Thursday, 25 June 2015

3 Salespeople from the world of Painting a Tailor, Sweet Nellie and the original 'Shrimp' in Flesh and Blood

Q:How are salespeople usually depicted in the  Arts ? 

A: Usually as stereotypical con men or the pressurised anti-heroes of  playwrights e.g. Arthur Miller's 'Death of a salesman ' or David Mamet  screen play for the film " Glengarry Glenross".

 These are great works of art in their own way, but not perhaps particularly positive or joyous.

So here are three rather happier salespeople portrayed by the world of visual arts - classical painting- whose stories and portraits will uplift you.

The Poster Boy for the Royal Academy  early 2015  Show
Painting "The Tailor " ( Il Tagliapanni)

by Giovanni Battista Moroni 1520/4-1579 

No 1  Il Tagliapanni

This man has been described as a tailor since the mid 17th century.

 Dressed in doublet and hose, he holds a pair of shears. The black cloth, marked in white for cutting, resembles that worn by Moroni's more numerous noble sitters. Portraits of artisans using the same conventions as for those of high-status individuals are rare in Western painting ( Oil on Canvass 1565-70)

The most famous of Moroni's portraits; it was already celebrated in the 17th century, when it was in the Grimani collection in Venice.

The colourful costume of the tailor is contrasted with the black material marked with chalk lines that he prepares to cut. Most of the sitters in Moroni's later portraits are dressed in black in the Spanish fashion that persisted into the following century. The tailor's head, lit from above to the left, dominates the painting, the eyes, as in the majority of Moroni's portraits, looking directly at the spectator with shrewd appraisal.

Postcards of  other Portraits by Moroni -
 Prospero Allesandri  (left)
and Gian Geralamo Grumelli (the man in Pink) right
To some specialists of arts apparently, it seems odd that a tailor should be so very expensively dressed. They propose he is therefore too rich to be a tailor in those days.
The painting is called the Tailor because he has a pair of pinking shears to hand.
Maybe he is a merchant tailor, modelling his trade.

My observation of the painting is that,  the shrewd look of   'Il Tagliapanni' is actually one of a salesperson’s discernment.

 This is pure conjecture but it might explain his expensive clothes. They are not the daily working clothes of a tailor of those times.

His direct look  towards we viewers is perhaps to prospective customers.

Perhaps he is sizing up his prospect. 

Does the prospect 'know their threads'?

What ranges of cloths  might best suit their pocket?

Can they afford it? 

What’s their credit rating?

Moroni's tailor back in its home at the National Gallery.
Well worth a visit if you are in London
Why not fix your eyes on Il 
and try to read what is going on
 in his head as he looks back at you.

The sketch on tiled wall of the subway (underground walkway)
Trafalgar Square to Charing Cross tube station

No 2  Sweet Nellie

One of my heroines has to be Nell Gwynne. 

Her story is a great one of rags to riches and we know she had great selling skills.

  The Actress and long time mistress of  King Charles II (1630- 1685) is known early in her life to have  worked  with her sister Rose for  a certain Mary Meggs aka "Orange Moll" .

 Orange Moll had been granted the licence to

"vend, utter and sell oranges, lemons, fruit, sweetmeats and all manner of fruiterers and confectioners wares," within the King’s Theatre.

Nell and her older sister were engaged as  "orange-girls", selling the small, sweet "china" oranges to the audience inside the theatre for a sixpence each

Nell Gwynne
Portrait by Simon Verelst 1644-1710
"Pretty witty Nell " as the diarist Samuel Pepys called her. She became one of the leading comic actresses of her day and mistress to Charles II. 

 The playwright John Dryden supplies with several saucy and bustling parts ideally suited to her talents. 

She had two sons by the King. The elder was created Duke of St Albans.

 She is said to have been remembered by the King on his deathbed with the words " Let not poor Nelly starve".

This unusually revealing pose suggests that this portrait  was for a private location and was commissioned by one of Nell's lovers perhaps even the King.

No 3 The Shrimp Girl

Jean  Shrimpton (born  1942)  was an icon of Swinging London and is considered to be one of the world's first supermodels. In her time the highest paid model and was named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential fashion icons of all time.

Breaking the popular mould of voluptuous figures with her long legs and slim figure, she was nicknamed "The Shrimp”

 but before the “ It Girl” there was another  beautiful Shrimp girl,one who caught the eye of  William Hogarth 1697- 1764

The Shrimp Girl 1704/5

The subject is a vendor who carries shellfish for sale in a basket balanced on her head. The basket also holds a half pint measure. The picture may have been sketched from sight and never intended to have the detailed finish of his more formal works.

The painting is a relatively late work by Hogarth, and one of several in which he experimented with a loose, almost impressionistic style. 

In its subject matter, it resembles the prints of other salespeople such as the hawkers and traders popular in Hogarth's day.

The painting depicts a woman selling shellfish on the streets of London, typically a job for the wives and daughters of fishmongers who owned stalls in markets such as Billingsgate.

It  was still in Hogarth's estate after his death. His widow Jane was said to have told visitors on showing the picture to them:

 "They say he could not paint flesh. There is flesh and blood for you."

It was only sold after his wife's death in 1789, and first received its title The Shrimp Girl in a Christie's sale catalogue.

The three portraits  above tell us a lot about these salespeople of the past.

"The countenance is the portrait of the soul, and the eyes mark its intentions." 
                                                                    Marcus Tullius Cicero

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