint her Sargent wrote a friend, "I have a great desire to paint her portrait and have reason to think she would allow it and is waiting for someone to propose this homage to her beauty. If you are 'bien avec elle' and will see her in Paris, you might tell her I am a man of prodigious talent." Books have been written about the painting. Sargent is another great favorite and I've devoted many posts to my intrigue with Sargent in a series called seeking Sargent -where images today remind me of his work, here.
I have a lithograph of Sargent by William Rothenstein  I love.

Portrait of Emilie Flöge, by Gustav Klimt

c. 1902

Model, muse and partner-Floge and Klimt were priest and priestess in turn of the century Vienna when everything was wonderful and art was everything.

This painting until recently was owned by Helene Rochas and sold at auction this fall. I wrote about it here.

Picasso's Nusch Éluard 

c. 1938

Picasso painted Nusch Elard numerous times-muse to the Surrealists, artist in her own right. The great painter painting a painter with a personal story as intriguing as the great one himself- no wonder he adored her. Picasso is the great painter of all time-here-Barbara of It's About Time shows you why-and would have me tossing out this entire list to have 10 portraits on scraps of paper with "Picasso" signed in the corner.

& No list is worth listing- without adding 1 to-

Lady with an Ermine (Cecilia Gallerani) - Leonardo da Vinci

If it couldn't be a Lady with dog-a Renaissance ermine will do.

& as dual portraits go...

who could resist

 this portrait of  Monsieur & Mademoiselle?
Liotard's "Monsieur Levett and Mademoiselle Glavani in Turkish costume

Sargent's Mr. and Mrs. I. N. Phelps Stokes, 1897
it is another favorite Sargent- with two fascinating subjects

I've written about Edith here

 & Yes, I fantasize about 10 Men too-

alas,Correggio's fetching Portrait of a Young Man did not make the cut.

Now-what about you? Do you have a favorite from my 10? your own?



  1. Sargent, Madame X! Oddly this afternoon I was researching her and Isabella Stewart's paintings by JSS...they each are in low décolleté gowns of black velvet, with jewels!

    I just think that GRECO WOMAN is divinely gorgeous and relevant today, so unlike his elongated faces...must have been a beauty who bewitched.

    1. There's another one! the Isabella Stewart Gardner portrait is stunning-that background is uncharacteristic of JSS and makes it wonderful. ISG-what a fascinating woman. I agree about the El Greco-it transcends time-and she is stunning. pgt

    2. I mustn't forget EVE by Cranach, Casati by Boldini and Girl with a Pearl Earring by Vermeer...these I would love hanging in a sleek one level mid century home of glass overlooking the crashing waves of California coastline...well ok, Madame X can join! Gaye, look up the Parlange/Avegno storyline...quite the read.

    3. Will do- I believe Angele Parlange's house is featured somewhere in the mags this month-I used her fabrics years ago. You know the Cranachs are fascinating-what was he thinking? I don't know but I love it! I found one I had not seen that just is crazy I can not wait to look into it and present it to my "group." pgt

  2. My current top 10

    Lady Georgiana Cavendish by Thomas Gainsborough

    Portrait of Bia de' Medici by Bronzino

    Yvette Guilbert laid “Linger Longer Loo” by Toulouse-Lautrec

    Annette Giacometti by Alberto Giacometti

    Lina Evangelista by David Downton

    Mrs. Richard Low Devine by Cecilia Beaux

    The Girl in the Picture Frame by Rembrandt

    Portrait of Rossina by John Singer Sargent

    Marlene Dietrich by Irving Penn

    Young Woman in a Blue Blouse by Matisse

    1. Sydney- I am familiar with most of these-several were beautiful surprises. I looked at each one- I especially love the Matisse. The Rembrandt is just incredible-and yes that could easily shift my 10. The sculpture of Giacometti is especially wonderful too-as is all of his work. pgt

  3. this is a most delightfull post!! and quite a challenging one too, since it pushes one to make a serious ideal choice among soo many masterpieces. I personally would love any Van Dyke and Rogier van der Weyden, definitely the Sargent, Palma's Violante, a Bronzino's portrait of a lady in green, Tiepolo's lady with tricorn hat, Edouard Manet's portrait of a young lady, The Venetian Lady by Durer, Rosalba Carriera's self portrait and Sofonisba Anguissola.
    Looking forward to your next post.
    Wish you a great 2013!

    1. Ioana- Some very beautiful choices. I favor portraits in my own collecting-your choices of self portraits are intriguing too. The 2 painters you mention painted themselves numerous times. I looked at them and the Rosalba Carriera's self p. are fascinating to view as a whole.-Another story I think!

  4. I'm ready to play.

    We can fight over who gets Sargent's Madame X and Klimt's Emilie Floge. Both stunning.
    Leonardo da Vinci's Cecilia Gallerani (I adore her hands and the ermine)
    1585 portrait of Erzsebet Batory
    Dante Gabriel Rosetti's Astarte Syriaca (Jane Russell) - sparked my fascination with Art Nouveau
    Joseph Desire Court - Woman lying on a divan (dead ringer for my younger self, but without the tattoos)
    pretty much any photo of the older Edith Sitwell. Fascinating face, prodigious talent.
    Venus of Willendorf.
    Yekaterina Alexeevna by Johann Baptist von Lampi (senior)
    William Dobell's Dame Mary Gilmore

    I was horrified at how long it took for me to come up with a list....

    1. Erika-an intriguing list! The da Vinci painting is in Mark Ruffiner's list of paintings. The Joseph Desire Court painting is exquisite-and I am happy to know that you see today's faces in historic paintings. I do it all the time-to excess I sometimes think. Have you seen the Anna Friel Bathory movie that has Caravaggio painting her? If not is is worth taking a look at! pgt

    2. Hadn't even heard of it! But it is now ordered and en route. Something to anticipate...

  5. This is fun! I thought I was the only person who did this in my head.

    Frida Kahlo - The Two Fridas

    Duncan Grant - Portrait of Vanessa Bell

    De Kooning - Seated Woman

    Balthus - Alice (in the Mirror)

    Lucien Freud - Girl with a Kitten

    And Jenny Saville's huge portrait (the name is escaping me) - very disturbing and I'm not sure where I'd hang it, but I love it.

    1. Kathy-Of course not-you are amongst many friends here! It is a habit for me that goes way way back! Fascinating to see such strong women and faces in these choices. Frida Kahlo is always inspiring and I am struck by the Lucien Freud painting-I love it! I am not familiar with Jenny Saville and thank you for introducing me to her-Much of her work (as I can see from the limited perspective of the internet) is disturbing and many times people reject it because they don't see beauty in the traditional sense-It goes right back to the Bacon Quote No? the Saville pieces seem to capture a psyche and transcend the "portrait"- I will return to her work to explore it. pgt

  6. I finally have my grandfather's portrait in my posession in pride of place beside my bar in my new living room. Not a Sargent (or even close) but special for so many other reasons :-)

    1. Stefan, yes these are the ones that are priceless. Though I don't have any inherited portraits-I have one of myself an artist did-everyone says it looks just like my mother! and we have a wonderful portrait of my father. When I began collecting some things-I found I was always drawn to portraits first and foremost. I know you cherish the portrait and will be looking for it at Architect Design. pgt

  7. It's hard for me to choose a favorite from your selection, but I'm leaning toward Ingres' Mademoiselle Riviere. Ingres' pencil sketches are as amazing as his paintings — delicate, crisp and insightful. I am not familiar with the El Greco portrait; I think it is the hand that gives away the authorship. I'm enjoying reading all the comments — I hope others take up the baton!

  8. Imagining owning these museum-worthy portraits is an excellent exercise of the imagination. What a healthy imaginatory gland you must have! PGT Little Augury, you reeled me into this post once the words "pinning, tumbling, linking, blinking, tweeting" all appeared together - so melodiously.

    Ingres' Madamoiselle Riviere once watched over my studio - after I rescued her from a discarded book. I admired her mustard gloves - sans fingers. I wonder if you might be drawn to Ingres' Comtesse D'Haussonville and Picasso's Nusch Eluard for their lavender-blueness.

    The photo of your own self - in kaftan - comes to mind when I view two of your favorites: Liotard's Marie Fargues and Klimt's Emilie Floge.

    Any Klimt creation - patterned to the hilt - fascinates me presently. But now too - because of your post - I adore Sargent's Mrs. Phelps Stokes: so cheerful, jaunty, and posthumously alive. Her entire ensemble - only slightly altered for modern times - would completely float my boat.

    Among my own Museum of Ten Women, I would add a few oddities - Modigliani's Elena Pavlowski (for her scholarly, serious look), Leonor Fini's self portrait in a red hat (which appears boldly orange). My all-time favorite of all female portraits is Nicolas Largilliere's La Belle Strasbourgeoise - all because of the most wondrous, enormous, triangular hat ever concocted. Her hat is something I want to place on my head every single time I spy her portrait.

    One space in the Museum of Ten would have to be reserved for a cat, posing in insouciant repose as Ingres' Grande Odalisque.

    1. Toile la La. The Largilliere's La Belle Strasbourgeoise is for its nonchalance and disregard of that hat indeed a must have 10-however don't underestimate the hat worn by Christus' young beauty. I am very partial to the costuming of both Liotards-and even the Reynolds. Another contender was a Mary Wortley MOntague portrait of her and her son. It is an exercise that pained me to exclude it. PGT

  9. Gaye, each was my favorite as I scrolled down, then Picasso... It's like choosing a favorite color or child. THE OBSTACLE RACE, by Germaine Greer, has too many beautiful portraits to choose one or ten.

    1. Donna, I must get that book! You put it so well- a favorite color -yes that's it. Each one in the right amount-the right setting is the favorite-with Picasso! pgt

  10. Two of my favorite portraits are "Portrait of a Negress" by Marie-Guillemine Benoist, and "Sir Thomas More" by Hans Holbein the Younger.

    I've never commented here before but this is one of my favorite blogs. Thanks for being here.

    1. The Benoist portrait is powerful. It represents so much more than just a beautiful woman-thanks for adding it here. I am partial to the Holbein portrait of Thomas More too. I have always been interested in his work-perhaps for the blessing of recording history's faces in such realistic terms. There is No doubt what Sir Thomas looked like is there? I am also interested in the man-I must confess from the stellar novels by Hilary Mantel- Wolf Hall and Bringing Up the Bodies. I am so glad you stopped to comment and thanks for reading. pgt

  11. Quick story about the Stokes painting- She is wearing a Tiffany engagement ring that Mr. Stokes was especially proud of and loved the way Sargent painted it- there was a bright white highlight that formed a small curl- Mr. Stokes asked that special care be taken to preserve it when varnishing the piciure- alas it was too fragile and didn't survive

    1. Fascinating 286! I hope that story is never varnished over. pgt

  12. Yes, PGT - you are absolutely correct regarding Christus' Young Girl's fez. It is also a hat my head longs to wear. With its magnificent chin-strap and doo-dad at center, Christus' fez seems a predecessor to the grand hats of a marching band.

    Most of your favorites display costumes of Turkish influence. Now that I've scrolled back for another glance at Liotard's Monsier Levett and Mademoiselle Glavani - it's delightful to see what a splendid time they're having!

    Jean Baptiste Vanmour's portrait of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu with her little son is very prettily-realized, very sweet. I like your addition of portraits featuring people with their pets (and other loved ones). Very often people are most themselves - and truly, most beautiful - in the presence of what they deem most dear.

    1. The Liotard dual portrait is another true favorite of mine.As to pets-I absolutely agree, the photos I like best of myself are with family-or my lovely Zetta or Moses. pgt

  13. Thanks for posting these beauties. I want to point out one of my faves: http://quinquabelle2008.blogspot.com/2013/01/admirer.html

    1. Anne, I love it! I've not seen it either and so happy you brought it to the discussion here. pgt



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