Portrait Of A Lady

You may recall the BuzzFeed article I had mentioned the other day. I noted I was bewildered by its list of “32” book covers of 2016 that it asserts are “beautiful.” I wrote that frankly I believe NONE of them are.

Anicet-Charles-Gabriel Lemonnier (1743–1824). "Lecture de la tragédie de l'orphelin de la Chine de Voltaire dans le salon de madame Geoffrin."
Anicet-Charles-Gabriel Lemonnier (1743–1824). “Lecture de la tragédie de l’orphelin de la Chine de Voltaire dans le salon de madame Geoffrin.”

Yesterday morning, I didn’t summon a meeting nor give a speech. But I had an idea along these lines. Having disagreed strongly with BuzzFeed there, in fairness let me share something of what I want to see on my coming (2017) new novel’s cover.

I needed a brief writing breather, too. So I decided to take out my “artist cap” yesterday and have a new go. The Conventions cover I’ve had on display for months is, for lack of a better description, a “working cover”; it is not necessarily to be the final one, although it may still turn out to be.

Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun (1755–1842). "Marie Gabrielle de Gramont, Duchesse de Caderousse" (1784).
Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun (1755–1842). “Marie Gabrielle de Gramont, Duchesse de Caderousse” (1784).
Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun (1755–1842): "Comtesse de Cérès" (1784).
Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun (1755–1842): “Comtesse de Cérès” (1784).
Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun (1755–1842): “Marie-Charlotte Bontemps (1762-1848), Comtesse de La Châtre” (1789).

For some time, I have been considering using a portrait of a lady in all of her wide-brimmed-hat-wearing, eighteenth century glory. I would shift the current front cover to the back. I’m thinking I might include one or two other smaller-version eighteenth century portraits on that back as well.

I’m not saying it will be any of those three immediately above by eighteenth century French painter – who also did portraits of Queen Marie Antoinette and the royal children – Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun:

Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun (1755–1842): "Self-portrait in a Straw Hat" (c. 1782).
Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun (1755–1842): “Self-portrait in a Straw Hat” (c. 1782).

…and who, interestingly, also created a bit of a stir there, in the mid-1780s, taking a selfie having painted herself (she was about age 27) smiling and with her mouth partly open and with her teeth showing. It was said that was artistically simply not done! #shocking #scandalous

I like the concept of a person filling the cover. And when I did up a new draft version yesterday, I thought the she I used for it made for, indeed, a “beautiful” cover.

But I’m still not sure about it. Why the doubt? At the risk of it being more eye-catching and “beautiful” will it also be – dare I say this – too “feminine?”

The other possibility is a gentleman. Unfortunately, the gentleman I would probably use looks in his portrait strikingly, I feel, like “Mr Darcy.” Not that there’s anything wrong with “Mr. Darcy.” However, Conventions is definitely not (even an attempt at a pale imitation of) Pride and Prejudice storywise.

Perhaps I’ll just combine the two? I don’t know. What a struggle. That so much of the book is completed has me increasingly stressed about its cover: the first impression anyone gets of it. I think I may need just to go back to the writing and have a further crack at the cover art in a few weeks.

Most certainly I don’t want anything along the lines of what I see in that BuzzFeed article and I don’t care how prominent or well-regarded its author happens to be. One aspect of “beauty,” to me, is it contains intangible qualities so aesthetically pleasing to the eye (and/or other senses) that it is seizes you to the point you are unable forget it. I last looked at that BuzzFeed list again the other day, and once more no cover on that list did anything approaching that for me.

Have a good day, wherever you are. 🙂


  1. These four brown-eyed women look enough alike to be sisters, despite each having a different haircolor, although the gray one is probably a freshly-curled periwig: the face is too young for the color, and the hair is too perfectly dressed, while the others’ natural hair is showing the effects of humidity several hours after the curling iron was applied.

    The studiedly-innocent lady in red has been caught snacking between meals, and she’s trying to draw you into the peccadillo: “These grapes are really good! Try some?” The coy lady in yellow has been caught in the act of folding a billet-doux: “No, no, it’s just a grocery list! Really!” The lady in white is tired of being interrupted at her reading. “Again! What is it this time?” (I wouldn’t use her for your cover.)

    The face of the artist is superficially different. Her open mouth elongates her face a bit; if her mouth were closed, her face would have the same egg-shaped oval as the other three faces. She’s too careless with her appearance to be considered truly ladylike: she doesn’t bother to keep her eyebrows as tidily plucked as the other women do, and she just threw some clothes on over her sloppily-tied chemise, so she could get back to her easel while the light was right. If she’s not more careful, that nice white bosom of hers is going to get spoiled with sunburn and freckles. Moreover, she thinks a little too much of herself and her talents, which makes me want to slap her.

    Frankly, I’d be more likely to pick up your book if it had your “working cover” on it. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. LOL! Now looking forward to finding out what that new idea is!

    If in your story you have four characters with the personalities of this bevy, I can imagine your putting all four of them on the front cover, although I’d still feel sorry to see Madame la Comtesse there; she apparently has more than enough on her plate, as it is. She’s so busy supervising the management of her chateau that I don’t blame her for neglecting to touch up her hair, in favor of trying to steal off for a few quiet “me moments” with her book: she’d already been run to ground in the orchard, where she’d been hiding among the apple trees, and now somebody’s found her in the darkened parlour, even though the door was closed and the window shutter was open only a crack, for a little light to read by.

    That artist, however, probably doesn’t even know where her curling iron is, although she’s vain enough to be taking arsenic wafers, from which she’s probably severely anemic. She also has “allergic shiners.”

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.