Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Painting of the Day: Girl with a Fan, 1864

Young Woman with a Fan
William Dobson, 1864
The Victoria & Albert Museum

One of the most popular artistic subjects of the Victorian era was the idealized representation of young femininity. Queen Victoria’s accession as a handsome young lady was the start of this English fascination with representations of youthful women as wholesome innocents without a trace of sensuality.

This painting from 1864 is a great example of the genre. The work of William Dobson (1817-1898), known for his religious paintings, this piece marks Dobson’s transition to lighter subject matter in an attempt to attain wider appeal. 

The painting is pure studio fantasy. The sitter has been attired in a turban and silk robe in the style of Syrian costumes of the era. However, her ensemble is that of a man, not a woman—a fact Dobson couldn’t have known. 

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