I recently read Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel and it was fantastic. Her portrayal of Anne Boylen as an agent with a cold, cool demeanor was haunting. In Wolf Hall Mantel describes her as a “calculating being, with a cold slick brain at work behind her hungry black eyes”.
In the novels, Mantel’s Boylen always fidgets with something – her gown, laces, a dog. Unnerving. It reminded me of her famous portrait at Hever Castle.
Her hand twists so elegantly holding onto the rose, the sign of Tudor power. But the other hand looks ready to pluck its petals. (It must be mentioned this isn’t the white and red Tudor rose.)
In 16th century European portraiture, it was fashionable for wealthy patrons to have on display expensive accessories symbolizing their power.
If you’re a European noble around 1500 – 1600 and have a portrait sitting coming up, what pose should you strike?
Hold that Flower
Need to hold a symbol of your house and its power, especially during a tenuous reign?
Hold a flower!
Flowers have long been symbols of, well, anything and everything.
Other uses include your marital status. This woman has announced her engagement with a bittersweet – sorry ladies and gentlemen.
And you know what, they make any outfit look damn good.
Finger Your Rings
Need to show off your soft hands and expensive jewels to better effect?
Twisting the ring oh-so-precariously off of the little finger draws the eyes attention to finely adorned white hands. It says to your viewers (peasants), “Oh, I have all this finery, I can be careless.”
Do the Pearl Drop
Do you need to show that you’re pure, maybe even available?
Pearls were symbols of purity and virginity – perfect for women and children.
They’re also useful for showing how fabulously wealthy you are as a few pearls could fetch the equivalent of millions in today’s money.
Twist at Your Necklace
Maybe touching one pearl isn’t getting the message across of how very rich you are. How about grabbing your whole necklace.
Nobles and Royals are really into their money and fineries. Fingering their jeweled necklaces was another way of showing wealth and power.
One string of pearls? Nah, I need two. And puffed ribboned sleeves.
Hopefully, you now have a few ideas for your next sitting.
But remember, make sure that you are in a pose that intimidates your guests by your sheer amount of money. Also, the more portraits you have, the better!