Chaperone (2010) 16×16 inches. Encaustic and collage on board.
Chaperone is a composite of three individual portraits collaged together into a single panel and sealed in pigmented encaustic wax. The two adults are Rogier Clarisse and his wife, Sara Breyll, painted by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) in 1611. Although Rubens painted these as separate portraits, I thought I’d put a spark into their union by allowing Sara’s hand to clasp Rogier’s. He looked to me like he needed a bit of affection.
The third portrait is an unnamed young “Lady” painted by Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641) around 1620. I am not sure what it is about her expression exactly–mild embarrassment or self-consciousness perhaps–that made me think of the way children can be very conscious of their parents showing affection for each other.
But mostly, Chaperone is a composition of three Flemish ruffs, or starched collars, which I find amazing. Historically, ruffs were worn to convey social status as they were very difficult to maintain. Rather than the frilly collar that was sewn into the neckline of a dress or doublet, the ruff kept the dress or doublet from being soiled by beard hairs, fibers, hat feathers, face powder, rouge, dandruff, or whatever.
Visually, ruffs convey a sense of severity. The Flemish were both ruff fanatics and socially liberal-minded, so whatever rigidity I read into the ruff may be entirely misplaced.