Message in a Portrait

Borg the alien

The History of Portraits

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Artists have been creating portraits for thousands of years. Before the times of cameras, painting a picture was the best way to record what a person looked like.

Today, we have lots of examples of old portraits usually hanging in museums and galleries, but they were not designed for this purpose. Wealthy people used to commission (pay for) portraits of themselves. They usually did this to prove how successful they were. Often the bigger the portrait the more money the person had. Such paintings were usually hung in homes, churches, workplaces, etc.

Hidden within many portraits are coded messages and clues to provide more information about the sitter (the person in the portrait) such as their profession or any hobbies they had.

Portraits also provide us with information about the history of that time, for example: what the clothes were like; industrial changes; social changes and what was happening in politics.

Find out more about the portraits below...

Painting of Dr John Ash
'Dr John Ash' by Reynolds



Painting of Lady Monson by Lely
'Elizabeth Lady Monson' by Lely



Painting of Peter du Cane
'Peter du Cane' by Anton Von Maron





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