Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Match.com service in 1780 was Commissioned Portraits

The de Young museum is currently displaying paintings from the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh. One of the paintings is "The Ladies Waldegrave" painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds. The painting includes Elizabeth (age 20), Charlotte (age 19) Anna Horatia (age 18) Waldegrave.


What struck me first, was how this painting of three lovely young women was made to look like they were sixty rather than twenty. But, I also learned something even more interesting about this work of art. The painting was commissioned in 1780-81 by the mother, Maria Walpole, and she did this as a way to attract potential suitors for her daughters, all of whom were unmarried at the time. In other words, this was the Match.com service of its day.

This painting subtly communicates the following:
Here are some stylish and available beauties. They come from wealth and privilege and are classically elegant in all the social graces. They are also virgins (notice the white pasty makeup-symbolic for being a virgin). 
These beauties are also useful (they can do needlepoint) and they get along well with others (they are sitting around a table and are composed and appear thoughtful). See artist (Sir Joshua Reynolds) for contact information.

The art was done by the most well respected and prominent artist in his day who was even used by the King. The selection of who painted these girls portrait made sure the piece would be well communicated and directed to the appropriate target audience (men with money and power).

The mother's plan worked and the girls were soon married off to men of wealth.