This intriguing series titled Pearls offers a unique take on formal 17th century female portraiture. Lavish photographs draw attention to the beauty of the subject, seducing the onlooker with allusions of chastity and a lofty dowry, while lengths of pearls extend beyond frame to complete the image in unexpected ways. The third solo exhibition by Maisie Broadhead, the series initiates a dialogue between what is presented and what is reality, showing that often the two are radically different.
Within Broadhead’s depictions of antiquated femininity, there lies an examination into the falsehoods that are tucked into every crevice of the portraits. The pearls, symbols of wealth, purity, and innocence can be seen to form delicate shackles and chains that forcibly restrain these women into marriage and lives of servitude. Taking the concept of romance and beauty, and then changing focus to show a fuller picture that reveals a much more disturbing scene, Pearls allows for an examination into the ideals that make up the foundations of our history.
The exhibition, which “highlights the political and social intentions behind these portraits [while] considering the role of women in contemporary society” were recently on display at the Sarah Myerscough Gallery in London, combining mediums to present unpredictable reforms of familiar tropes.