Ladies with Letters: A Little Austen

Vittorio ReggianiniTo paraphrase “We Need a Little Christmas,” sometimes:

I need a little Austen
Right this very minute
Candles in the window
Lizzy at the spinet…

And doesn’t this portrait look like an illustration for a Jane Austen novel? Vittorio Reggianini, an Italian artist born in 1858 (or maybe 1853), painted this letter-sharing duo. Part of the Florentine historical genre school, he usually depicted elegant folk in luxurious settings.

While these women might be wearing gowns from the late 1800s, their attire looks much more like the Regency era Austen made famous. I could easily imagine them as Elizabeth and Jane Bennett or Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, although neither pair of sisters could afford such lush gowns. Note how the sheen of the ivory silk reflects the peach and check out those impossibly tiny shoes. Didn’t any women in the 19th century have big feet?

Not only do I love their look of shared secrets, but also how they’re sharing the letter. People regularly shared mail, passing letters around the family and mutual friends. Facebook is not the first to invent that concept.

Whatever the era, this painting makes me smile. And hum—”Because when you need a little Austen, right this very minute...”

You can find products with this image in the Post Whistle Shop on Zazzle.

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