Pretty as a vintage portrait

There’s no denying it: we have a soft spot for vintage portraits. And the older and crustier, the better.

We love the direct gazes, the shy smiles, and even the uptight glances and uber-formal postures of old portraits and their subjects.  Portraits capture a real person in a specific moment in time and it’s fun to figure out the clues to an era: is that a hoop skirt? Ringlets? Doublet and sword?  Was he a pirate or a lord? Was she an 18th-century housewife? And don’t even get us started on the stories we’ll make up to go with a portrait.

We like to have a connection to the subject: do they look kind?  Does that twinkle in the eye mean they had a great sense of humor? Or…never mind, that one just looks unhappy and not very nice.

When we’re shopping in France for goodies for Huff Harrington Home, our eyes will hone in on a portrait from a hundred yards away and we’ll make a beeline for it.  Take a look at some of the portraits we’ve had and see if you feel the same magic we do (sorry, some are sold but several will be arriving next week on our newest container. You can check here soon for updates):

This one had us at Bonjour!  The soft tone of her skin and her wistful expression are so beautifully painted. Who was she? Did she pose for a starving artist in a freezing Paris attic? This mamselle is arriving soon on our next container.
This angsty and exotic young fellow with the fabulous ruffled collar is also coming home to us soon.  He’s so dramatic and intense.
This madame has such a sweet expression and we love her detailed collar and sleeves.  She’s also on the new container.

We’ve been obsessed with hanging a portrait wall either at the gallery or at the store but, darn it, the subjects keep getting snapped up before we can collect a grouping. Portraits are such fun to hang – they add gravitas, personality and a glimpse to the past.  They’re a conversation piece and, if needed, a long-lost noble for your family tree.

We love pairing vintage portraits with clean, modern interiors and either grouping them together or finding a special spot for them to be center-stage:

Clean lines and modern furnishings make the perfect backdrop for this beautifully hung grouping of portraits. Swoon!  (<a href="" target="_blank">Studio Twenty Seven</a>)
This kindly gentleman looks great with this dark and dramatic interior. (<a href="" target="_blank">Est Magazine</a>: photography by Sharyn Cairns.)
This gorgeous little vignette is from <a href="" target="_blank">Farrow and Ball</a>. The paint color is wonderful…but how about that portrait?

Over the years, we’ve unearthed, dusted off, haggled over and shipped home dozens of portraits. Here are more of our favorite friends:

Who is this gentleman? He looks so chairman-of-board-ish. And rather pensive.
Even though there’s a little tear in the canvas, we like <a href="" target="_blank">this guy</a>!
This smart couple arrives in a couple of weeks.
We love it when the portraits become friends!  (from Chairish.)

Like the subjects they portray, you have to have a connection with a portrait.  Is the face interesting? Approachable? Mysterious? Sombre and distant?  And sometimes we find a resemblance between a living person and the portrait’s subject, like this guy we unearthed at a fair in northeastern France.  Doesn’t he look just like the French actor Gerard Depardieu?

Mais, oui! This could be Gerard Depardieu’s long-lost great, great, great-uncle.
This texture-y portrait reminded us of one of the Kennedy boys. Robert, maybe?

We swear this man reminds us either of the Titanic's Captain Smith or the very cute boyfriend of a Huffington daughter:

Is he related to Captain Smith of Titanic fame?

And then there’s this at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington that just gave us chills:

<a href="" target="_blank">Katherine Hepburn</a> by Everett Raymond Kinstler.
I snagged this little boy in a cap at a fair in France and I just love his sweet little expression.

There was a great article last week about a writer who grudgingly fell in love with a portrait and how it now has the place of honor in her home.  We can relate: even though we love 99% of the portraits we come home with, there are some that we have to politely turn down.  It turns out that sourpuss' faces aren’t attractive in any era (although we did find out that back in the day, smiling for a portrait was consider rather gauche so that explains a lot):

Nope. She didn’t make the cut. We just couldn’t imagine living with her glaring at us all the time.

So, as long as we can keep uncovering these old portraits on our buying trips, we’re going to keep doing it – and adding to our growing collection of long-lost friends (all of whom who keep an eye on us from their spots on the walls!)

Finally, which one of these paintings is your favorite and why?  We’d love to know.

Ta ta.


P.S. we’re excited to host artist Lorraine Christie at the gallery this coming Saturday, November 17th at 2 p.m. for a meet-and-mingle. We’ll be showing a new body of exquisite work from Lorraine and serving the bubbles so hope you can stop by.

Meet Anne + Meg

What happens when two committed Francophiles, art lovers and design junkies get together over a bottle of red wine? A fine art gallery with a little je ne sais quoi is born, followed a few years later by its home furnishings and décor sibling.

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What happens when two committed Francophiles, art lovers and design junkies get together over a bottle of red wine? A fine art gallery with a little je ne sais quoi is born, followed a few years later by its home furnishings and décor sibling.

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