04 January 2016

America's first "boob selfie"

Note that the above is the entire painting - not a selection from a larger one.  Here are some excerpts from an explanatory story in The Economist:
The picture comes not from Britain, where miniature-painting became especially popular in the 18th century, nor even from France, the home of sensuality. It was painted in puritanical Boston in 1828. If that is not surprise enough, more surprising still is the painting’s atmosphere of vulnerable humanity: the left breast rounder and slightly more settled than the right, the nipples ever so lightly puckered, the skin salted with goosebumps... “Beauty Revealed: Self Portrait” was painted from life by a right-handed woman in a studio that was none too warm...

The exquisite finish of “Beauty Revealed” came from using watercolour on an ivory wafer so thin it is transparent when held up to the light.

Miniatures required a special delicacy of hand and brush; being associated with emotion, they were deemed from the beginning to be particularly suited to women. Sarah Goodrich, the artist who painted “Beauty Revealed”, was born in 1788. She grew up in the Massachusetts countryside and learned to draw, according to her family, by scratching pictures on birch bark using a pin. Eventually she moved to Boston, then the most cultured city in America, and took instruction from Gilbert Stuart, a celebrated portraitist, who, during the American revolution, had exhibited at the Royal Academy in London...

In 1853, three days after Christmas, Sarah Goodrich had a stroke and died. Daniel Webster had succumbed just over a year earlier. Ill already with cirrhosis of the liver, he suffered a brain haemorrhage after falling from his horse. Among his personal effects, his family found two gifts from Goodrich: one of her paintboxes and “Beauty Revealed: Self-Portrait”, the disembodied ivory miniature. Only someone who had seen that bosom uncovered would recognise, on the inner curve of the right breast, the tiny beauty spot—and know to whom it belonged.


  1. :-) so daniel webster invented the word 'sexting'? :-)


  2. there is an image of this miniature at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sarah_Goodridge_Beauty_Revealed_The_Metropolitan_Museum_of_Art.jpg - it shows the frame, etc. more about that painting there as well https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beauty_Revealed


  3. I'm amazed at the talent level of certain individuals. Compared to some of the stuff that passes for "art" today, this is absolutely amazing. The fact that it is a self portrait means that it is even harder to do as one tends to be one's own worst critic and you'd have to use a mirror, which mirrors of that era did not always gave the clearest reflection.


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