More complex is the staging within portrait of Henry VIII after an original by Hans Holbein, 1537. The king is wearing elaborate garments that pad his body further enhancing his husky build. The excessive layering creates the illusion of massive shoulders, broad chest and waist, thick arms and sturdy legs. The layering eliminates the visibility of the neck, making it look as if the fat head rests solidly on the shoulders. Befitting a king, the cape is silk with golden threads lined with mink or sable. The bronze colored tunic is encrusted with gems and golden threads. The slashing of the sleeves and chest add more pattern and variety to the garment.  Note the excessive codpiece that also defines his hyper-masculinity. The necklaces, dagger, rings, and hat display rubies and pearls. What about the setting and how it contributes to the reading of the character? Complimenting the excessive wealth of the garments, the curtain behind Henry is also embroidered in gold. A semicircular niche with a shell design almost creates the illusion of a halo behind his head. The oriental carpet is similarly woven in shades of rust, red, and gold in coordination with the rich fabrication throughout. Again, the narrative of the king’s magnificence is not conveyed through he body language or facial expression of the king but through the costume, props, and accessories

Returning to Gainsborough’s Mr. and Mrs. Andrews, 1749, below, both figures are dressed appropriately to their status and nationality. As an upper class couple, both wear garments affordable only by the rich. His hunting jacket is silvery, his hat velvet, and stockings white silk. Her daytime dress is a pale blue silk with plentiful petticoats which spread out when she sits on the bench. The lace details on her bodice and sleeves are also expensive. How do we read their proportions based on the fit of the clothing? Mr. Andrew’s body is slim and lanky and seen in the tight fitting knickers and socks. His shoulders are narrow and face rather long. Mrs. Andrew’s body is also read as slim and petite. Her shoulders are too narrow, bust flat, bodice a tiny triangle, yet due to the petticoats under her skirt, her hips are read as tremendous. Accessories and props? The artist introduced the hunting dog and rifle to define the man’s love for the hunt. The wife is seated on the bench, suggesting her leisure activities. The most important accessory is the landscape. It defines their wealth as landholders. The placement of the couple to the side results in a very expansive view of the furrowed fields, sheep in the meadow, and gently rolling terrain. This is their land and it speaks directly to their identity.


INSERT IN THIS BOX “Mr. & Mrs. Andrews”