Sunday, April 24, 2016

What She Wore: A look at confidence from Winterhalter’s eyes

A person can express themselves through clothes in many ways. Clothes can represent a person’s social status, personality, and identity. This exhibit focuses on the confidence Franz Xaver Winterhalter portrays when woman wear dresses from the 19th century. The type of dresses that were worn by woman in the 19th century bloomed with colors, ruffles, and beading; portraying class and elegance to anyone who walked by. A woman being the pure focus in history was never the case, therefore, the clothes that she wears gives them purpose in the life they live. The dress allows the viewer to ask the questions; Who is this woman? Why is she important? The dress creates a stance on where the woman stands in the world. It allows the woman to be confident in where she is, because the dress portrays wealth. It sings high status, and allows the woman to identify herself with that social status. We see that the dress can say a lot, especially the size! The dress swallows the woman, and takes over the role. This exhibit will grant the viewer to step back and allow the dress to do the talking. It is in the beauty and boldness of the dress where we can see the light of confidence shine from the woman beneath.

Empress Eugénie, Franz Xaver Winterhalter, 1854, oil on canvas, 1978.403


In Empress Eugenie, the first glance the viewer takes is instantly drawn to the enormous ball gown that takes center stage on the canvas. The sleeves fall off the woman's shoulder and are decorated with pearls. The dress is draped on the bottom with three black bows riding on the side. The train of the dress is heavy, as if the viewer could imagine the train slowly tugging away as the woman walks off the canvas. The woman is turned so that only half of her ivory skinned profile is shown. The dress is surrounded by a garden, filled with naturalistic flowers, and a stylized scenery that the woman is pondering at. Winterhalter uses loose and exaggerated brush strokes and smooth, fine, detailed brushwork for the woman's face to convey the power that the dress holds.

Countess Alexander Nikolaevitch Lamsdorff, Franz Xaver Winterhalter, 1859, Oil on Canvas, 67.187.119

The countess pictured in this painting was the wife of the Alexander Nikolaevitch Lamsdorff, a Russian aristocrat. The dress that is worn may have been suggested by Winterhalter, who usually helps woman with their wardrobe choice. The dress overflows the painting, and floods open at the bottom of the canvas. The white dress creates a contrast with the dark green garden behind her. This allows the dress to glow, and take center stage. The woman’s face is still and motionless, while-as her dress brings life and movement to her posture. The laced collar and the book that is gently held in her lap creates intelligence. The dress creates a status for this woman. Winterhalter creates a space where she is intelligent, beautiful, and important all at once by emphasizing the beauty and confidence that radiates from the dress.

Portrait of Leonilla, Princess of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn, Franz Xavier WInterhalter, 1843, Oil on Canvas, The J. Paul Getty Museum, 86.PA.534

The portrait of Leonilla, Princess of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn, allows the viewer to glide through the painting with ease. The fluency of the painting creates delicacy and peace. The Princess’s posture is on her side, with one hand gently bent, placing her fingers on her pearl necklace. Her dress is draped on her laying body, giving her movement and curves. Therefore, the effect of the movement and curves causes the viewer to find the Princess almost seductive. The Princess’s confidence comes from how the dress talks to the viewer. The dipped neck reveals the collarbones and emphasizes her breasts. The tied ruffled ribbon around her silhouette emphasizes her waist. The drapery around her legs reveals that there is a body waiting under the dress. Winterhalter paints the dress to convey the beauty and confidence by teasing the viewer.

Madame Rimsky Korsakov, Franz Xavier Winterhalter, 1864, Oil on Canvas, Musee d’Orsay

In Madame Rimsky Korsakov, Winterhalter portrays grace and elegance through the soft and delicate dress that is worn by the woman. The dark background gives the dress a powerful contrast due to the black against the soft pearl white material. The dress pops out of the canvas with its delicate lace and blue ruffles. The woman’s hair blends into the background with it being so dark. Without the beauty and elegance shown from the dress, the woman would not be as graceful or shine high status; the woman would be sinking into the background without the bright and luxurious dress that creates the woman’s confidence.

Empress Eugenie, Franz Xavier Winterhalter, 1854, Oil on Canvas, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 2010.19

In this portrait of Empress Eugenie, the dress that is displayed is heavy due to the massive amount of fabric and material that is shown. The Empress is sinking into the dress, as if she is being covered by bed sheets. The beauty from the detailed lace creates luxury and elegance that would not be shown if it were not for the massive dress that swallows the Empress. The dress falls off her shoulders and allows the viewer to get the feeling that the dress is holding her together. Winterhalter organizes the dress to create the confidence and class for Empress Eugenie.

The Empress Eugenie Surrounded By Her Ladies in Waiting, Franz Xavier Winterhalter, 1855, Oil on Canvas, Compiègne, Musée national du château

The painting The Empress Eugenie Surrounded By Her Ladies in Waiting, reveals many different kinds of dresses that were worn in the 19th century. Winterhalter creates luxury, lust, class, and elegance all in one picture. His detailed work allows the viewer to pick up on the beauty and confidence each woman conveys while wearing the dress. The dress talks to the viewer, and allows the audience to not forget the importance and status that each woman hold. The vibrant colors from each dress that is present shines light, and portrays each woman to be polished, put together, and a prize to win.

No comments:

Post a Comment