A portrait of Frescheville Holles and Robert Holmes (c The National Maritime Museum)

This exhibition is now closed 

Divine beauty

Beauty was a good thing.
Beauty of the flesh, it was believed, indicated an inner beauty, a virtuous soul. This meant that beauty was celebrated for its divine purity, and to possess beauty was to own a little bit of paradise. In portraiture, this is why men appear as heroic soldiers and women as classical goddesses and saints.

Courtiers were happy to promote this virtuous image of themselves in art, as part of a campaign of self-promotion that reinforced the idea that they were paragons of courtly Christian virtue in the flesh as well. Your Court portrait was testament to, and an advertisement for, your beauty and your virtue.  



The age of elegance

Beauty was celebrated by artists and poets, and paraded at enormously expensive Court balls and in public pleasure gardens. Court beauties and their foppish gallants shimmered in bejewelled and beribboned gowns and perfumed gloves with spectacular wigs and thick cosmetics. This was the complete ‘beauty’ package in an age of glamour and elegance, and beauty was your passport to the best parties and the most expensive champagne.

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