Portraiture was the OG Fashion Photography

After an unremarkable luncheon yesterday at the Beverly Hills Hotel Polo Lounge, filled with mediocre food, borderline service, and a distinct lack of a high-tea menu, I decided to get my culture and foodie fix at LACMA.  I oohed and awed at the contemporary exhibits the time before, so I opted for an adventure through early Egypt, a slight sprint through the dark ages, a lingering shuffle in the hyperrealism of the 16/1700s, and a saunter across America in the early 1900s.

 During the journey, I stumbled upon a remarkable secondary value (or perhaps in our satin-lit eyes, the primary) in portraiture.  Before 1826 and the invention of photography, there was no other means of recording current fashion.

View from the Window at Le Gras, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce

View from the Window at Le Gras, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce. 1826. (Wikipedia)

 

Ink, graphite, paint, and turpentine were our Photoshop tools.  Jacques Sablet was our Pierre Louise-Pierson.

The Countess by Pierre Louise-Pierson.

The Countess by Pierre Louise-Pierson. 1863/1866. (Wikipedia)

 

There was no Vogue or Elle or Anthropologie catalog, only paint on canvas and silhouettes on paper.  And so, in viewing all of these masterful portraits through the ages, I’ve come to realize that not only were portrait artists cultural and political commentators, but they were fashion photographers as well!

Here is a look at some of LACMA’s finest “fashion photography” (and one authentic dress!) through the ages, before the camera was our go-to gal.

*pardon the horrendous iphone pictures – it was an unplanned adventure!

Dress and Petticoat. 1770.

Dress and Petticoat. 1770. Silk satin with weft-float patterning and silk passementerie: silk plain-weave taffeta.

Portrait of Eleonor Chigi, Princess of Teano.  Jacques Sablet. 1793.

Portrait of Eleonor Chigi, Princess of Teano. Jacques Sablet. 1793.

Portrait of Mrs. Edward L. Davis and Her Son, Livingston Davis. John Singer Sargent. 1890.

Portrait of Mrs. Edward L. Davis and Her Son, Livingston Davis. John Singer Sargent. 1890.

Potrait of Mrs. John White Alexander. John White Alexander. 1902.

Portrait of Riza Royce. Stanton MacDonald-Wright. 1932.

Portrait of Riza Royce. Stanton MacDonald-Wright. 1932.

Angel's Flight.  Millard Sheets. 1931.

Angel’s Flight. Millard Sheets. 1931.

And naturally, to keep with the mood of the evening, I swung by the museum bar and indulged in scotch and St. Germain cocktails and the most delicious lemon verbena-infused frozen yogurt I have ever tasted.

JH Collectibles suit, mink hat.

JH Collectibles suit, mink hat.

 

The Old Singer and cheese board

The Old Singer (hot scotch and benedictine) and cheese board

Brandy with or as dessert

Brandy with or as dessert

 

toujours.always.xo.

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