Saturday, October 29, 2011

Four Centuries of Art.

      I live in a 19th century home, that I have restored and mostly furnished it with 19th century things.I call it the, 1845 Historic Elgin/Cottrell House Museum. The house was built by Hazakiah  Elgin and restore by me, Richard Cottrell, thus the name, Elgin/Cottrell House.  But one group of things I have, dates  much further back, going back as far as the 17th century. Formal portrait paintings,  They  have been a love and passion of mine for as long as I can remember. When I first started out as an antique collector, I was just out of college and had very little money. I bought a lot of Victorian prints, mostly of children or ladies. I had every wall in every room full of them. They were fun and some where even wonderful. One day when coming down the steps, I said to my self, I am going to  sell all theses old prints and replace them all with oil portraits. Well, I did, and there has been no turning back.  Almost every time I give a tour at, My Old Historic House, some one asks the question, who are all the people in the portraits? I give the same answer each time, "my store bought relatives." As my family never had the means to have formal portraits painted, when I got older, and stared making some money, I went out and bought me  some ancestors. This always is a crowd pleaser.
   Most formal portraits can be dated, more or less, by the cloths  and hair styles the subjects are wearing. A lot of older portraits were not signed or dated. More often than not, a traveling artist, came through and for a fee, painted your portrait. As cameras were not abundant, this the only means people had to record there history.Great pride was taken in these portraits and they were hung in special places in the home. If you were a person of any means, you had your portrait painted, at least once in your life. Some portrait painters, painted the entire picture except for the face, which was filled in, when you sat for it. These can almost always be pointed out, as the cloths are very simple and were usually black. These portraits could be painted faster, making them more reasonable, as the artist did not have to stay so long to do them. I prefer portraits of men or women with beautiful costumes and jewelry. Some ladies are beautiful, some plain. Some men are handsome and others drab. I  usually pick the portraits I buy ,for the workmanship, there cloths and I love women with lace.
    All the walls at ,My Old Historic House, are full and I can't buy anymore, unless I sell one I  already have. I have grown attached to all of  them, so guess we'll just stick it out together.I know a few of there names, some are written on the back and some have papers with them. Most of them, I have no ideal who they are, so I call them, cousin Julia and Uncle Frank, and people just love this. I think people like it better when you make up a story, than they do, when you tell the truth.
   I have portraits of all ages, starting with a couple form the 17th century. These two are my oldest and some of my favorites. It is hard to look at them and think they are around 400 years old. One can figure the age by there cloths, style  of hair, type of frame,( if it is original) and sometimes by a date.

17th century portrait of a lady in the style of Peter Lely .

                                                17th CENTURY STYLE: 1601-1700
      Ladies clothing of the 17th century had loose sleeves that ended just below the elbow. Low broad necklines and dropped shoulders. The over skirts were drawn back and pined  up to show heavily decorated petticoats. A darning new fashion arose for having ones portrait painted, in undress, which was ,wearing loosely fashioned gowns called a,"night gown." Loose hair in tossed curls was the chosen hair style. This night gown clothing, used for portraits, was not what represented what was worn in the streets. This style of portrait was  mostly done by Peter Lely, which he derived the style from Van Dyck. The Mantua ,was a new fashion that arose in 1680's. Instead of a bodice and skirt cut separate,. the Mantua hung from the shoulders to the floor. It started out as an under garment, but gradually developed into a draped dress. Flowing  silks replaced heavier satin  fabrics .Mostly soft pale colors were used.

18th century portrait of a lady.

                                              18th CENTURY STYLE: 1701-1800
     Ladies of the 18th century all wore Mop Caps when indoors. Hair in the 1700's was more in the country fashion. Natural color, instead of powdered, and in masses of curls, instead of piled high. The usual fashion of the years 1750-1780 was a low necked gown called a French Robe and it was worn over many petticoats.The bodice was filled with decorative trim and was on top the corset beneath. Ladies breast were strapped down by the high corset, but, cleavage was very important. This gave the men a hint of what they desired. The elbow length sleeves were trimmed with frills and ruffles and  with an  under ruffles called-"engageants,"  made of lace or fine silk. Sleeves were often puffed and held apart by ribbons tied around the arms. The necklines were trimmed with a fabric or lace ruffle  or a neckerchief called a,"fisu", that could be tucked into the low neckline.Ladies always covered there hair with some kind of cap, as it was the rule, based on religious customs. The basic cap was of fine white linen and had a crown that was pleated to the head. These were held on with a ribbon that was tied very loos below the chin. Toward the end of the 1700's an uniformed alternative to this dress style ,was a long  jacket, made of finer fabric, buttoned down ,over a mass of petticoats.

19th century portrait of a lady.

                                          19th CENTURY STYLE: 1801-1900.
        Ladies cloths of the 19th century -1800's-were  Victorian inspired. They tended to reflect the British influence, of Queen  Victoria . She reigned for 63 years and fashion changed numerous times. In the early 1800's- all cloths were hand made, making them expensive. Most Victorian ladies had about 3 dresses. One for  work, or a day dress, one for going out, or a walking dress and one for evening, usually a  ball gown.The introduction of the sewing machine in mid century,simplified dress making and enabled fashion to be extended. When  a machine was invented to make lace,dress styles scored and ladies found they could have many dresses in many styles.  In the 1890's- women's  fashion became simpler and less extravagant .  Bustles and crinolines  were no longer used and the dresses were not as big and full.At this time skits took a trumpet shape and tops had  high necks and puffed sleeves. In 1870's tea gowns were introduced for formal ware and entertaining. Many had low necks and short sleeves with lace trim. Older ladies seemed to prefer a high neck with a lace ruffle right under the chin.  Large jewelry pieces were wore at the breasts. Older ladies chose rich darker colors while the younger lasses wore pastels.These dresses were called."toilette de Reception",  in European circles.  

20th century portrait of a lady.

                                            20th CENTURY STYLE.1901-2000
     The 20th century brought for the first time ,women's clothing that reflected more of American taste than European taste. As a country, we had now been here long enough to have original  trends. European taste were still an influence and always will be, but for once, the American ideal could stand alone. Toward the end of the 20th century, the style of American fashion kinda went a little backwards. The long dress length that had seemed to have gone away were back. Most well dressed ladies still wore a long evening gown when they went out in the evenings. Cloths took on a simpler look, yet still maintained a elegance. Straighter skits and loose fitting bodices with a drop waste became the norm. Lots of heavy jewelry was worn and fur coats and wraps were of the most importance. Ladies still seemed to cover their hair with a hat. In the daytime heavier  hats were wore for walking about and in the evening the ,"cock tale hat," became the thing. Gloves were always worn when going out in public. Short ones for day and long elbow length ones for night. In the "Roaring 20's," ladies  started taking a little more freedom with there dress styles. Short lengths, no sleeves and lots and lots of shear fabric. They still continued to cover there head some what, even if it was just a feather or a jeweled ornamentation. The 20th century has brought more changes to clothing styles than any other century before. I think we can say this was because of the role that women were now taking in society.Women still wear hats today, but mainly on special events or to keep the sun out of there face. I think we have finally became free from the ideal that a women has to cover her hair. It has only taken hundreds of years.
       I hope you have enjoyed my little trip, through the past four centuries.  Portraits have and will always be a part of  our history. Today more and more are being done with a camera especially as cameras develope and get better, I am sure this trend will even get stronger. I think it is wonderful that our United States Presidents and First Ladies, still have formal oil painting portraits done. This is a wonderful way to preserve and share our history as a nation.In between times we can  enjoy the old portraits from the past. I love sharing mine at, My Old Historic House. Please drop by anytime for a tour, I will leave the lights on and Sissy Dog will always meet you with a jump and a kiss. Smile for your portrait!


Shelia said...

Hi Richard! What lovely portraits you have and there you go again knowing all things - even identifying the century by their clothes! :) Now, have you named your ladies? :)
Hope you have a blessed weekend.
Be a sweetie,
Shelia ;)

Ann@A Sentimental Life said...

you always amaze me! Thanks for yet teaching us something. The are beautiful, but don't you wonder who they were?

Butterbean Row said...

Hi Richard!
Your collection of portraits is just lovely! And thanks for the fashion history interesting.
I have a question. Are there ghosts in your historic home and if so, have you seen them? :o)

All the best,


akissfromthepast said...

wow. you got amazing portraits! i really like those old kind of portraits! :) :)


Thank you for the history dear Richard, I love to visit you for your teachings of the fabulous things you share and this portraits are amazing!! Every detail of the paintings and the dresses are gorgeous, besides knowing the periods, etc. Have a wonderful weekend my dear. FABBY

Lottie said...

I love the idea of "store bought" relatives! Wonderful portraits! Wonderful post, as always!!! Have a great weekend!

Heirlooms by Ashton House said...

What a glorious array of instant relatives you have, Richard! I don't have anything as fancy as your treasures but I love decorating my home with old 19th-century photographs. I call them my instant relatives!

Cass @ That Old House said...

Richard, I am speechless, and you KNOW that doesn't happen to me very often. the portraits at your home are amamzing -- I really am awed. And the knowledge you have of the clothing -- fabulous. I would love to sit between you and my daughter Anne, who is a theatrical costume designer, and watch a period movie and listen to all your comments!

Where do you get the paintings? They are so beautiful. If you ever want to sell one of your instant ancestors, there's plenty of room on my family tree for one!


Megan @ Restoring the Roost said...

What a beautiful collection of oil portraits. I loved your commentary of the clothing history- always interesting!

Bethe77 said...

What amazing pieces of art work! Beautiful ladies!

Alison @ The Polohouse said...

Hi Friend!

What a great collection and history lesson. I love to look at oils with lace collars when I am in museums too!
It is amazing to me how a painter can trult capture the billowy delicate stitches with paint and a brush. A talented gift for certain!

Your purchased ancestors are lovely, one more than the other!

Can you tell me what wallpaper that is on your staircase walls? It is exquisite, Richard!


Tallulah's Antique Closet said...

Hi Richard Thanks for stopping by for a spell. I luv your collection of portraits. Have a good day.......Julian

xinex said...

What a wonderful collection, Richard. Wow, that's what I call authentic antiques. Thanks for the history...Christine

Simone said...

Hi Richard,
I'm with you on collecting portraits. Oils are spendy and my collection is much smaller, but I love all my adopted relatives!

An Historical Lady said...

Hi Richard, my friend~
These are just divine, and your post is wonderful. I learned a lot! How lucky you are to keep company with such lovely ladies~
Warmest hugs,
Mary and the yorkies!

mississippi artist said...

Wonderful portraits, no matter who they were. I really like the lady with the cameo-whoever painted this was an excellent artist!Kiss Sissy.

Sissysmom said...

Richard- Your "store bought" relatives are lovely! I love the 18th century portrait of the lady on the stairway. Her cap with flowers is so gorgeous.

I am lucky to have some old family photographs but no paintings. My favorite is a large (about 16 x 20) photograph of my great great grandparents with all of their children, including my Great Grandmother who I was fortunate to know.

Thanks again for another great post. Give Sissy dog a pat on the head from me!


Curtains In My Tree said...

Hi Richard
I was so glad to see you over the week end and today xoxo until next time

I love the portrait of the lady with the long lace cap . The painter did a great job on the lace

I want an oil painting of another lady in my house yours are all so lovely .
I have heard you date a painitng by the clothing

buy me something at the auction in the morning LOL a bottle brush tree will do

Confessions of a Plate Addict said...

Beautiful portraits, Richard! How fortunate for the ladies that they wound up in a home where they are appreciated! Have a great week!...hugs...Debbie

Pam of Eastlake Victorian said...


Your oil painting collection is stunning. Are they all American, or are some European, and how an you tell a difference? You also know so much about the history of fashion, and it was very interesting learning about the trends and why they came to be. Have you ever thought of having an oil done with your likeness? You could dress in the clothes you prefer from your favorite era. That way, the Elgin/Cottrell house will always have your portrait to remind people who fixed it up so beautifully!


Sea Witch said...

LOve this post. I adore 18th century paintings and those glorius faces. Your photos are always a joy to look at. SEa Witch

Anna at the Doll House said...

It is rather sad to think of portraits being separated from their families. How fortunate, then, for the portraits that have found a new home at your Historic House where they are clearly, truly loved.


Rosemary@villabarnes said...

Richard, your portraits are stunning.

Shelia said...

And a very Happy Halloween to you and Miss Sissy Dog, Richard! :)
Be a sweetie,
Shelia ;)

Shelia said...

And a very Happy Halloween to you and Miss Sissy Dog, Richard! :)
Be a sweetie,
Shelia ;)

Ann from On Sutton Place said...

I love the lady at the bottom of the stairs. So Jane Austenish. Buying relatives sounds like a grand idea. I'd like to sell a few of mine and buy new ones. :o) Thank you for visiting my blog and always taking the time to leave a comment. I appreciate your friendship. Happy Halloween Richard!

Ivy and Elephants said...

Hi Richard,
Such wonderful portraits. I can sit and stare and portraits for hours. The ladies are just so beautiful. I love wondering what were they thinking at the time...what was life like...what were the dreams of these wonderful ladies. Gorgeous portraits!


Babs said...

Love all the history of these gorgeous portraits. I especially love the one from the 18th century.
Thanks for all the information on period clothing.

Kathy said...

Hello Richard, these are so beautiful! I could study them for hours! Thank you for sharing the detail background info - I now feel armed when I see portraits! Hope you have a great day,

Sherry said...

Wonderful portraits Richard. Love the fashion and ladies in them. The ladies each have beautiful eyes. Such a treat to see them taken well care of. Thank you very much for taking the time to comment on my mercury glass. I have seen real mercury glass in the past because I remember turning it over and seeing the stopper. Now I need to find some candlesticks!

Beverly said...

Oh, Richard. I can see why you love these. I love portraits, too.

A Rembrandt showing recently opened here, and I am so hoping to go.

Bohemian said...

Oh Richard... that Lady in Black makes a positively PERFECT Halloween inspired Portrait don't you think!? *winks*

Blessings from the Arizona Desert... Dawn... The Bohemian

Anonymous said...

One of my happiest experiences was visiting the National Portrait Gallery in London. All those interesting faces... You're right about the difference between oil portraits and prints. Right now, I have Victorian/Regency prints under glass. I love them, but they seem a little remote somehow. The glass is a barrier, aesthetically.

I would love to collect oil paintings as you have. In fact, I was so inspired by your post that I went immediately to eBay to price them. Some serious saving up will have to happen next!

It's so fascinating to study these faces from the past. So sad to think of them abandoned and cast aside by their families. So wonderful that you've been able to adopt these lovely ladies that now reside on the walls of your home.


lvroftiques said...

Richard this was such a wonderful lesson and I adore all your fabulous portraits! Each one is a treasure! Do you wonder how they came to be lost to the families they once belonged to? It makes me a little sad...And yet I'm so happy to claim them for my own.
I only have a few myself *winks* I had thought that one of my smaller ones was an early 19th century? But now I'm not so sure...Maybe it's 18th? Would you be so kind as to give me your opinion? You're the KING of antique expertise *winks*
My most special portrait is of my Grandmother when she was a young girl in 1912. It hangs in my livingroom.
Anyhoo as always I found myself drooling and oohing and ahhhing over all your beautiful pieces. Vanna

Southern Lady said...

I loved meeting your "family," Richard ... and what a lovely family it is! I also enjoyed the history and descriptions of the clothing styles. I would love to come take a tour and meet your Cousin Julia and Uncle Frank in person!

Linda McMullan said...

Richard, Richard! Somehow I missed this post, even though I Follow you...and this is the best one of all! How Fabulous! Love, love, love your ladies, and thank you so very much for the historic apparel lesson. I was enthralled, and drank in every word. My Mother made all my clothes when I was little, and I remember how even in the 1950's, there were fashion rules that still followed the proper etiquette for ladies. Not so much, anymore! Thank you so very much.

Pearl said...

Hi Richard, I've been meaning to visit your way but have been busy, busy. I really like these portraits they are so well done, they way they brought light into them is amazing. Amazing the way they painted back then so real. Have a great wkend kid! Pearl

snowwhite said...

Hello Richard,
I love your wonderful history lesson. Each lady seems to be very happy as a member of a large family. A travelling painter story is interesting. I especially like the dress and hat worn by the lady in the first photo. How elaborate and classy!
Best wishes,
ps Richard, I can not see your icon in my followers, I am afraid some systematic trouble might have happened. Will you click the button of followers again? I am happy to follow your blog.

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Richard:
As always, a most informative post with, yet again, tantalising glimpses into the Elgin/Cottrell House which we so much enjoy.

We think that you are probably right about your visitors preferring a made up story where your portraits are concerned rather than to be told that they have, in fact, been bought in. That said, some very fine buys with our favourite, of those shown, the twentieth century woman.

Thank you so much for your recent comment on our latest post; we are always delighted to hear from you too.

Victorian1885 said...

Good morning Richard
Your portraits are exquisite! I love seeing these old pictures and wondering what the sitters life would have been like long ago. Have a wonderful weekend!


The Dusty Victorian said...

Hello Richard,
Very much enjoyed this post - right up my alley. I agree, these are an excellent references for fashion history. And it takes a special skill to do portrait painting. Lovely collection.

Bohemian said...

Richard I'm so glad you dropped by and were finally able to leave a comment... yes, the System has been acting a bit strange lately & I've had a similar problem leaving comments... so frustrating!

I did a Vintage/Oddities Love Post a couple of days ago and had an Image of something that caught our eye but we didn't know what it was exactly {looked like a perfume holder with tiny funnel?} and I thought perhaps you'd know what it might be and could enlighten us since you have a wealth of knowledge about so many Antique Treasures? Take a peek and let me know what you think about it...

Blessings from the Arizona Desert... Dawn... The Bohemian

Divine Theatre said...

I learn so much from are a wlaking encyclopedia!


ps...kiss you know who!

Deanna said...

Dear Richard, This is a really neat post! These paintings are gorgeous and very well done.

The flesh tones always get my attention. The clothing is awesome and I really like the head gear.

I can see why you love these pieces so.
God bless,

Amy said...

Hi Richard!
I'm passing along the "Versatile Blogger Award" to you.

I really enjoy reading your blog!

Rose ~Victorian Rose ~ said...

Richard, these portraits are MAGNIFIQUE !! I know you love vintage clothing as much as I do. Oh my goodness these ladies are lovely...and look so elegant placed... going up your stairs.
I bet you speak to them when you are retiring for the night. ( Tell the truth !)
The last lady's face looks a lot like (a slightly plump) Grace Kelly to me.