Perplexing me

Last night, E.T. shared Robert Dowling’s Breakfasting Out, Britain 1859 in one of the Fb groups discussing the tea drinking. My eyes went to the basket placed on top of a woman’s head, on top of what looked like a fashion bonnet via my little phone’s screen. All I could think is:

“What??? Squash???”
“I must be seeing this wrong.”

So, I had to see this close-up. Thank you National Gallery of Australia.

Not only was I seeing a basket on top of a fashion bonnet, but a straw bonnet. I…um…..???

With previous thoughts, I would have imagined holding a basket on top of a sunbonnet or a soft bonnet such as a hood. But, a structured bonnet? A straw bonnet? What about the straw? the flowers? Squash?

Straw and basketI must think about this.

Okay, maybe the painting is showing us some damage to the bonnet – the slit on the lower edge of the tip and the maybe spot on the brim. Maybe these are just shadows. Okay, maybe this is a lower brim bonnet. Maybe she doesn’t have any flowers. Yes, it could be an older bonnet. Yes, it could be her form of a working bonnet. Yes, straw held a wide range of qualities.

But? Still?

We have a bonnet treated as a working bonnet with a fashionable curve to the brim. She seems to consider it durable enough to handle the weight of the basket and contents (which appear to be leafy greens and a cloth.)

The rest of her attire: Red plaid shawl wrapped around the shoulders and upper body. Possibly a two piece sacque & skirt combination is suggested by the fabric that falls to the hips over a different color skirt, likely wool. The bodice sleeves are rolled up, revealing a white lining. The skirt and apron appear to be pulled up in front. A hint of horizontal striping is under the lift of the skirt. This may be a work petticoat or a corded petticoat. Her boots are worn, very square in the two, with a low heel and off-center closure that I can’t quite identify as buttoning or lacing. Her stockings are light color, white and a bit slouched.

While I’m looking at this, I should also note the other two straw bonnets in the painting. The older woman is wearing a shape/style popular in the 40s with more width than height. The younger woman sipping her coffee has a smaller bonnet is a shape fashionable for the mid 50s with flowers placed primarily along the sides. She appears to either be traveling or shopping to me.


Published in: on October 15, 2014 at 6:25 am  Leave a Comment  

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