This post is dedicated to His Royal Highness the Royal Baby (George Alexander Louis) who is really quite lucky to be born in present times rather than in past centuries – in terms of his public image.
Royal Baby will, of course, be followed 24/7 by the press for the rest of his life, but his parents have done a great deal to ensure that his public image will not have to be so elitist and unreachable as the previous generations (thus allowing him to feel more “normal” and part of society). In the photo bellow we see just how informal the royal couple can be (!)
and I am sure we will see some very “realistic” family snapshots in the press in the future.
Of course it hasn’t always been like this and not just for royal children. It took philosophers like Jean Jacques Rousseau, in the last decades of the 18th Century, to convince cultured western society that children were not adults and that their own dimension (“child sub-culture” ?), should be respected. Above all, children should interact with their parents as this was the natural way of the world. If we look at family portraits from the 18th Century we have confirmation of this evolving attitude of western society towards children.
From dressing children like miniature adults as soon as they could walk and keeping them at arms’ length in the pictures
J.Kneller,Harvey family,1721,Tate Britain, UK
to a more intimate and relaxed atmosphere of the upper class portraits of the late ’80s and 90s of the 1700s
anon,woman e child,1795-8c, Metropolitan Museum, NY
In this portrait the mother shows all the “natural” instincts encouraged by J.J. Rousseau. She probably breast-fed the child too. The quality of the painting reveals a wealthy patron as does the fashion the lady is wearing : crisp white cotton or linen muslin, in the simplest of styles suitable for the “actively involved” mother. The simplicity of her hairstyle and the lack of make-up should also be read as part of this constructed or “styled” appearance. She wants to charm with her purity of spirit (and no expenses spared – imported textiles, fine silk shawl and ribbon)
more on the construction of the image of motherhood coming soon!