I’ve always loved historical portraits. I think it comes from the fact I love royal history, and you can’t really study monarchs without considering the images they portrayed in their propaganda-esque portraits (just think of Elizabeth I). I also find it totally fascinating you can practically stare into the eyes of someone who lived hundreds of years ago. Good portraits are supposed to capture a sitter’s personality and emotions as well as their personal characteristics, and you can really feel like you are getting to know the long-dead sitter.
So if you want to do some soul-staring with a few historic portrait sitters, I recommend you follow these accounts!
(N.B. All the pictures in this post are taken from the respective Instagram accounts, and all copyright etc belongs to the account owners unless otherwise stated)
Best for… Gorgeous Georgians
Georgian Era (@thegeorgianera)
As you can probably guess, this account is all about Georgian portraits and paintings. Its a great period to cover in terms of portraits because it was the time of the giants of British portraiture, like Sir Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough. I also think this period of history is when Britain really went ‘visual’, and we saw a relative explosion of print shops and newspapers. I’ve really got into Georgian history this year for a number of reasons (I blame seeing Hamilton at the start of the year) so I love this account.
Philip Mould & Company (@philip_mould_gallery)
Philip Mould and Company is an art dealership based in Pall Mall, London. You may recognize the company director Philip from the popular BBC show Fake or Fortune, which examines the provenance and attribution of notable artworks. There are two main things I love about this account. Number one is their video content. I love the mini-lectures they feature on their feed . Number two is the depth of detail they provide – they often post several close-up pictures of the same piece and provide a wealth of info about the artist, sitter and techniques used.
Best for…Behind the Scences
Simon Gillespie Studio (@simon_gillespie_studio)
Another figure you may recognize from TV (in this case Britain’s Lost Masterpieces) Simon Gillespie is an art restorer based in Mayfair, London. As well as tantalizing glimpses of the paintings the studio is working on, the account is great for providing a thorough and comprehensive behind-the-scenes look at how the process of art restoration really works. I particularly like the pictures where you see paintings mid clean-up, emerging from layers upon layers of grime and varnish. Fascinating.
Best for…Hardcore Portraiture Fans
Nick Cox (@periodportraits)
The infectiously enthusiastic Nick Cox is a specialist dealer in portraiture from the 17th century to the 20th century. Period Portraits is truly an art dealership for the modern age, with Nick doing most of his business online and his Instagram account acting as a colorful and flamboyant shopfront. Both his passion for his chosen profession and his knowledge of using social media for business shines through, especially in the short and snappy videos he posts on Instagram Stories and IGTV.
Best For…Portrait Miniatures
Emma Rutherford Miniatures (@emma_rutherford_)
Emma is a freelance art historian specializing in portrait miniatures and silhouettes, based at Philip Mould. Her account mainly features details of the amazing miniatures – that is miniature portrait paintings that first became popular in the 16th Century English and French courts – she comes across during her work. Pictured here is a portrait miniature of an Aide-de-Camp of the 2nd Hussars set in a silver gilt and pearl frame – yours for only £6,500!
Best for…Female Portraits
This beautiful and aesthetically pleasing account is dedicated solely to the female portrait and ‘the beauty of women through the years’. As you may know from my previous posts, I am a big fan of all things fashion history, royal history and court dress – this account satisfies me all these counts and more! I love the fact the account owner groups the portrait together by themes or colour, making it easy to compare and contrast.
Best for…Not Taking Art History too seriously
Okay, so technically this account is more about art history in general than historical portraits specifically, but I couldn’t not include it in this round up. As soon as you read the bio – ‘Because for every pic of Lindsay Lohan falling, there’s a Bernini sculpture begging to be referenced’ – you know this account doesn’t take itself too seriously. It posts art history and pop culture comparisons, making great works of art incredibly accessible. The account is run by three UK-based art history graduates and I cannot recommend both the account and the accompanying zine highly enough.