of a Lady, 1782
Students begin by
answering the questions from the criteria. The teacher may provide some
information given below if needed, but clues from the picture should
provide most of the information.
New Spain enjoyed
immense wealth in the seventeen hundreds, from land, from silver, and
from international trade. The upper classes liked to display their wealth
in lavish lifestyles. This lady's elaborate appearance was the epitome
of wealthy excess in 1782, when her portrait was painted.
Her towering hairdo
is decorated with diamonds and feathers. Her embroidered clothing is
trimmed with yards of expensive imported lace. Her ears, neck, and wrists
are ornamented with jewelry.
Notice the fan she
holds at her waist, many Viceregal ladies owned vast collections of
them. They belonged to a secret language of signs for sending coded
messages to suitors. A man's hopes could rise or fall depending on whether
a lady left a fan lying around, closed it sharply, or held it halfway
Ladies like this
played a central role in New Spain's social fabric. While these women
definitely were more sheltered than most other women, either the mixed-race,
indigenous or lower-class Spanish women who lived there, we shouldn't
assume that they had no social lives or influence. For one thing, traveler
accounts as well as personal correspondence from the 18th century shows
that elite women participated in a social life that included family,
friends and compadres or ritual kin who were important in the family
lives of Spaniards throughout New Spain. They visited each other in
each other's homes, they played cards together, they often attended
privately held musical performances or plays, sometimes even discussion
They had less say
over who they were married to because their marriages were used to create,
cement or further family and kinship alliances. The women of the wealthiest
families brought astonishingly large, very lavish dowries, which included
money, but also included land, furniture, silverware, jewelry, luxurious
clothing -- even slaves.
relevant to this portrait:
By the 15th
and 16th centuries, Chinese artists began making folding fans.
Previously Chinese fans were stiff circles or made of feathers.
These folding fans were about 12 inches to 14 inches long, including
the ribs and more than half the surface was covered by the mounted
paper. The 18th and 19th centuries in China saw the production
of fans solely for the export market. These fans were made by
the Chinese to cater for 'barbarian' tastes and were not used
by the Chinese themselves.
folding fans were reserved for Royalty and the nobility and, as
expensive toys, they were regarded as a status symbol. Whiles
their "montures" (i.e. sticks and guards) were made
from materials such as ivory, mother of pearl and tortoiseshell,
often carved and pierced and ornamented with silver, gold and
precious stones, the leaves were well painted by craftsmen who
gradually amalgamated into guilds.
For more information:
During the 1700s fashionable women around the world wore a number
of petticoats and a lace- trimmed bodice that resembled a corset.
This bodice was laced in front and back and contained whalebone
stays. Many of the homes of the rich contained extra wide doorways
and stairways to accommodate the six-foot hoop skirts and petticoats.
Women's shoes had high heels and the extremely coiffured hairstyles
were designed to make them appear taller.
For more information: