Is there a Rembrandt in the house?
Commissioned institutional art is a tricky area for artist and patron alike. A portrait which is, shall we say, overly accurate, can anger the subject; whereas taking 20 years and a couple of stone off the sitter can open subject and artist to ridicule.
Obiter was therefore more than impressed with Inner Temple’s newly unveiled painting of the Inn’s five lady justices – a group pose of LJs Gloster, King, Hallett, Black and Sharp by artist Isabella Watling. A hint of Krystle Carrington hangs about the person of Gloster, and Obiter wonders why Hallett LJ has a coat and scarf while King’s happy in a blouse (superior thermals, perhaps?).
But it’s an otherwise flawless group. The judges hold the viewer’s gaze, the vague brushwork of clothing folds, red tablecloth and the panelled backdrop focusing attention on the naturally lit benevolent authority of the judges’ faces, the rendition of which is flattering while remaining credible. Their props are the important papers that support their work.
It’s all quite, well very… Rembrandt, no? Obiter is thinking in particular of ‘Syndics of the Drapers’ Guild’ – a naturally lit group portrait in a panelled room with a red tablecloth, some papers, and subjects (some seated, some standing) looking straight out from the painting at the viewer.
Still, as they say in 17th-century Amsterdam, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?