When I went to the National Gallery in London, England, I saw a life-size, oil and canvas painting by Gainsborough titled, “The Morning Walk.” I liked it for three simple reasons: 1) I love Gainsborough’s light, feathery brushstrokes 2) I related the painting to my boyfriend and me walking my silly dog as part of our daily routine. 3) It was featured as a backdrop in the James Bond “Skyfall” movie– when he first meets Q (CLIP HERE).
However, I digress. The point is, this painting was made for a simple reason: to create a marriage portrait for William Hallett and Elizabeth Stephen (both aged 21 at the time) and due to be married in the summer of 1785. The couple solemnly link arms to walk in woodland landscape with a panting, joyful Spitz dog at Elizabeth’s heel. According to the National Gallery, “Portraits of wealthy sitters posed in a natural setting and dressed in their finest (but not necessarily most practical) clothes were a popular status symbol.” The conversation piece, which is the undone jacket and with one hand tucked into it is a stance seen in many fashionable 18th-centry informal portraits. There is also speculation that Elizabeth’s ivory silk dress is her wedding dress.