The Honourable Mrs Graham by Thomas Gainsborough, 1775-77
Beauty is relative. Have you ever noticed how the people who in past eras represented ideals of beauty nowadays do not appeal to the viewer, their faces are unattractive or very easy to forget? Moreover, in portraits of women, the upper chest is often strangely shaped and the neck rather plump. That is mainly due to a negligence when it comes to defining collarbones which I have never been able to explain. Why some artists from that age seem to forget to outline collarbones has always been a mystery to me. However, even if we ignore the ladies’ décolletes, it is clear that beauty standards have radically changed over the years and that the belles of that day fail to charm and enchant the eyes that watch them today.
Mrs Graham here makes an exception though.
Hers is perhaps the only truly beautiful female figure I have seen until now in any 18th century painting. All the others I like and posted or will post on this blog either have great colours, or depict the clothes of that period very well, or have an interesting setting or message, but I can safely say that is the only portrait of a beautiful woman I have seen.