Copies of the Introduction to this exhibition and catalogues of previous exhibitions are available from the Rare Books Department
By John Gregory
Is the face a window opening onto the soul (as Leonardo da Vinci suggested), or a mask disguising our "true" nature? Portraitists oscillate continually between these two poles, fretting over the gap between the real and the ideal, trying to register a sitter's recognizable features, while at the same time striving to suggest the much more intangible sense of an individual's inner personality. Often, too, vigorous massaging of the facts of an individual's appearance is required - as in the case of the grand portraits of the increasingly inbred royal families of Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries. Hence, we should be wary of accepting canonical portraits of the long-dead as faithful likenesses. Michelangelo, accused of failing to register the accurate appearance of the Dukes commemorated in the Medici Chapel in Florence, supposedly replied: "In a thousand years, nobody will know what they actually looked like." In other words, mimetic realism counts for much less, in the end, than the requisite sense of heroism, intelligence, or glamour. Whether or not portraits of historical figures such as those in this exhibition are strictly accurate (something we may never know for sure), they provide us with vivid impressions of significant individuals, and the events and ideas they call to mind.
In tune with the concept of the face as a key to the soul, pre-modern artists and scientists were fascinated by the idea that human features may betray personality traits. Leonardo, Bernini and other artists pioneered caricature, implying character through exaggeration. De humana physiognomia (1586), by the Neapolitan Giovan Battista della Porta, catalogued the supposed correlations between animal and human features, and character: thus, leonine people typically display courage and other noble tendencies; the sheep-like should never be relied on for leadership; and those resembling pigs can hardly be expected to behave well in any situation. The Swiss pastor Johann Lavater (1741-1801) expanded such notions into a fully-fledged theory of physiognomy, widely believed to be a foolproof guide to various tendencies, especially of a criminal nature.
Conversely, philosophers and literary figures usually look suitably intelligent and creative. Author-portraits, a form dating back to ancient times, seem to acquaint the reader with the writer, implying the author's wit, wisdom or inspiration. Visual artists' self-portraits (a special category of author-portrait), often adopt a conventional pose, as creative genius, courtier, or sage, but occasionally take on more memorably eccentric guise. Caravaggio, for instance, liked to depict himself in hidden and ironic form, early on for example as the head of Medusa, who turns onlookers to stone, and then, near the end of his life, as the severed head of Goliath, held aloft by a pitiless young David.
The heyday of European portraiture lasted from the Italian Renaissance until the mid 19th century, when its grip was loosened by several factors, notably the invention of photography. The camera's mindless inability to decide what not to record could be regarded as its undoing in this genre (many sitters still preferring not to see the warts). Nevertheless, photographers have produced a fascinating documentary record of the inspired, powerful and infamous figures of the past century and a half. Then again, as Anne Marsh has argued recently (The Darkroom, 2003), photographers often explore theatrical and performative approaches, rather than the merely documentary. Fashion photographers like Helmut Newton and Steven Meisel are obvious examples, as testified by their larger-than-life representations of Madonna (Ciccione) and other models and celebrities.
Modern artists themselves, from the Cubists onwards, sometimes present portraiture with a severe test, condemning some sitters to unrecognizability, virtually obliterating the face. The related, radical critique of "faciality" by French philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari (in A Thousand Plateaus, first published in 1980), proposes that the human face itself symbolizes oppressively dominant Western traditions, which must be "deterritorialized." (For a series of stimulating essays on this theme, including a spirited rearguard defence of portraiture by local art-critic and academic Robert Nelson, see Faciality, ed. Zara Stanhope, Monash University Gallery, 1994.)
Nevertheless, conventional portraiture lives on, especially in Sydney! Admittedly, the Archibald Prize has generated its share of controversy, including the famous legal brawl about whether Dobell's 1943 painting of fellow-artist Joshua Smith was a portrait or a caricature (a controversy which seems to have intrigued almost everyone except the sitter, whose self-esteem suffered badly); and a heated debate during the 1970s about whether paintings based on photographs were eligible. But the Archibald and the recently-formed National Portrait Gallery in Canberra demonstrate the continuing popular appeal of portraiture. At the same time, a work like Howard Arkley's vivid, stylized Nick Cave (National Portrait Gallery, 1999) suggests one possible creative path for Australian portraiture in the 2000s.
One proof of the enduring power of the portrait, curiously enough, is the fact that images of political and religious figures (historical or legendary) continue to be damaged and destroyed. Iconoclasm and damnatio memoriae are both long-standing practices which still survive, as seen in the Taliban's demolition of monumental ancient statues of the Buddha in Afghanistan in 2001, and media images of the destruction of sculptures of Saddam Hussein during the attack on Iraq by the "coalition of the willing" in 2003.
Increasingly, the contemporary face is a mask representing the public aspect of the rich and famous, or those who are just famous for being famous. Digital technology now provides powerful new tools for the manipulation of appearance, and plastic surgery appears to offer a more permanent solution, enabling celebrities like Michael Jackson to pay a fortune to have their faces reconstructed as mask-like surrogates for their own. French performance artist Orlan takes this tendency to the extreme, using her body as the site for a series of operations, painfully re-casting her features into simulacra of elements drawn from famous art-works (the smile on the Mona Lisa, and so on).
Despite some stern challenges, then, the portrait has survived into the 21st century, abetted by a diverse mix of artistic experimentation, new technologies, plastic surgery, mass media, and gossip and celebrity culture, all testimony to our seemingly insatiable desire for images of the famous, notorious and gorgeous.
[Dr John Gregory is a Senior Lecturer in Visual
Culture in the School of Literary, Visual & Performance Studies at Monash
University (Clayton); he teaches and publishes in a range of areas from
Italian Renaissance painting to contemporary Australian art.]
This exhibition does not pretend to be a history of portraiture, rather it is an idiosyncratic selection of material published from the 17th century to the present chosen to high-light specific areas of the Monash collection. The portraits on display are mainly from books, although some are separate engravings or photographs. We see 17th and 18th century engraved portrait frontispieces, 19th century hand-coloured illustrations (as well as an example from the 17th century), chromo-lithographs and photographs, as well as 20th century mug-shots, and pop culture portraits from magazine covers.
There are imaginary portraits such as Boadecia, and Lemuel Gulliver, as well as portraits taken from the 18th century multi-volume quarto edition of Lavater's Physiognomy, the repertoire from which portrait artists drew expressions of emotion for over a century. The Vanity Fair portraits from the late Victorian period show us the influential London figures of that era.
The twentieth century portraits are mainly photographs of well-known people taken in characteristic situations, such as Winston Churchill in the blitz, featured in a wartime Picture Post. Also in the exhibition is Ronald Reagan promoting Chesterfield cigarettes, as well as cover portraits from Life, Women's Weekly, and Rolling Stone. The Police Department "wanted" posters shows people at the bottom of the social heap, but there is a crossover into the realm of pop royalty with the now-iconic Michael Jackson mug-shot. This part of the exhibition draws on our magazine material, from the Police Gazette to Rolling Stone, and the ephemera collection.
The British warrior queen, Boadicea (d. 62 AD) was the wife of Prasutagus, King of the Iceni, a tribe inhabiting the area now in the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. After the King's death in 60 AD, the Romans seized Iceni's land, scourged Boadicea, and enslaved her people. She led a successful uprising, during which her forces destroyed the Roman city of Colchester, and captured London. According to Tacitus, 70,000 Romans were killed. However, the Romans counter-attacked. Boadicea and her men were defeated, and the Queen killed herself with poison.
This plate-book on early British costumes was compiled by the antiquary Samuel Rush Meyrick. He tells us of the authorities he consulted in arriving at Boadicea's portrait.
Of Boadicea … ancient authors have been studious to preserve a particular description. Comparing therefore the accounts of Strabo with those of Dion Cassius, and by carefully examining the dresses of the Celtic females on the columns of Trajan and Antonine, the bassorelievos found in this country, and the coins of Carausius, there is little difficulty in delineating the costume of this princess. Accordingly this plate represents her as full-grown handsome woman, but of a stern countenance, with long yellow hair flowing over her shoulders. She wears the Pais much longer than what was worn by the men, hence that word is now confined to designate the petticoat. It is woven chequerwise of many colours, which, according to Strabo and Pliny, were purple, light and dark red, violet and blue. Over this is the shorter garment, open on the bosom, and with short sleeves exposing the arms, termed Gwn, the Guanacum of Varro, which reached as far as the knee also of interwoven colours. On her shoulders was thrown the cloak, fastened by a fibula, and from her neck depended a golden torque. Bracelets ornamented her arms and wrists, and rings her fingers. This was her usual habit, says Dion; but when she went to war, she bore in her hand a lance, and addressed her troops on a tumulus of turf.2. King Henry VIII (chromo-lithograph, after the painting by Holbein, 1543)
Pollard, A. F. (Albert Frederick), 1869-1948.
In his preface to this work Pollard writes, "Rarely has there occurred so remarkable a conjuncture of a great ruler and a great painter, as when Holbein was summoned to the court of Henry VIII" (p. iv). Holbein (1497-1543) was born in Augsburg. He came to England in late 1526 where Erasmus introduced him to Sir Thomas More who then introduced him to Henry VIII. He was appointed royal painter to the court The portrait of Henry shows Holbein's ability to achieve veracity and impart great dignity.
This is an engraved title-page, of a type common in the seventeenth century. The title of the book appears in the cartouche at the bottom of the image. Although it was engraved for this publication, it could be re-used as appropriate, and we have another book in the collection, Cabala, or mysteries of state (1691) which also includes this engraving, with the later title substituted for the original. The artist was William Faithorne.
Elizabeth I never married, earning the epithet, the "Virgin
Queen", but her marriage plans were a constant source of international
diplomatic negotiation, and played an important role in England's shifting
alliances at the time. This portrait of the queen on her throne, flanked by
her ministers, conveys the image of Elizabeth as a powerful queen but with
Mary Stuart (1542-1587) became Queen of Scotland on the death of her father, James V, before she was a week old. Her tragic life and eventual death by execution, ordered by Elizabeth I, has often been described. She has been used in literature and in popular history as a symbol of romanticism doomed to suffer.
The portrait here reproduced shows the Queen while still on the Scottish throne, handsomely decked in jewels, and at the height of her beauty.
5. Lady Arabella Stuart (1575-1615) engraving by George Vertue.
Lodge, Edmund, 1756-1839.
Lady Arabella Stuart was the niece of Lord Darnley, husband of Mary Queen of Scots. Her father was the grandson of Margaret, Henry VIII's eldest sister, and Arabella was next in line of succession to the throne after her cousin James. There were factions who pushed for her to be given preference to succeed Elizabeth and the Queen had her arrested shortly before the Queen herself died. Her relations with James after he became King James I were a mixture of tension and cordiality, but she was eventually committed to the Tower, in 1610. She escaped in 1611, but was re-captured in man's apparel on board a ship in the Channel, trying to flee to France. Sent back to the Tower, she died there in 1615.
This is an iconic portrait, each element of which symbolises an aspect of King Charles the martyr. The crown of thorns which he holds in his right hand is a direct reference to Christ.
Being a serious Puritan and intent on distancing himself from the vanities of the Stuart court, Cromwell asked that his portrait be painted "warts and all". Walpole in his Anecdotes of painting is the source of this story. He quotes Cromwell as saying,
Mr. Lely, I desire you would use all your skill to paint my picture truly like me, and not flatter me at all; but remark all these roughnesses, pimples, warts and everything as you see me, otherwise I will never pay a farthing for it. (ch. 12)
8. John Thurloe (1616-1668) engraving by George Vertue, after a contemporary portrait
Thurloe, John, 1616-1668.
Thurloe was one of Cromwell's most trusted public servants. In addition to being his Secretary of State he was in charge of Intelligence.
The portrait shows him in Puritan garb, holding a letter addressed to him, while seated next to a table with an ink-stand.
9. Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon (1609-1674) engraving by R. White after a painting by Peter Lely.
Clarendon, Edward Hyde, 1609-1674.
Clarendon was one of Charles I's supporters during the civil war, and after the Restoration he was made Lord High Chancellor. He was dismissed from office in 1667 and exiled to France. Today he is best-remembered for his three volume history of the Civil War. Lely's portrait shows him in his robes of office surrounded by the trappings of state.
Clarendon's three volume folio history is one of the glories of the Oxford Press. The profits from this publication went to establishing the Clarendon Press imprint.
The vignette on the title-page represents the Sheldonian at Oxford, with a female figure, Britannia, seated with a spear and shield. This is said to be a portrait of Frances Stuart, Duchess of Richmond, one of Charles II's mistresses. The device first appeared on an Oxford book, Marmora Oxoniensa, in 1676.
10. Charles II, King of England, (1630-1685) chromo-lithograph after a portrait miniature by Samuel Cooper (1665)
Airy, Osmund, 1845-1928.
Charles II was welcomed back by his people at the Restoration in 1660. They were tired of Puritan rule. Charles was known for his mistresses, and the sensual nature of the King is evident from his portraits.
Algernon Sidney fought on the Parliamentary side during the Civil War. He was a staunch republican, even opposing Cromwell taking power as Protector. After the Restoration he fled to the Continent, but returned in 1677, Charles II having granted him a pardon. In 1683, he was involved in the Rye House Plot, an attempt to assassinate the King and his brother the Duke of York. Part of the evidence brought against him was the manuscript of his republican work, the Discourses. He was convicted and executed. The book first appeared in print in 1698.
His portrait shows a man with a characteristically malevolent look.
12. Emperor Shun-Chi (d. 1661) engraving.
Kircher, Athanasius, 1602-1680.
Athanasius Kircher was a Jesuit scholar. For this book he gathered information from accounts by Jesuit missionaries of their experiences in China.
The Emperor is shown with his dog.
13. Geoffrey Chaucer (1340?-1400) engraving by George Vertue.
Chaucer, Geoffrey, d. 1400.
This engraving by Vertue is from an eighteenth century edition of Chaucer's works. All portraits of Chaucer are based on a likeness which appeared in an early manuscript. Vertue has noted that, and given us a representation of the original below his portrait.
14. The poet's mistress (hand-coloured engraving)
Sorel, Charles, 1602?-1674.
This is a translation into English of Sorel's Berger extravagant. The contemporary hand-coloured portrait is included here as a satirical comment on the idealised mistress, with cheeks like roses, hair of spun-gold, eyes like suns, teeth like pearls, lips of coral, and breasts like globes.
Mrs. Katherine Philips, or "the matchless Orinda" as she was known to her circle of friends, was a poet during the Commonwealth period. Although some of her poems were published in 1651 in volumes of the works of Henry Vaughan and William Cartwright, most of her poetry was circulated in manuscript among her friends. Inevitably a copy of the poems found its way into the hands of a bookseller who had it printed in 1664. She succeeded in having this withdrawn and arranged publication of an authorised edition of her works, the folio volume we see here on display.
Unfortunately she died of smallpox before this edition was ready for publication. The portrait frontispiece shows her in classical garb, a convention used for some authors and statesmen.
16. John Milton (1608-1674) engraving by George Vertue after I. Richardson.
Milton, John, 1608-1674.
The frontispiece portrait of Milton is presented as a classical bust on a plinth similar to Mrs. Philip's, although Milton is wearing his Puritan clothes rather than a toga. As he was blind, the eyes are represented as blank.
D'Avenant was appointed Poet Laureate by Charles I in 1638, hence the bays on his head in the portrait. He was satirised by various literary rivals, most of whom singled out the fact that his nose had been affected by syphilis. This is plainly evident in the portrait.18. Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) engraving by Benjamin Wilson, 1751.
When Monash University began in 1961 the first University Librarian, Ernest Clark, purchased a collection of 17th and 18th century books relating to Jonathan Swift form a local collector David Woolley. This formed the nucleus of the Monash Rare Book Collection.
Jonathan Swift was Dean of St. Patrick's Dublin. He is now best-known as the author of Gulliver's Travels (1726), but in his own day he was famous as a writer of political pamphlets, an adviser to the government, and promoter of Irish rights.
The portrait seen here shows him bald, without a wig. This is most unusual as men of his standing always had their portraits taken in full wigs. This engraving first appeared as the frontispiece to Orrery's Remarks on the life and writings of Dr. Jonathan Swift, Dean of St. Patrick's Dublin (1752)
19. Lemuel Gulliver
Swift, Jonathan, 1667-1745.
Although it appears to us obvious that Gulliver's Travels is a work of fiction, Swift went to some trouble to give his book an air of verisimiltude. He included maps based on Moll's world map of 1716, including coastlines of new lands such as Lilliput and Brobdingnag; and he included a frontispiece portrait of Gulliver himself.
The portrait is not at all idealised, but we see the happy, rather unconventional woman, managing to look appealing with her bare shoulder and shiny nose. We can imagine her making Swift laugh, as she succeeded to do, according to her jest-book published in 1751.
21. Samuel Johnson (1709-84) engraving by J. Heath after a portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1756.
Boswell, James, 1740-1795.
Most contemporary descriptions of Johnson dwell on his bear-like qualities. The portrait chosen for the first edition of the classic biography of him shows the man pausing to think while in the act of writing, a set of his famous dictionary standing next to him on his desk.
Blake worked as an engraver and book illustrator. He is best known for his own publications. These were usually wholly engraved and hand-coloured by the poet, and made virtually no money. He did however work on other people's publications, including the English edition of Lavater's Physiognomy. His illustrations for Blair's poem, The grave are among the best work he did in this field, although they were engraved by Schiavonetti rather than by Blake himself. The frontispiece portrait of Blake shows him apparently about to commit a sketch to his shirt-cuff.
Mary Brunton was a parson's wife who published two successful novels, Self-control (1810) and Discipline (1814). Sadly, she died in child-birth in 1818 leaving various unpublished stories, gathered by her husband, and published in this volume of 1819, with a charming portrait frontispiece.
24. Charles Dickens (1812-1870) engraving by Edward Stodart from a photograph by C. Watkins.
Kitton, Frederic G. (Frederic George), 1856-1904.
This publication reproduces most of the known portraits of Dickens, from the handsome young man to the distinguished elder statesman of Victorian letters. It even includes illustrations of Dickens performing in various plays, a diversion of which he was particularly fond. The portrait on display shows Dicken in his later life. It includes a vignette of Mamie, his eldest daughter.
25. Charles Dickens (1812-1870) "The empty chair, Gad's Hill -Ninth of June 1870" engraving by Luke Fildes.
The Graphic, Christmas number 1870. between p. 14-15.
Dickens died on 9 June 1870 at his house at Gad's Hill. He was writing his novel, The mystery of Edwin Drood, which remained unfinished. The calendar on his desk shows the date of 8 June, the last day at which he was at work. This is a remarkable portrait of a man expressed by his absence, and conveys the sense of loss felt by his contemporaries.
26. Mueller, Baron Sir Ferdinand von (1825-1896) Lithograph by Troedel, Melbourne, with a ms. inscription by Von Mueller; and photographic carte-de-visite by J. Botterill, Bee-Hive Chambers, Elizabeth St., Melbourne.
The botanist and explorer, Baron Ferdinand Von Mueller was born in Germany but came to Australia in 1847, settling first in Adelaide. In 1852 he cane to Melbourne where he was appointed Government Botanist. He is most famous for establishing the National Herbarium and being one of the most influential Directors of the Melbourne Botanical Gardens.
Lavater, Johann Caspar, 1741-1801.
Physiognomy is the study of a person's external features, especially of the face, to arrive at an assessment of his character. People have always instinctively done this, but attempts have been made from the early sixteenth century to raise this art to a verifiable science. Johann Kaspar Lavater, the most ambitious of the early proponents, was a Swiss Protestant pastor who first published his voluminous exposition of physiognomy in four volumes from 1755 to 1758. He believed the bones of the face indicated genetic predisposition towards certain characteristics but perhaps more important to his system of beliefs were the mobile parts which express emotion. These become set in various ways through the person habitually displaying particular responses. Although physiognomy, like the related study of phrenology, has never been accepted by science, there is often an instinct among people to react sub-consciously on physiognomical assumptions when assessing character.
Among the engravers employed on this edition of Lavater was William Blake.
Lavater says of his portrait,
Is it possible to say on seeing it: "There is an ordinary face?" can you perceive in it nothing of that open, honest, bold character - of that firm, unshaken mind, filled with the sentiment of its own strength?
How far removed is it from every species of timidity and affectation! What an air of Royalty, I had almost said, in all the lower part of the face! It is true that the Artist, as the work was ideal, thought himself obliged to soften that harsh and inflexible character; but you still find it in the whole taken together, especially in the eyebrows, and their relation to the nose. The intrigues of the Cabinet have not furrowed that forehead; it broods not over plans conceived in cold blood, and stops not calmly to weigh the reasons on both sides; it is open, manly, prompt, impatient for action, without losing time in words. (vol. 1, p. 228)
We see here a silhouette artist at work, with his sitter casting a shadow, lit by a candle onto a screen. Lavater comments on this woman and her portrait, dwelling at the end on the contrast he detects between the two,
This is the character I would assign to the silhouette of this young person. I find in it Goodness without much Ingenuity; Clearness of Idea & a ready Conception, a mind very industrious, but, little governed by a lively Imagination, & not attached to a rigid punctuality. We do not discern in the Copy the Character of Gaiety which is conspicuous in the Original, but the nose is improved in the silhouette, it expresses more Ingenuity. (facing p. 179)
One is easily persuaded that this image represents a being powerful, extraordinary, more than human, the sworn enemy of every thing that belongs to gentle simplicity and dignity of sentiment.
Harshness and obstinacy are engraven on that front of brass.
The same character is visible also in the eye-brow, if that name may be given to the capricious trait which the Painter has substituted in its place.
The eyes are menacing from rage and malignity; but they are at the same time disturbed by fear. That look indicates agitation from some unexpected discovery.
The upper part of the nose expresses violence; the lower announces a judicious mind - but ought to express more malignity and fury.
The mannerist is apparent in the mouth. In this copy it is weak, though it be not so in the original: here it expresses fear rather than contempt. The under lip is far too good.
The chin too ought to have been better characterised: compared with that terrible forehead, and it is too gentle and attractive; it should have been broader, firmer, a little awry, and projecting.
Under these disfigured traits you cannot however but distinguish the fallen Angel : you perceive still, some traces of his ancient greatness - and in this consists, if I am not mistaken, the principal merit of the piece. (vol. 2, pt. 2, p. 285)
30. "Remarkable singularities" engraving by Thomas Holloway, facing p. 193, vol. 3, pt. 1.
This is a full length side and back view of a woman. Lavater explains why he included her in his book,
This plate represents a young girl who was exhibited, some time ago, in several of the cities of Europe. Her body was sprinkled all over with little tufts of hair, like a hind's, and her back covered with a great many spongy excrescences, likewise furnished with hair of the same kind. It is alleged that, during pregnancy, the mother of this child had quarrelled with a neighbour on account of a stag. The copy under review was drawn from nature, and I can answer for its exactness. It is certain that the excrescences were very strongly marked, and though they had no analogy with the flesh of a stag, yet the father maintained that they had a greater or less resemblance to the animal when flayed; and, what may be considered as a stronger proof, the tufts resembled the hair of the stag or fallow-deer not only in colour, but in the manner of insertion, and in the arrangement or lying of the hair. The tufts which grew out of the forehead, the arms and the legs, were also of a species entirely different from the hair of the head. A phenomenon so strange is a striking instance of the force and effect of imagination of some women with child. I must further observe, that the young person in question possessed prodigious bodily strength, and an accuracy in her sense of feeling altogether uncommon. Her stature and flesh, her form, her complexion and physiognomy, her attitudes and gestures, all announced a premature and indefatigable Virago. (p. 193, vol. 3, pt. 1)
31. Desiderius Erasmus (1467-1536) engraving by Thomas Holloway after a painting by Holbein.
As we have seen from the entry describing the portrait of Henry VIII, Erasmus was the man who introduced Holbein to the English court. Born in Gouda, Holland, he lived at times in most European countries, and visited England on five occasions. He was Professor of Divinity and Greek at the University of Cambridge from 1511 to 1514.
Lavater once again turns art critic in assessing the effects of Holbein's portrait of the great scholar. He feels that "in many respects … with all his exertions, the painter has fallen far short of the model." He hastens to qualify this criticism,
But no matter; the man of genius alone is capable of feeling the great, of rising to the height of his subject, of aspiring after the felicity of making himself master of it - and when in every touch of the piece the Artist has given proof of his ability, of the justness of his eye, and of his will, it is no longer his fault, if, after all, he is under the necessity of exclaiming, the task exceeded my strength.
In this copy still the nose is the predominant feature, though the extremity of it is not drawn with sufficient delicacy, and the nostril is defective in point of correctness and truth. I should be tempted to call it a ferret's nose, and I would associate with it a character reflective on principle, and circumspect from delicacy, and to whom you would impute rather an excess of diffidence than of presumption.
I am afraid of meddling with the mouth. The delicacy of mind, by which it is animated, seems to exhale from the upper lip: a multitude of agreeable ideas have just concentrated there, like the colours in a ray of light.
The chin ought to be less rounded and more angular: its surface too smooth, rather injures the basis of the face, were you even to adopt for this portrait the middle age of life, in other words, that which is most suitable to chins of this form. (p. 386-387, vol. 3, pt. 2)
William Salmon was a physician. His Polygraphice was first published in 1672. It is a compendium of general information but the first section is devoted to the art of painting. He dwells on the necessity that the artist should be aware of anatomy, in particular the muscles, and the body's correct proportions. He refers to classic portraits, but also more common subjects,
If you be to draw a labouring man, you must without any regard to the season, represent him with raised limbs, and strong muscles swelling and standing forth, sweating and burning, especially in such as carry burthens, draw great weights, or use vehement leaping, walking, jesting with weapons, fencing and such like exercises. (p. 28)
The book is open at the plate showing various forms of eyes.
33. Leonardo da Vinci, 1452-1519.
Leonardo gives instruction as to the ideal studio in which to paint a portrait.
For faces and other nudities, you must have a chamber open and exposed to the air, which walls are washed with a Carnation colour. The time you are to chuse for painting, is the summer, when the sun is covered with thin clouds; but if you fear lest it should break out, you may take care to have the South-Wall of your chamber rais'd so high, as to be a screen to the Northern one, and to prevent the sun beams from striking upon it; otherwise the reflected rays will make false lights, and spoil your shadows. (p. 42)
34. Day, Charles William.
Winsor and Newton were manufacturers of artists' paints and equipment. They also published a series of handbooks for those practising various forms of art; each copy included an illustrated catalogue bound in the back.
Miniature painting was a popular art-form, eventually superseded by photography. The painter of miniatures, usually a woman, made a living by providing portraits for loved ones. Much of the book is concerned with the techniques peculiar to painting on ivory, the material favoured by painters of miniatures. After giving details of how to apply the outline of the portrait to the ivory using Venetian red powder and an engraver's etching needle, Day proceeds with some hints as to the portrait itself. These give us an idea of what was considered the ideal of beauty at the time, and what was advisable practice in commissioned portraiture.
Keep in mind distinctly the following axioms of "the beautiful":
35. Nisbet, Hume, 1849-1921.
Hume Nisbet is now best-known as a novelist. He visited Australia three times and lived in Melbourne from 1865 to 1872. Much of his fiction is set here. However, he was also an artist, a friend of Ruskin, and lectured in art at Edinburgh. He wrote several manuals on artistic techniques. The volume on display is more discursive but still contains much advice to the artist on the use of colour, anatomy and proportion. When first focussing on the sitter for the portrait Nisbet advises the artist to, "Forget that it is a woman or a man, looking upon it only as a mass of lights and shadows, the shadows being all that he has to think upon. (p. 81)
36. Armstrong, 1903-
Mick Armstrong was the cartoonist for the Melbourne daily newspaper, The Argus during the 1930s and 1940s. He was famous locally for his caricatures of the war-time leaders, Hitler, Mussolini, Tojo, Stalin and Churchill. In this booklet he gives detailed instructions as how best to execute these caricatures. He uses techniques based on ovals and crosses similar to those used by more traditional portrait artists.
Also on display are two postcards, AGFA tip no.1. They mainly concentrate on lighting and the use of shadows but tip no. 3 is encouraging for those of us who are quite ordinary-looking. We are told, "Try and remember that beauty comes from within."
Vanity Fair portraits.
Vanity fair : a weekly show of political, social & literary wares. (London : Vanity Fair, 1868- )
The best known feature of the weekly magazine Vanity Fair was the portrait which appeared in each issue. These were done by a variety of artists; the best-known were "Ape" (Carlo Pelligrini) and "Spy" (Sir Leslie Matthew Ward). Ape was the artist who introduced this distinctive style. He was Italian and was influenced by the portraits chargés of Delfico. The portraits were essentially caricatures but in a style new to the British public. Typical subjects were statesmen, members of the legal fraternity, artists, actors, sportsmen, and other figures popular in their day.
Although it was considered an honour to be noticed by the Vanity Fair artists, not all of the portraits were flattering; often they were rather the opposite. Spy contributed portraits to Vanity Fair from 1873 to 1909. James Tissot was another prominent artist who worked for the magazine. Max Beerbohm acknowledged his artistic debt to Ape and Spy.
The portraits were done as water-colours, then reproduced as chromolithographs. The accompanying biographical sketches which appeared above the pseudonym, "Jehu Junior" were written by Thomas Gibson Bowles, the editor of the magazine.
37. Rev. A. H. Mackonochie, (1825-87) by Ape. Men of the day, no. 18. "He makes religion a tragedy, and the movements of his muscles a solemn ceremony." Vanity Fair, 31 Dec. 1870, facing p. 267.
The Rev. Mackonochie was a "ritualist", a High Church Anglican, Vicar of St. Albans.
38. Matthew Arnold (1822-88) Men of the day, no. 36. "I say, the critic must keep out of the region of immediate practice." Vanity Fair, 11 Nov. 1871, facing p. 155.
Matthew Arnold is best-known as a poet and critic and the text accompanying this portrait makes much of his severity against the "Philistines". However the image projected in the illustration is that of the genial schoolmaster leaning on his umbrella.
39. Frederick Leighton, R.A. (1830-96) Men of the Day. no. 46. "A sacrifice to the graces." Vanity Fair, 29 June, 1872, facing p. 207.
The artist leaning languidly against the wall, was one of the most successful academicians of his day. "Jehu Junior" remarked,
Mr. Leighton has elected to be delicate rather than rude, and he has succeeded in cultivating out of himself all trace of the savage. … If his works do not leave on the world any of that strong acrid impression which the most English and most original of our painters have produced, they will remain as monuments of what may be done in sacrifice to the Graces by an artist of great endowments, whose taste has been so delicately cultivated as never to give offence. (p. 207)
40. William Powell Frith, R.A. (1819-1909) by Spy. Men of the Day, no. 63. "The Derby-Day." Vanity Fair, 10 May 1873, facing p. 151.
Frith's Derby Day (1858) was one of the most popular genre paintings of the Victorian period. It was sent overseas on tour, even coming to Australia. "Jehu Junior" remarks,
Mr. Frith does not take us far, but he takes us by the ways we understand, wherefore many of us think him a great painter. … In himself, Mr. Frith is an amiable pleasant man of the ordinary English type, and exceedingly like his pictures. (p. 151)
Nasser-ed-Din is a handsome man with dark, regular features, a pleasant expression, and a kingly bearing. Like all Persians he dyes his hair; unlike most Orientals he speaks with much vivacity. His habits at home are extremely frugal. His dinner - which he eats with his fingers - is composed of two or three dishes of rice and a little stewed or broiled meat, while until he came to Europe he drank nothing but sugared water, lemonade or sour milk mixed with a little salt. … Yet he is very rich … while he so delights in arms that he is the possessor of no less than two thousand jewelled swords. (p. 9)
He returned to Zululand in January 1883, but some of the new chieftains refused to accept him. He was defeated in battle, and subsequently died of a heart attack.
43. William Sydney Penley, by Spy. Men of the Day, no. 568. "Charley's aunt." Vanity Fair, 22 June 1893, facing p. 413.
William Penley was a comic actor who came to notice as the foreman of the jury in Gilbert and Sullivan's Trial by Jury. At the time of this portrait he was appearing in Charley's Aunt at the Globe.
He has lived a life of drollery, delighting the public under several managers and many aliases, until by accident he has hit upon the part of Charley's Aunt," in which he is now nightly contorting the faces of his patrons as his own manager, and filling the globe Theatre with the fashion of the town in the dullest, or almost the dullest theatrical season on record.
He lives at Woking, with five children, two horses, a donkey, four pigs, three dogs, much poultry and a skittle-alley. (p. 413)
44. Phineas Taylor Barnum (1810-91) by Spy. Men of the day, no. 448. "Barnum." Vanity Fair, 16 Nov. 1889, facing p. 333.
Barnum was a famous American circus promoter. In 1881 he had merged with his chief competitor, J. A. Bailey to form Barnum and Bailey's circus, "the greatest show on earth." Spy has shown the old man at breakfast, and Jehu Junior has commented,
He says that he is not a humbug; but he is a very great friend to the bill-stickers, and one of the best advertisers of his own wares that ever lived. … His breakfasts are big enough to astonish the most stolid of English waiters. (p. 333)
Among his most celebrated attractions was the midget, "General Tom Thumb."
Tom Thumb was born Charles Sherwood Stratton. He was still only four years old when Barnum hired him for his show. Although his parents were normal size, he had stopped growing at six months, and remained two feet one inch tall into his teens. He eventually grew to be three feet four. Tom Thumb's act consisted of comedy sketches with a straight man, "the doctor", originally played by Barnum himself. They toured England and France. In Paris, he performed for Louis Phillipe, doing a comic turn as Napoleon. In London he was presented to Queen Victoria. In 1863 he married Lavinia Warren, another of Barnum's midgets, in an elaborate ceremony. During their honeymoon tour they performed at the White House for Abraham Lincoln. They are shown in one photograph with a baby. This was not in fact their own baby, although it was promoted as such. Originally they used an orphan child, but it soon outgrew them, so they arranged to have an infant hired for the performances in each city they played.
From 1869 to 1871 they made a world tour visiting Australia and Japan. Part of Tom Thumb's character was to appear adult, and he began smoking cigars at age seven.
Books with Photographic Portraits
The use of actual photographs as illustrations in books was not uncommon from the 1850s to the 1880s. This practice forms a transition between the engraved illustration and the illustration reproduced directly from a photograph. During this period it was more common to have a photo engraved, as it was quite labour-intensive to print and mount a photograph in each copy of a book.
The novelty of real photographs and their appeal as authentic portraits must have made these books attractive to their Victorian audience. As an added touch of authenticity, the convention was to print a signature under each photograph.
47. Alfred Ernest Albert, Duke of Edinburgh (1844-1900) photograph, by Johnstone, O'Shannessy & Co.
Narrative of the visit of His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh to the Colony of Victoria, Australia / compiled by J.G. Knight. (Melbourne : Mason, Firth, 1868) frontispiece.
Prince Alfred was Queen Victoria's second son. Between October 1867 and April 1868, he visited the Australian colonies on the H.M.S. Galatea. He was enthusiastically received, but was the victim of an assassination attempt in Sydney on 12th March 1868 when an Irish Fenian, James O'Farrell, shot him in the back. Fortunately he was not badly wounded. The tour was cut short and, after recovering, the Duke returned to England rather than continue to New Zealand.
48. His Royal Highness, Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales (1841-1910) "photographed from life expressly for this work, July 17th, 1876."
Men of mark : a gallery of contemporary portraits … photographed from life by Lock and Whitfield, with brief biographical notes by Thomas Cooper (London, Sampson Low, 1876-1883) 7 vols. Frontispiece to vol. 1.
The Prince of Wales later became King Edward VII. He succeeded his mother, Queen Victoria in 1901 and reigned until his death in 1910.
49. John Singleton (1808-1891) photograph.
Singleton, John, 1808-1891.
Dr. John Singleton was born in Dublin. He arrived in Melbourne in 1850 as ship's medical officer. His early practice was in Warrnambool, and he was instrumental in convincing the Government to set up the Framlingham Aboriginal station. He is best-remembered for his work among the poor of inner Melbourne. He established the Collingwood Free Dispensary and homes for widows and destitute women.
His autobiography appeared in the edition seen here with the photographic portrait frontispiece and in cheaper form with the portrait engraved from the photo.
50. W. E. Taylor. Photograph by W. Eskett, York.
Taylor, W. E.
This is an example of a privately published travel account. Many of these were illustrated with a photograph of the author.
51. Frederick Gustavus Burnaby (1842-85) photograph.
Burnaby, Fred, 1842-1885.
Frederick Burnaby was a traveller and a cavalry officer, journeying through Central and South America, Morocco, Spain, Russia, the Sudan, and Asia Minor. He fought in the Crimea, and was killed in the action to relieve Khartoum. One of his special interests was military ballooning.
Burnaby was a courageous man who lived a life of adventure. In his portrait we see him in western dress, but wearing a turban, with a long dagger tucked into his belt.
Henry Irving was one of the foremost actors and theatrical managers of the Victorian era. We see him here as Shylock, from The Merchant of Venice. His interpretation of the Jewish usurer was revolutionary, making him the most sympathetic character in the play.
The Shroud of Turin
53. McEvoy, W. V. (William Vincent), 1888-
Many Catholics believe the image preserved on the Shroud of Turin is that of Jesus Christ. It is said to be the winding sheet in which he was wrapped after having been taken down from the Cross. The cloth shows the negative image of a bearded man, five foot seven inches tall, wearing what appears to be a crown of thorns. This booklet brings together the history of the shroud and puts the case for its authenticity. It begins,
The Shroud or linen sheet in which Christ was wrapped for burial has been preserved to this day.
More important than its claim to be the veritable winding-sheet of the Saviour, this great strip of cloth, 13½ by 4¼ feet in dimensions, bears a life-size, double photograph of Him,
The image, however is "negative," a fact which, with the recognition of the true portrait, was not discovered until the year 1898, when for the first time the Shroud was photographed. (p. 11)
The first reference to the Shroud dates from 1354, but it was denounced as false in 1389 by the Bishop of Troyes. He stated that it was "cunningly painted, the truth being attested by the artist who painted it." In 1578 it was lodged in the royal chapel of the Cathedral of San Giovanni Battista in Turin, and has been kept there ever since, with successive Popes asserting its authenticity.
Although, recent carbon-dating tests have shown that the linen of the shroud dates from between AD 1260 and 1390, it is still seen as an object of devotion by the faithful. On display is a modern holographic representation of the shroud superimposed over an image of Christ.
Portraits with pipes
The image which a writer or actor tries to present in his or her professional portrait is always revealing. Usually they try to project what is essentially a fantasy, calculated to appeal to their target audience, while conveying the flavour of the work they wish to promote. A typical image in the repertoire was the man with the pipe. This could give a range of impressions; a person who was serious, down-to-earth, avuncular, a thinker, but at the same time a no-nonsense, all-round good fellow.
55. Jim Grahame (1874-1949) photograph
Grahame, Jim, 1874-1949.
"Jim Grahame" was the pen-name of James William Gordon, one of Henry Lawson's mates. He met Lawson at Bourke in 1892 and remained friends with him throughout his life. He contributed bush verse to the Bulletin under his pseudonym, which he claimed was given to him by Lawson.
56. Bert Bailey (1868-1959) photograph
People, 27 February 1952. Cover photograph. Articles, p. 3, 14-17.
Bert Bailey became famous as Dad in the stage productions of Steele Rudd's Dad and Dave stories. He also took the role in the many films made of these characters during the 1930s.
The main article here shows the actor in retirement, recalling the times of his fame. The paragraph in the editorial column, "Of the People" makes the point that Steele Rudd's novels, the stage adaptations, and the films were all true to the original characters of the battling Australian small farmer and his family. However, in the columnist's opinion the radio serial, which was then just beginning, and can still be heard even now on some country stations, was much inferior.
Unfortunately radio has not been so kind, or even fair, to Dad, Dave, Mum, Sarah,. Joe and the rest. The portrayal of these fine friendly neighbourly people as a set of drooling halfwits more or less in the American hillbilly tradition has probably given many younger people the idea that they were really like that. The distortion probably disgusts Bert Bailey, as it does nearly everybody old enough to have read the books with bellows of mirth sometimes transformed into a lump in the throat." (p. 3)
57. Frank Hardy (1917-1994) photograph
Hardy, Frank, 1917-
Frank Hardy has gone for the pipe with the pot of beer look, complete with a big chuckle, appropriate for the promotion of a book of tales by a bar-fly. This book was a tie-in with an ABC TV series of 1964 which featured the yarn-spinning Billy Borker, played by Peter Carver. Clement Semmler, who wrote the introduction, was the head of ABC Televison.
The biographical detail on the flap includes this information,
The Australian - his vocabulary and idiom, his outlook on his own society, his social attitudes and reactions to authoritarianism - is Frank Hardy's special study.
The image projected by the author's portrait fits with the idea of the knockabout, irreverent, working-class Australian of the period.
58. Professor C. P. Fitzgerald (1902-1992) photograph
FitzGerald, C. P. (Charles Patrick), 1902-1992.
Professor Fitzgerald stares out at us with his pipe jutting aggressively. He was Professor of Far Eastern History at ANU. Having spent fifteen years living in China between 1923 and 1950, he was very sympathetic to the Chinese people and to their form of Communism. He was influential in having Australia recognise the Chinese government.
Politicians and National Figures
59. Winston Churchill (1874-1965) photograph
Picture Post (London, Hulton Press) 25 May 1940. Cover.
This is a typical wartime photo of Churchill. In May 1940 he was made Prime Minister after Chamberlain's resignation. Churchill stares doggedly ahead from the cover of Picture Post, holding his cane, his gloves and his cigar. The caption reads, "Britain's war-leader." It was at a very dark time in the war. The magazine's weekly feature, "Diary of the war" has the headline, "Invasion. After eight months of war, on the morning of May 10, the Germans burst into Holland, Belgium and Luxemburg. Hitler plans to win the war before the autumn."
The Reagan Chesterfield advertisement features Ronald, smoking while sending cartons of cigarettes to all his friends for Christmas. "That's the merriest Christmas any smoker can have - Chesterfield mildness plus no unpleasant after-taste. Chesterfield. Buy the beautiful 'Christmas-card carton.'"
Billy Hughes was a caricaturist's dream with his scrawny physique and his wizened but cunning features. He was the Labor Prime Minister in 1915, and was popular with the electorate as "The little digger", until the bitterly fought Conscription referendums in 1916 and 1917. He was expelled form the Labor Party but then formed the Nationalist Party, a Conservative coalition, and retained power. He represented Australia at the Treaty of Versailles, and remained PM until 1923.
64. Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859-1942) caricature by Louis Raemaekers.
Raemaekers, Louis, 1869-1956.
Louis Raemaekers was a Dutch cartoonist famous for his attacks on the Germans during World War I over their treatment of Holland and Belgium. The image of a baby impaled on a the pickelhaube of a German helmet is one of the enduring images of the war.
The caption under the Kaiser reads, "How I deal with the small fry". The two female figures, trussed-up and prone under his feet represent Belgium and Luxemburg.
65. Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) two-colour caricature by Armstrong.
Wartime is open season for cartoonists on enemy dignitaries. Hitler and Mussolini were pilloried throughout the allied countries. They are presented essentially as figures of fun, very different from the enemy in Raemaekers' works.
M.H. Ellis was a historian best-known for his biographies of early colonial figures, Francis Greenway, Lachlan Macquarie, and James Macarthur. He also wrote several books decrying the power of the Communist within the Labor Party. The item on display was one of the pamphlets issued during the battle over the nationalisation of the banks. The figure on the cover about to shovel "trading banks" into the furnace of "Socialisation" was Ben Chifley, the Labor Prime Minister. The significance of the caricature lies partly in the fact that Chifley was the son of a blacksmith and, before entering politics, worked as an engine driver on the Railways. His trade-mark pipe is also evident.
Portrait of the Artist
The Archibald prize was instituted in accordance with the will of J. F. Archibald, proprietor of The Bulletin and The Lone Hand who died in 1919. He left money to set up a trust which would generate an annual prize for the "best portrait preferentially of some man or woman distinguished in Art, letters, Science, or Politics, painted by any artist resident in Australia during the twelve months preceding the date fixed by the Trustees of the national Art Gallery of Nw South Wales for sending in the pictures." The first award was made to W. B. McInnes in 1921.
The Archibald has often caused controversy, but the most notorious instance was the legal case brought by two artists, Mary Edwards, and Joseph Wolinsky, against the Trustees being able to award of the 1943 prize to William Dobell. His rivals affirmed that the portrait of Joshua Smith was a caricature, not a portrait. Smith was also an artist and in fact won the Prize the following year. He was however a rather strange looking man and his resemblance to Dobell's portrait was closer to the reality than would generally have been believed.
The case lasted from 23 October to 8 November 1944. Sections of the testimony are transcribed by Sydney Ure Smith in the book on display. The question was decided in favour of the Trustees and Dobell, the verdict being that the portrait showed "legitimate artistic licence." The idea of a court of law being asked to decide on the legitimacy or otherwise of an artist's portrait was seen as absurd; an example of artistic jealousy taken to an extreme. Joshua Smith's self-esteem was badly affected by the whole affair as the issue being canvassed was whether or not he really looked like the rather bizarre portrait.
70. Michael Jackson (1958- ) Photograph
Michael Jackson Benefit Concert, 11 December 2003. Poster.
Perhaps one of the most recognisable mug-shots of recent times is that taken of Michael Jackson when he was arrested and charged in California in late 2003. Through the Internet and news coverage the image immediately achieved iconic status.
Here it is used as a graphic, along with a still from Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video-clip, to promote a "very special show of electro-synth-punk mayhem", a dance party in High Street, Prahran.
71. Kylie Minogue (1968- ) coloured graphics
Kylie. (Sydney : Macmillan, 1999)
This book documents the wide variety of images used to promote Kylie over her career. The two images on display show her on a ten dollar note, as an Aboriginal painted for a corroboree; and as Ned Kelly, in a pastiche of one of Sydney Nolan's paintings. Both of these emphasise Kylie as Australian icon rather than "pop princess."
72. Madonna Ciccione (1958- ) photograph by Steven Meisel.
Madonna has chosen to be shown here more as a porn-star than a pop-star. Sex was published to promote her Erotica album and world tour. It came with a CD of the Erotica single. The images and text are parodies of porn magazines, or are they hommages to the genre? They were certainly good publicity.
Madonna had worked as an artist's model before embarking on a career as a singer. One of the photographers for whom she modelled, Martin H. Schreiber, published his photos of her as Madonna : nudes 1979 (Berlin, Taschen, 1990)
73. Nicole Kidman (1967- ) Photograph by Annie Leibovitz
Leibovitz, Annie, 1949-.
Annie Leibovitz is best-known for her pop portraits, especially the shots done for Rolling Stone magazine.
The bio-information included here on Nicole Kidman tells us that, although brought up in Australia, she was born in Hawaii, and her current (1999) movie was Eyes wide shut.
On display are the April 1999 issue of Art Monthly Australia (with the Canberra portrait on the cover), a facsimile of a sheet of heads and masks from one of Arkley's source collections (circa late 1980s), two working drawings by Arkley (photocopies with pen and gouache additions, 1999), reproductions of the recto and verso of a large untitled double-sided drawing of Cave, also dating from 1999, and a photo of Arkley working on the Canberra canvas in February 1999 (material kindly lent from the Arkley Estate, courtesy Alison Burton; thanks also to John Gregory).
As an index to popular culture, magazine covers are critical. Those on display draw upon the period from the 1940s to the present.
On the screens, and in the corridor display cases, we have copies of portrait covers from Women's Weekly, Woman's Day, Rolling Stone, Life, Saturday Evening Post, Everybody's, Digger and Australasian Post.
The Women's Weekly covers typically feature the Queen, Princess Margaret, Jackie Kennedy, Charles and Di. Also on display are covers of Marilyn Monroe, Queen Sirikit of Thailand, Wimbledon Champion Maureen Connolly, Prince Rainier and Princess Grace, Mrs. Sara and her quads, Bob Hope, Perry Mason, Elizabeth Taylor, Miss Australia 1962 Tania Verstak, prize-winning portraits by Judy Cassab, Susan Peacock, and strangest of all, Joseph Stalin; he was on the cover on 12th May 1945, when Russia was our ally in Eastern Europe during World War II.
The Life covers feature Cassius Clay, Jane Fonda, and the Beatles. From Everybody's we have Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, and Mia Farrow. The Saturday Evening Post covers are of President Kennedy, and Sonny and Cher, "In pop music, they're what happening" (23 April 1966).
Being on the cover of Rolling Stone is the ambition of most aspiring pop stars, so much so that the concept featured in a song. Here we see on display Keith Richards, Yoko, Linda Ronstadt, Jim Morrison, Annie Lennox, Rickie Lee Jones, Prince, Tori Amos, the Spice Girls, Marilyn Manson, Justin Timberlake with Christina Aguilera, and, of course, Britney (twice)
The Woman's Day cover features Harry Belafonte (15 August 1960) who was on tour in Australia, seen here with his wife Julie.