Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Two Women, Two Dresses (Part 2) --- Day 11/135

Walk: Golden Gate Pickleball

Distance: 3 miles, 90 minutes pickle

John Singleton Copley, Mrs. Daniel Sargent (Mary Turner), 1763, o/c

So, back to the two ladies in their two dresses, with each dress telling a story in itself.  Mrs. Sargent's tells 'the world,' basically her fellow Bostonians and those in England she and her husband had left behind that the Sargents had attained success in their new country.  Eleven years before the Boston Tea Party (in 1773) they had the princely sum necessary to import the fine silk of her dress and the leisure for Mrs. Sargent to sit for a portrait.  The couple even had the excess funds to afford the long silk scarf which Mrs. Sargent wears aound her heck to indicate her high station.  But she emphasizes her humility and wifeliness by looking demurely away from the viewer and toward a scallop shell which is a symbol of love and beauty.  The waterfall cascading down the wall behind her speaks of virtue and fertility.

Much can also be made of the fact that the New England economy was such that a portrait painter had the time to be trained in his techniques and could make his living in his trade.

Amy Sherald, First Lady Michelle Obama, 2018, oil on linen

Now, 255 years later, we see Mrs.Obama - painted by a Yale-trained woman artist - wearing her dress. She is dignified but certainly not demure. She tooks directly at the viewer projecting a femininity that is confident, open, athletic, strong.  Unlike the very traditional Mrs.Sargent, Mrs. Obama is bold and original in her fashion choice.  While First Lady she sought out and promoted younger, even unknown designers and often went sleeveless in unexpected, sometimes ethnic colors and patterns. Her dress in this official portrat speaks much about her but, eye-catching and bold as it is, Mrs. Obama's  personal strength is more than equal to it.

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