This romantic, slightly saucy depiction of a Greek maid tracing her departing lover’s silhouette portrays the supposed beginnings of portrait painting. Or portrait tracing, in this case. The Scottish painter David Allan did several versions of this around 1775. The multiple versions imply popularity- it went Georgian-viral. Two things are notable; the self-referential aspect (a painter painting a painting about painting) and the risqué nature of the artist lass losing her clothes. Before mass reproduction, titilating art had to be handmade, and fine artists were more than happy to fill that need. Of course, before museums, this meant that only “gentlemen” could afford this indulgence. Think Goya’s Maja Desnuda (here with the clothed version. “Maja” means something like “Chick” or “Valley Girl”). The clothed version was probably hung in the drawing room, with the Desuda in a more private smoking room; entrance by invitation only.
Also Fragonard’s “Girl on a Swing” (note the men lurking strategically in the weeds)
Interestingly, the women in both of these famous paintings are drawn anatomically wrong. The desnuda’s waist is too long and her boobs are just weird. The girl on the swing has a knee too far from where her pelvis would be. But, hey, we ain’t here for the criticism!
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