half length portrait

Frances Margaret Taylor, Mrs William Crane Blathwayt (1832). Thomas Phillips, RA (English, 1770-1845). Oil on canvas. Dyrham Park.

A half-length portrait of Frances Margaret Taylor, wife of William Crane, who took the additional name Blathwayt in 1817 and inherited Dyrham Park. She is shown seated, in a landscape, wearing a brown dress with elaborate lace trimmings, long gloves, and a hat trimmed with white ostrich feathers.

The Mona Lisa (Monna Lisa or La Gioconda in Italian; La Joconde in French) is a half-length portrait of a woman by the Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci, which has been acclaimed as “the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about, the most parodied work of art in the world”.

Lady Reading a Letter. Pietro Antonio Rotari (Italian, 1707-1762). Oil on canvas. Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister.

Rotari’s enchanting genre pieces, his half-length portraits of young ladies, enjoyed wide popularity. His fame rested on the small pictures usually produced in series, in which, as in the Dresden painting, a pretty young lady was represented reading a letter. In these works an appealing pose was coupled with fine, pure design and warm colouring.

Sara Norton (1884). Edward Burne-Jones (English, 1833-1898). Oil on canvas. Historic New England.

Half-length portrait of Norton as a young woman in profile facing right, holding a violin. Norton was at the center of New England’s privileged class, the kind of Bostonian equally at home in drawing rooms on either side of the Atlantic. Burne-Jones painted this portrait for Sara’s father, Charles Eliot Norton, a Harvard humanities professor, editor of North American Review, founder of the Nation, and frequent contributor to the Atlantic Monthly.

Delores. Gerald Leslie Brockhurst (English, 1890-1978). Oil on panel.

The sitter, Pepita, was the wife of the composer Bobby Hazleton Ross. Brockhurst had used her as a model in 1922 for a work entitled Pepita. She is painted in half-length portrait against a stark rocky landscape and vast sky. Her direct pose and unflinching gaze are compelling. There is a tension in this gaze that holds the viewer’s attention but gives nothing away about the sitter or her character.

Isabella Brandt (c.1626). Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 1577-1640). Oil on canvas. Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

The Uffizi portrait of Brandt is one of a number of portraits of his wife that Rubens completed during their 17 years together. It is a half-length portrait against the dark background of a red curtain and a column. Isabella smiles out while holding a book, her finger marking her place. She has an engaging yet hesitant smile as if she would like to return to her reading.