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Presidents and their spouses

 

The sculptural portraits of former presidents represent a continuation of the ancient tradition of the likenesses of rulers. As busts, however, they are more intimate than full-length public statues. They represent a kind of semi-public form of portraiture, because in the Atrium of the Hall of State (the former Throne Room) they can only be viewed by guests invited to the palace.

Portraits of the presidents’ spouses can be viewed by even fewer people, because they are hung in the Empress’s bedroom and cabinet on the second floor. With their plain backgrounds, these ¾-length portraits are typical examples of official portraiture. Many of these works follow the centuries old tradition of adding symbolic flower motifs to portraits depicting women.

The exhibition at the Ateneum Art Museum presents for the first time the portraits of the presidents and those of their spouses in the same space.