Sharing a photo of oneself on social media may be a twenty-first-century idea of recording a moment in time, but the concept is exactly the same as portrait painting in Regency era England. More than two hundred years ago, having a portrait painted was the only way to preserve one’s image. Sitting for a portrait was prestigious—a sophisticated, high-profile means to demonstrate status and wealth. Since it was also expensive, the aristocracy embraced the opportunity with enthusiasm.
From life-size masterpieces to delicate ivory miniatures, these timeless images offer a glimpse into the past and reflect so much more than a recording of someone’s appearance inside an ornate gilded frame. The facial expression, clothing, pose, and background were all clues into the life of the person depicted on canvas. Each carefully selected choice reflected personality traits and favored pastimes.
Because of the costly nature of hiring an accomplished artist, miniature portraits were often commissioned to be gifted as love tokens. These tiny paintings were worn as jewelry, displayed in bedchambers or secreted away in a treasured keepsake box. Some miniatures only showed the close up of an eye or other facial feature and, therefore, didn’t reveal the subject in entirety. This made the gift provocative, often quite scandalous.
Conversely, painting a large portrait was a grand endeavor and required a skillful portrait artist. While history has glossed over the inconvenience of this practice, it should be noted that the subject needed to sit in the pose for several hours, always at the same time of day to ensure continuity in lighting. Historic records suggest that because of these factors, many portraits were true of face but had alternate bodies. Often, the subject sat for the portrait long enough to have his or her face completed but allowed the artist to paint the body of another person (of similar body type) willing to sit in the same pose.
Another often unaddressed reality of Regency–era portrait–painting was the grueling amount of time it took for the oil paint to dry. It would take several days with no way to hurry the process. But doesn’t anything worthwhile take time to “dry?” If you want a good end result, one can’t hurry the process. That’s how I feel when I write my romance novels. It took me a year to envision the characters and create the story for my newest novel, London’s Best Kept Secret. I like to think of my role similar to a Regency–era portrait artist, only instead of using paint, I use something even more powerful. I use words.
In Anabelle Bryant’s latest novel of ardor and ambition, a lord will stop at nothing to possess the woman of his dreams …
In monetary matters, Jeremy Lockhart, Viscount Dearing, is used to being in control, but from his first sight of Lady Charlotte, his carefully cultivated world is rocked to its foundations. Determined to best her other, more eligible suitors, he goes to great lengths to ensure his betrothal to Charlotte. A locked black leather box holds the dark secret that has assured his success.
Innocent Lady Charlotte is baffled by her new husband’s behavior. Why does Lord Dearing seem so distant one day and so attentive the next? Her family’s dire financial straits did not allow her the luxury of an extended courtship. If only she could entice him into the marriage bed! When at last Charlotte’s efforts are rewarded, she revels in Jeremy’s unexpectedly bold possessiveness. But outside of their bedchambers, her groom’s guardedness quickly returns. Passion is no longer enough for sweet Charlotte, who vows to unlock the mystery of this complicated man. The truth, however, might be more than her principled heart is prepared to handle.
About the Author
Anabelle Bryant holds a bachelor’s degree, a master of arts degree, and is earning her doctorate in education. She has studied at Rutgers University and Kean University of New Jersey and is an avid traveler. When not in front of a classroom, she can be found in front of her laptop writing Regency romance and pursuing daydreams. Visit her online at anabellebryant.com, or visit her on the social media platforms below.