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Dressed to Excess: Extreme Fashion and Flamboyant Style in the 16th to the 18th Centuries

Jonquil O’Reilly, Assistant Vice President/Specialist, Old Master Paintings, Sotheby’s, New York

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This lecture will examine Old Master Paintings through a fashion lens, discussing the meanings behind some of the more outlandish sartorial elements and placing them within an historical context.  From Henry VIII’s conspicuous codpiece to Marie-Antoinette's vast, powdered hairdos, there are countless depictions of ostentatious past fashions to be found in Old Masters. Commissioning a portrait in previous centuries was a serious undertaking. Such paintings were intended as a record of the sitter’s likeness for posterity to be handed down to future generations as proof of their illustrious lineage. Needless to say, it was therefore essential to be depicted in one’s finest threads and no element of apparel was left to chance.

1.  Sophonisba Anguisola Lady in a Fur Wrap(thought to be Infanta Catalina Micaela, Pollack Museum, Glasgow
2.  Diego Velazquez, Portrait of Mariana of Austria, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
3.  Robert Peake the Elder, Elizabeth Queen of Bohemia, National Portrait Gallery, London