Thursday, January 13, 2011


Some say a person’s character can be revealed through their choice of footwear, others in how they treat wait staff. I choose to believe you can glean quite a bit from a person’s choice in portraiture. I’m sure you’re thinking I’m a bit off my rocker. Nobody commissions portraits any longer outside of their final year of high school and who wants to be judged by those? I certainly loathe that idea! I enjoy the thought of eventually having my likeness immortalized, but by whom?

My immediate response would be to dig up and reanimate Giovanni Boldini to let him have a go at it. His portraits of Marchesa Luisa Casati smolder and haunt me.

Marchesa Luisa Casati with a Greyhound

If he proved unavailable, I would then seek out John Singer Sargent and channel his Spanish Dancer.

Spanish Dancer

Speaking of lingering appeal, you can’t deny the aftereffects of this Vermeer.

Girl With a Pearl Earring

[Insert gratuitous Warhol plug here.]

Carolina Herrera, 1979

Possibly an homage to Etienne de Silhouette, the embattled French finance minister with a proclivity for cutting portraits from paper, featuring an assortment of family and friends. I do hope they don’t mind being celebrated in the bathroom.

Photography is currently the most popular medium for portraiture and the abundance of gifted shutterbugs no doubt helps. Coco Rocha has said of this wedding present from photographer Steven Meisel, “I’ve never liked hanging my model photos in my home, but this is an exception because it almost looks like a painting.” (I simply love her name, Coco Rocha. Coco Rocha. I could say it all day long.)

Photo by Claiborne Swanson Frank courtesy of

Photo by Steven Meisel

But what about something unconventional? A novel approach from a true original, I could have Lisa Borgnes Giramonti embroider me onto a scrap of burlap. I adore the notion of having my visage stitched onto an accent pillow, allowing me to supply much needed lumbar support throughout afternoon tea or keep a watchful eye on my guests even after I’ve left the room.

(The Fabulous Mitch by Lisa Borgnes Giramonti of A Bloomsbury Life)

I dare you to ask this question at your next dinner party. You're sure to gain far more insight into your guests’ psyches than inquiring about their careers or commutes.

Who would you commission for your portrait?


  1. Easy - When I was a kid my grandparents owned a Bouguereau and during their parties guests would comment on my uncanny resemblance to the girl in the portrait. It turns out that's why my grandparents bought it in the first place. I regret that my family sold the painting long ago but if I could have any artist living or dead do my portrait there's no doubt it would be William Bouguereau.

  2. If I was picking an artist from the past it would have to be John Singer Sargent, I love his beautiful and romantic portraits of women. A contemporary artist I would choose is Kimberly Brooks, Los Angeles based, I wrote about her on my blog. Her last exhibition was "The Stylist Project" and there were a lot of beautiful portraits of women, all Hollywood stylists. Very interesting.
    Love this post!

  3. Picasso? Ha, just kidding. I LOVE Winslow Homer and Frederick Church. Their style is amazing and so romantic. While neither really did much with portraits, I think they would create a likeness in a flattering light.

  4. Definitely not Botero!
    Probably Lord Leighton.

  5. Jeannine - I love this story!

    Sunday - Sargent is hands down one of my favorite artists. Thank you for the introduction to Kimberly Brooks. Such a thoroughly modern approach and yet would look fabulous in a traditional room.

    Deanna - I love the idea of seeing Homer and Church's interpretation of a portrait. Great thinking!

    PT&E - My goodness, it would take a load of confidence to pull off a Botero portrait. Certainly not for me! I can already imagine Lord Leighton's portrait of you - but more importantly, would Edward be included?


  6. My Mother-in-law was asked by Warhol to paint her portrait and she did not take him up on his offer...silly ! So when anyone asks to paint my portrait...dead or alive, I will stop and say, yes, NOW!

  7. Dovecote - I believe she's been having financial difficulties as of late. You should inquire, I bet you could get a rock bottom price. (Sadly, I'm sure this is not true, because it takes a lot of ego to topple before one will make themselves available to civilians.)

    Patricia - Oh no! Imagine if she had said yes!

  8. I once worked near the Upper East Side renovated carriage house that was Richard Avedon's studio and home. I never became jaded by sometimes coming face to face on the sidewalk of an arriving or departing supermodel or superstar. But it was not until I saw a client's black & white photo portrait by Mr Avedon that I realized his true talent -- along with that of whoever the artist was who did the believable but flattering re-touching!

  9. Devoted - Splendid story! His early fashion work is unmatched in my book. And his portrait of Marilyn Monroe is breathtaking - especially now that her story has unfolded.


  10. Certainly not Francis Bacon! In all seriousness, I would have been more than happy to have my portrait painted by William Draper or John Koch, two lesser known (today) but extremely talented (and prolific) American portraitists active in the 1960s. And yes, there is Mr. Sargent, of course. And one wouldn't turn down Henry Raeburn, either. For women, there is no-one like Boldini. I stood slacked jawed in front of his portrait of the Duchess of Marlborough at the Met only a week or two ago, enchanted and entranced, as I always am when I see it.

  11. John Singer Sargent for over the fireplace, Joshua Reynolds for the library, and Childe Hassam to hang in the bedroom. Fun post!


Inspire me! Go on, I dare you.