GOLD: Christmas at the National Gallery – Dressed in Gold

To mark the month of December, ChasingART traveled virtually to The National Gallery to view Stories of Gold. This marvelous collection of videos came out in 2017 to celebrate this special time of year.

The second video answers the question:  How do artists embrace gold in fashion?


Giovanni Bellini Doge Leonardo Loredan about 1501-2 Oil on poplar, 61.4 × 44.5 cm Bought, 1844 NG189 https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG189

Gold has been used in art for centuries.  This precious metal has been a fashion statement across numerous cultures. From the Renaissance to the Baroque period, and even up to the 19th century, gold was used to make art and to showcase wealth, power, and beauty.

Anthony van Dyck St Ambrose barring Theodosius from Milan Cathedral about 1619-20 Oil on canvas, 149 x 113.2 cm Bought, 1824 NG50 https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG50

In the 17th century, Rembrandt and Anthony van Dyck featured gold in many of their works, as did Giovanni Bellini in the 15th century. Gold was used to draw attention to certain elements, like the robes of figures in religious scenes and the drapery of imperial portraits. Gold was also used to add a sense of grandeur and opulence to the pieces.

Rembrandt Belshazzar’s Feast about 1636-8 Oil on canvas, 167.6 x 209.2 cm Bought with a contribution from the Art Fund, 1964 NG6350 https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG6350

The use of gold in art wasn’t just a fashion statement – it reflected the artist’s skill and craftsmanship



Gold leaf, paint, and even furniture was used to make pieces eye-catching and to convey a sense of luxury. But the use of gold in art wasn’t just a fashion statement – it reflected the artist’s skill and craftsmanship. The artist’s ability to manipulate and control the gold was a sign of their mastery. Thus, the use of gold in art is a testament to the artist’s skill and an expression of their creativity. It is a symbol of beauty and elegance that will forever be associated with the history of art.

Thank you for joining me at The National Gallery

GOLD Christmas at the National Gallery

Published by Rebecca Budd

Blogger, Visual Storyteller, Podcaster, Traveler and Life-long Learner

12 thoughts on “GOLD: Christmas at the National Gallery – Dressed in Gold

  1. I am fascinated with Moroni’s painting of The Lady in Red. How beautiful this is; a gown so sumptuous and well designed. I find The Lady could well have been a woman of high order in any culture or age. And yet this magnificent painting dates back to the 16th century. Amazing!
    It is wonderful that we can enjoy such creations virtually. We are so fortunate.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How wonderful to receive your comment, Carolyn. I have been following the global open access initiative that is changing the way we share knowledge. The questions are: Who owns the knowledge? Who can share the knowledge? And most important, who has access to the knowledge. The balance between providing open and free access to scholarly research publication, data, archives, photos, design, etc while rewarding the work of creatives will continue to be debated.

      Since Covid19, museums, art galleries and libraries have provided amazing ways to connect. For example, I was able to download photos for this post, provided I agreed to the terms of personal interest/websites. It is indeed heartening.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. And wonderful to be sharing with you, Dear Rebecca.
        I believe this state of interconnectivity providing free access for all is the way of the future. However, the creative initiative, as you’ve said (and their costs) must also be provided with the means to sustain themselves during this process.
        Huge ‘bumps’ to overcome, I’m sure. It will mean completely changing our current appreciations of life, in general. I daresay it will be riddled with debate, confusion, and continuing emotional turmoil whilst those changes are travailed.
        But, change we must if ‘equality’ is to become the norm.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This post is “golden”!
    Loving the learning on your December posts. The video is an enriching lesson.
    The wealthy and the artisans they patronized, created an art wealth beyond their time & knowledge.
    I’d like to take a moment to credit the poor. Without their taxes, in whatever form, the rich would not have been rich. If there were no rich, would all this art have happened?

    Marie Antoinette (tone deaf to the plight of the poor) thought how charming the aprons of the peasants were. She was a fashion icon of the time (fashion cycles lasting up to 100 years). She came up with the fashion of pretty aprons adorning the gowns at court.

    My fave fashion icon of the past’s contribution lasted less than 50 years.
    Josephine Bonaparte came up with the Empire Line. There was no corset involved, merely a succession of slips. The idea was comfort.
    However, once Napoleon was ousted, women’s fashion fell again to the power of men, and the corset was re-introduced. It was not until the 1920’s that the corset was finally out as a mainstay (pun intended)!

    So much fun here!!! Thank you, Rebecca!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Resa – you have the most amazing details on the history of fashion and how what we wear is indicative of our social values and norms. I remember my grandmother wearing a corset which helped alleviate her back pain. When I was reading up on corsets/girdles, I discovered that at the beginning of WWI the US War Industries Board asked women to stop buying corsets so as to free up metal for war production. It seemed to worked as 28,000 tons of metal were reclaimed from corset production.(according to Wikipedia)

      Your thought on poverty vs wealth’s influence on emerging trends, art etc. has giving me a great deal to think about. I recall seeing a painting created some time in the 1700’s of a family dressed in precious materials. The explanation on the side indicated that “their wealth came from slavery.” I was grateful for that notation because it documented that humanity is capable of horrible actions without thinking of the morality of those actions.

      I think of all the artists who gave so much and yet were under-appreciated and undervalued during their lifetime : El Greco, Emily Dickerson, Vincent Van Gogh, J.S. Bach, Henry David Thoreau, Johanne Vermeer and even Monet.

      I am grateful that you have opened me up to explore mural art, which brings art to were we work, live and play.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. History is interesting and can be a teacher.
        Honestly, I think that the starving artists (and some who were not starving, but hung with the bohemian poor ie. Toulouse-Lautrec) show us an honest point of view.
        The rich showed us how rich and beautiful they were, and the church shows us another angle.

        In the course of my design endeavours, I read a lot about fashion, clothing before photography began to inform us.
        Here we have words, and paintings.

        “Dressed for the Photographer” is a must see/read book. It begins in 1840 and continues to the end of that century. Published in 1995 by Kent State University, I bought a first edition back then for $100.00 CD.
        The hardcover first edition seems to be going for$200.00Cd now.
        The honesty of the photography is a world away from the depictions in paintings.

        Street art is a wonderful genre of art.Not much will survive time, but I have a lot of documentation. One day I will attempt to archive what I have recorded on line. I’m almost at 1500 posts!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. We need to talk about this, Resa! You have a great deal of knowledge, experience, wisdom. Yes, you must document your mural art photography. I have been looking at how to preserve and archive. It is a complex undertaking because of the advancements in technology. To move photos from one form to another is a huge project. For example digitizing my father’s black and white photography will never capture the essence of the original. I am glad that you have the book “Dressed for the Photographer.” It is a treasure. I found the information on The Kent State University Press. Thank you for your comments!!!

        Liked by 1 person

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