Openinkstand Art & Calligraphy

“Portrait of a Woman” by Adélaïde Labille-Guiard


In addition to being absolutely obsessive of calligraphy, I am also very interested in paintings, drawings and even sketches of anything relevant to calligraphy. From instructional sketches of how to hold a pen, to formal portraits of people holding a quill.. I love all of them and studying them. Also, being an illustrator and artist, anything that merges my love of art and calligraphy should be the most important thing ever. Because the subject matter is so familiar, I can’t help but study every scene and try to learn something from it, either calligraphy or art-wise.

Here is one painting that I love, by Adélaïde Labille-Guiard (1787), lady painter, “Portrait of a Woman.”

Amazing! Just astounding. Even more so considering she was a professional woman painter in the late 1700s, when women weren’t even taken as students by master painters because they were seen as inferior and not able to follow teachings. You can see the full resolution of this painting on Wikimedia, but I’d like to highlight the tremendous liveliness and detail in her hair and face, those cheeky little brush strokes.

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And of course, the quill she is using. I’m not an expert in quills so I don’t know what bird that is, but it looks pretty sturdy, a nice thick sturdy feather. She’s holding it pretty upright but I guess for posing purposes. Oh, look at the lovely detail on the bird feathers. Usually they remove most of the feathers, but she kept lots of it on. Because it looks showy I guess? And look at the paper, it’s so buckled and old looking. Makes me embarrassed about insisting on all my paper being perfectly flat. I’m curious what she is holding though, just a piece of cloth? A scarf? And notice the piece of half used red wax seal on the left, and the giant green with gold trim inkwell. I thought it was just a pot, but you can see just a hint of another quill sticking out of it. I think that’s an inkpot!

Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 9.49.01 PMNow I may just be reading into it too much, but is it just me or are there ink stains on the palm of her writing hand? If you zoom in you can see a few black blots. Maybe that’s what her cloth is for, to wipe away the stains. She wouldn’t want to get any of that on her expensive dress!

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Thanks for exploring this painting with me! I hope you enjoyed it. Next time I will find another writing related painting to share.

3 Responses to ““Portrait of a Woman” by Adélaïde Labille-Guiard”

  1. Gaby Marie Dempsey

    I believe she is holding the cloth for blotting ink…
    Charming page!


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