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The iconic red frock conjures up images of Valentino and Heart Truth Red Dress Fashion Show, but in the past very few females donned the hue. Red has a multitude of connotations associated often conflicting symbolism. Anger, attention, celebration, courage, danger, happiness, heat, love, sacrifice (due to its association with blood), and war. In a time where the unspoken word spoke volumes from the cut, fabric, and style of an outfit, to the amount of jewelry, the flick of a fan or a steady gaze all conveyed emotion without being verbose. It was a lesson in subtly and for a woman to wear red; while it was practically screaming without uttering a sound. What, exactly though, was she saying?

Our second edition of Articulate the Art/Discuss the Dress, please meet Miss Ramsay. She supposedly is one of the Alan Ramsay’s sisters. She was painted between 1760 and 1765. The painting is oil on canvas and the dimensions are 29 7/8″ x 24 7/8″. It currently resides in the Tate Museum in London.

Miss Ramsay in a Red Dress by Allan Ramsay 1760

Miss Ramsay in a Red Dress by Allan Ramsay 1760

My thoughts are thus, I adore the red dress. The lace sleeves are indicative of the fashions of the time, but I am not fond of them personally. I appreciate the artist’s realism of having the lace shirt beneath not be aligned with the front of the red dress; as if slightly askew. If the under shirt were not so sheer and the sleeves trimmed to my taste, I would wear this in modern-day. I am still uncertain if the jewel on her clavicle is from a necklace or a brooch. If it is a brooch, how does the weight of the gem not tear the delicate fabric?! Are pearls on the ribbon attached to the lace shirt or is it a separate choker piece, do you suppose? I rather like it. It does seem a bit “goth” but seems simple enough to replicate. Now. . .  about her head-piece. . . . how to put this delicately? I think she would look far more attractive if she removed it. Is it just me or does it look as if she has a rather large garter perched upon her hair? Again, I understand it was haute de jour. . . I still do not care for it regardless. However, beautifully detailed it is, in its own right. I also notice during the 1700s there was a penchant for pair pastel blues with . . . well, everything! It must have been the Patone Color of the Century! Browse through fashions during this time and the tint seems to appear in everything even to the smallest degree. As for Miss Ramsay’s herself I think she is quite fair. Not as ravishing as our previous Red Dress presenter, but certainly not awful to look at. My first thoughts, “a little eyeliner and mascara would go along way, if available at the time.”

As for the technique, I find the details exquisite. I also appreciate the simplicity with the absence of props. I believe the flesh tones are rather well done. I do have a peeve with artists setting brunettes against dark backgrounds. However, Ramsay’s counters this with the light headpiece. It allows him to define the hairstyle a bit more. Do you concur? What are your thoughts?

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