Favorite decades: 1910's, 1800's, 1870's
Favorite artists: Anthony van Dyck, Giovanni Boldini, Henry Fuseli, Thomas Lawrence
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Mary McCall by Robert Feke, ca 1746 US (Philadelphia), Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
Feke is considered the first important American-born artist. He developed a style that was distinct from the prevalent English technique practiced in the Colonies. This “native style” became popular, and Feke earned a living as an itinerant portraitist, traveling between Boston, Philadelphia, and Newport, Rhode Island. Little is known of Feke; his later life is particularly mysterious. After embarking from Newport in 1750, possibly bound for commissions in Barbados, he was never heard from again.
Mary McCall was a member of the Philadelphia Dancing Assembly, which hosted dances every two weeks and was a vital part of the social life of colonial Philadelphia. She holds a single flower, a common device in Feke’s portraits, in this case possibly indicating McCall’s availability for marriage. Seven years after this portrait was thought to have been painted, McCall married the merchant William Plumstead, whoserved as mayor of Philadelphia in the mid-1750’s.
what is even up with that dress
no, really - i mean i know it’s a painting and he’s not exactly winterhalter, but the cuffs look pretty good and there’s a shadow of the shoulder piece seam and that slight bagging you get under the arm if you don’t get your scye spot-on (don’t even talk to me about 18th century sleeve heads) but there’s no waist seam (even if we assume it’s under the waist cord, there’s nothing on the peach either), no robings, and it has a closed front (in 1746?), and she has buttons on a gown? i mean it could be a redingote but it doesn’t have a collar either. and whatever’s going on underneath doesn’t look like a gown and a stomacher, but what else could it be?
weirdly in fashion history people don’t talk about america an awful lot until hollywood really kicks off, so it’s actually not that unusual to have american garments turning up that look nothing like anything anybody recognises, but still
I’d be really interested in learning about unique fashion trends in early/colonial America. I know that relatively poor, isolated communities like the one my NC ancestors lived in came up with some interesting things you wouldn’t find in a fashion magazine. There’s a picture I have from ca 1880 of my great-great-grandma wearing an oddly modern-looking summer scarf.