A Portrait of The Aristocratic Ideal


Mr. and Mrs. Andrews (1745-46) by Thomas Gainsborough



This painting projects many elements of the Aristocratic Ideal of the 18th century English gentry. Mr. Andrews' pose is relaxed and informal and attests to his cultivation of leisure. He leans on the wrought iron bench, holding his rifle casually as if no effort need be exerted. The rifle and his dog marks his right to hunt, an exclusive privilege of the gentry and aristocracy. Mrs. Andrews is also represented as relaxed and at leisure, with a gown of conspicuously generous and luxurious fabric. The rural setting is in keeping with the landownership as the basis for power and prestige. The vastness of the landscape affirms the extent of his lands, while the sheafs of wheat in the cultivated field to the right suggests the fruits of his estate. Note, however, that the labor required to produce that agrarian wealth is wholly absent. No laborers, peasants, or even substantial farmers are allowed to share the scene, as if the squire and his wife are connected to nature by ownership as opposed to labor.