Just in time for the Coronation of King Charles III “The Ugly Duchess” is hanging out in London’s National Gallery! No, not the outwardly pretty Duchess who’s ugly spirit haunts tabloids, Netflix series and Oprah interviews, but rather one who is more capable of teaching valuable lessons.
“The Ugly Duchess” painted by Quinten Massys, a contemporary and pal of Leonardo Da Vinci, was painted in 1513. It’s generally considered to be a masterpiece, a thesis on women, and satirical. The question is; why are these brush strokes of genius also framed as an acceptable way to brush off the greater value of women?
Considered a scholarly composition “The Ugly Duchess” grossly exaggerates facial characteristics, features a demonic head-piece and exposes a matronly bust, awkwardly restrained by a provocatively low-cut gown. One hand of the Duchess clings to an open window while the other holds a disproportionately small rose bud. Surrounded in green, the woman appears to long for youthful expressions, that are now behind her.
Massy’s imagery portrays the fate of all women who live past their prime. The lesson of “The Ugly Duchess” has stood the test of time. Not until former CNN anchor Don Lemon’s misogynistic outburst declaring “Women over 50 are past their prime” has our culture paused to take a second look at the fuller-frame of womanhood.
If you find your self in London for the Coronation, running into the National Gallery may be an exceptionally fortuitous time to hang-out with “The Ugly Duchess”. Saturday, as traditions are being updated and women are being valued by society as more than just pretty young things, history will open another chapter. The Coronation may mark a renaissance and a new era of enlightenment that values women for their inner beauty more than their appearance in “prime-time”
LONG LIVE THE KING!