A Proper Visage…

I’ve been filling silhouette orders, and one that I’ve snipped away at the past couple of days was…

A Proper Visage
(Available on our Traditional Silhouettes page!)

… And I thought that maybe it would be fun to chat a bit about what a “proper visage” is. Or was.

In the colonial period, young ladies were trained to have a proper visage. Your “visage” was your face and upper body… the part of you that might be painted in a portrait. And it was proper to keep your visage portrait-like at all times. Ladies’ faces were to be serene and have a pleasant expression. Anything that might spoil your visage, like a sour expression, was discouraged. Even your shoulders and arms were to be kept in a lady-like position, and the cut of colonial gowns helped maintain proper form, as it was difficult to raise one’s arms in a properly fitted shortgown.

The idea of maintaining a proper visage even extended to the musical instruments a lady was allowed to play. Woodwinds were definitely out, because they caused a lady’s cheeks to puff out while she was playing. And no violins either… it was considered vulgar to see a lady with her arms raised, and elbows pointed out in an awkward position. (In Europe, the Italian composer Vivaldi taught orphan girls to play violin, but they had to perform behind a modesty screen.) Playing the cello was not allowed, also because of the elbows jutting outward, but it was considered proper for ladies to play the viola da gamba, because the bow was held underhanded.

Anyway, I thought that might be an interesting tidbit of information to share with you! We learned about having a proper visage on a trip to Williamsburg when our girls were going through their “American Girls” phase. We had great fun giving them a colonial reminder whenever we saw a cranky face! The thrill did not last long for some unknown reason. I wonder why…


Have a great Friday!

One thought on “A Proper Visage…

  1. Hi there,
    I was wondering if we could use the image you have here of your silhouette for a story board for a women’s history event for a museum. It would be representative of an unknown female spy during the Revolutionary War, Agent 355. Obviously there are no pictures of this woman, but I thought a silhouette would be a great way to represent her in an image and I really liked your design. Please email me back to further discuss this. Thank you!

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