Sunday, November 18, 2018

Longing for a Soft, Docile 17C-18C Gentlewoman Tending Sheep - Pastoral Allegories

1765 John Theodore Heins Jr. (British artist,1732-1771) Phoebe Fonnereau, as a Shepherdess

During the 17C & 18C artists painted their contemporaries as personifications & allegories, & often painters would put the faces of their patrons on the bodies of the saints.  These came to be called donor portraits. These paintings remained popular, as they expanded to show the wealthy sitter as a Greek goddess, or muse, or nymph in in a rustic setting. They grew to include portraits of a shepherdess in pastoral scenes wearing idealized attire, nothing like the clothing worn by real women tending sheep.

Early portraits of women portrayed as shepherdesses were more seductive than those painted later.  The subject might be depicted with bare breasts showing, while wealthy, identified sitters would be painted in more traditional, conservative costumes.  The theme of the shepherdess was popular in 17C Dutch art, & it was not unusual for fashionable young women to have their likenesses rendered as such.  The shepherdess theme remained popular & expanded throughout the 18C on both sides of the Atlantic.