Who is this woman depicted by Edwin Blashfield?


Edwin Blashfield - Portrait of the Artist's Wife, Evangeline Wilbour Blashfield, 1889 Why is her hand open?

Obviously, this is a beautiful portrait of a woman who possesses both substance and the gift of apparent grace. She reclines on an elegantly covered chaise, wearing a flowing gown made from rich silks and lace, surrounded by objects indicating a comfortable existence: an ornate fan, a dainty purse on a long chain, a large gold bracelet, silver slippers. . .

The subject is Evangeline Wilbour Blashfield, the wife of Edwin Blashfield, who created this portrait in 1889. As a couple, the Blashfields achieved much together, writing a history of Italian cities, as well as a version of Vasari’s Lives of the Artists. Evangeline also published biographies and literary criticism. In 1916 she made a special mark by establishing a fund at the American Academy of Arts and Letters, which still exists today!

One question. . .as one looks at the portrait, one is drawn to the subject’s left hand, held in an unnatural pose with palm up and fingers held slightly apart . . .  What could this mean? Was it a symbol for something shared only by Edwin and Evangeline?  Had she merely let the fan fall from her fingers?  Is there a hint of the personality of the subject beneath the trappings of her finery and poise? What are your thoughts?  Share them so that we may find out much more  . . .

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