The Face of Childhood: Age of Innocence by Sir Joshua Reynolds

It’s not the popular novel by Edith Wharton – in fact, the painting came first.

Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792) painted many influential paintings in his time. His favoritism for the “Grand Style” of painting popularized a noble, metaphorical painting style that incorporated Renaissance and Baroque methods into portraiture. Reynolds trained under Thomas Hudson in London and, according to rumor, became the better artist, causing Hudson to become jealous and let him go from his study.

In this particular painting titled Age of Innocence, Reynolds used this Grand Style for character study of the little girl. He originally titled the painting a little girl, but an engraving of the same artwork in 1794 was named Age of Innocence. This was not Reynolds’ name – someone else chose the moniker, and it stuck. The public received the painting with high praise.

A reproduction of Age of Innocence, available for purchase here. You can see the difference in coloring in the hands and the face, perhaps as a nod to the Strawberry Girl painting underneath the original.

A reproduction of Age of Innocence by J. Barba, available for purchase here. You can see the difference in coloring in the hands and the face, perhaps as a nod to the Strawberry Girl painting underneath the original.

Many years later, experts discovered that the original painting had been painted over Reynolds’ earlier A Strawberry Girl; the hands in Innocence even keep the original hands, unpainted over. This may have been because of issues with paint loss in Strawberry Girl; thankfully there are other versions of the painting by Reynolds, so it has not been completely lost underneath.

The Strawberry Girl by Sir Joshua Reynolds.

The Strawberry Girl by Sir Joshua Reynolds.

No one knows for sure who the model was for Innocence. A descendant of Reynolds named Sir Robert Edgcumbe declared her the great-niece of Reynolds named Theophila Gwatkin, who would have been three years old when the painting was finished. Others say that the model was Lady Anne Spencer, the daughter of the fourth Duke of Marlborough.

No one knows for sure who the model is, but what is certain is the popularity of the painting. One man claimed it “the commercial face of childhood”. The painting was reproduced in prints and other products, including many painted replicas by both students and professionals.

Many believe that Edith Wharton purposely named her popular 1920 book after the painting.

The original painting now hangs at the Tate in London.

Traveling with Art: Pyramid Peak, Colorado

 

It’s no secret: Colorado has some of the most beautiful natural scenery in the United States. So it’s no mystery that artists love it.

 

The artist Lanny Grant painted this piece, titled “Above Maroon Lake”. It shows the snow capped mountain called Pyramid Peak behind golden-yellow autumn trees. This was painted in 1985.

 

(If you’re interested in the painting, you can purchase it here.)

 

Grant specializes in landscapes, especially from remote locations that hardly anyone goes to. He’s always had a fascination with the landscapes in Colorado, and paints the vibrant colors of every season in his work.

 

In this stunning oil painting, Grant shows the view just opposite of Maroon Peak, above Maroon Lake. The lake was carved by Ice Age glaciers and dammed by landslide debris above the valley.

 

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Maroon Lake, Colorado

Pyramid Peak is the 47th highest mountain peak in Colorado, located within the Elk Mountains mountain range in the Rocky Mountains. It’s quite a steep mountain, and mountain climbers finding themselves on its trails are in for a difficult challenge. Loose rock is just one of the roadblocks in climbing this majestic mountain.

 

But clearly, even admiring from afar yields positive results. Grant uses controlled brush strokes and colors of blue, gold and brown in an almost photographic replication of the mountain in autumn in this painting.

 

These mountains are undoubtedly even more stunning in person!

 

Have you been to Colorado? What’s your favorite mountain or hike there?

 

Mysterious Lover’s Eye Miniatures

They’re so mysterious that no one but the original wearer knows whose eye they display, and that’s kind of the point.

These tiny eye paintings started as a fad in the late 1700s. Their purpose? To carry a piece of a loved one at all times without revealing their identity.

It’s a true token of a love affair, and fodder for a story of romance.

The alleged beginning of these “lover’s eyes” comes from the prince of Wales, later King George IV, who once became determined to court a Catholic, twice-widowed woman named Maria Fitzherbert. The court frowned upon this courting and at first Maria Fitzherbert was not particularly impressed either. Finally, she reluctantly agreed to marry him, though their marriage would not be officially recognized since George III had not approved it.

Some accounts say that Maria came to her senses before the marriage and fled to America. But the prince did not give up. He sent her a locket with a miniature painting of his eye inside and the note, “P.S. I send you a parcel, and I send you at the same time an eye. If you have not totally forgotten the whole countenance, I think the likeness will strike you.” Whether it was the portrait or his letter, Maria decided to give in and marry George. Rumors say that George kept a portrait of Maria’s eye as well.

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The whole event sparked an interest in miniature eye portraits. Worn not only by lovers and spouses, but also close family members and friends, they were the perfect way to openly wear special jewelry without having to worry about anyone knowing who was being represented.

Miniaturists like Richard Cosway and George Engleheart were some of the first to paint these pieces.

Some say these trinkets were a French invention, though no one knows for sure. Lady Eleanor Butler wrote in her diary at the time of the fad, “an Eye, done in Paris and set in a ring – a true French idea.”

Only limited amounts of eye miniatures from the 18th and 19th centuries exist today. The estimated number is under 1,000.

You can find the eyes most often set in lockets, brooches and rings, often surrounded by jewels or pearls. The biggest currently known collection is owned by the Skiers of Birmingham, Alabama, who have been collecting these pieces for decades.

Traveling with Art: St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Italy

One of the most stunning architecture masterpieces in the world resides in Rome.

Worked on by such famous figures as Michelangelo, Bernini, Raphael, and Donato Bramante, St. Peter’s Basilica is the pride of the Renaissance.

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Photo credit to Wikipedia user Jraytram under CC 3.0.

The structure can be seen in the above and below pieces by an artist named Bolteau. These watercolors work together in a set with very similar colors of gold, orange, and blue, and they both feature the basilica.

The bridge in the painting above resembles the Pons Aemilius, or by its modern name the Ponte Rotto, which was damaged and repaired multiple times in history before a flood carried away one half of the bridge in 1598. “Ponte Rotto” means “broken bridge.”

This other painting has a more prominent view of St. Peter’s Basilica. The basilica was built in the Late Renaissance and is considered to be one of the holiest Catholic churches.

The many parts to St. Peter’s have all been designed with great detail and care. Its dome was designed by Michelangelo, and his famous statue “Pieta” is housed inside the basilica.

This watercolor features St. Peter’s Square, or piazza, which stands directly in front of the basilica. The square contains a 4,000-year-old Egyptian obelisk as well as a granite fountain constructed by Bernini.

Ralph Waldo Emerson described St. Peter’s as “an ornament of the earth…the sublime of the beautiful.”

Another visitor wrote, “St Peter’s Basilica is the reason why Rome is still the center of the civilized world. For religious, historical, and architectural reasons it by itself justifies a journey to Rome, and its interior offers a palimpsest of artistic styles at their best…”

High praise for this architectural marvel!

What do you think of St. Peter’s Basilica? Have you ever been there yourself? Let us know in the comments!

 

Other articles in the “Traveling with Art” series:

The Arc de Triumph in Paris, France

Bamberg, Germany’s witch trials and pubs

Prague Castle and Charles Bridge

Mount Vesuvius and Naples, Italy