Beauty by Design: Fashioning the Renaissance

Occasionally, an interesting exhibit is shown at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery on Queen Street. When I saw a poster for the Beauty by Design poster, I knew it was time for another visit.

The red sandstone neo-gothic structure was designed by Sir Robert Rowand Anderson and was opened to the public as a built for purpose portrait gallery in 1889. The beautiful building underwent extensive rufurbishment for 3 years and was open again to the public for enjoyment in December 2011.

The astrological ceiling to the main hall of marble statues

Even to this day, it amazes me how beautifully Edinburgh encapsulates old historical architecture with modern structures. Hidden gems, like the beauty of the Portrait Gallery, sets itself with its red sandstone on a street of history. But inside the Gallery, the past and present collide in modern portraits being presented in gallery rooms next to those housing historical pieces of work. The 19th century building also holds modern amenities and a modern-styled café for patrons to rest their feet with a nice cup of tea after perusing the art.

Tea with a scone, butter and jam at Café Portrait

The main theme of the Beauty by Design exhibtion explores concepts of fashion and beauty of the past and how this compares to ideals of the present.

Through the designs made using lace from Sophie Hallette (whose beautiful lace fabric is used on the runway and fashion of fashion houses Louis Vuitton and Dior), the beauty of past fashion is incorporated into modern style. Images in the exhibition also challenges our views of modern ideals of a beautiful body being slim and how this compares to the historical ideals of a voluptuous figure like Venus de Milo.

The range of lace shirts on display puts it into perspective for us after strolling around the exhibition. At one end is the modern ideal of a slim and petite figure, while the other end of the spectrum is what Venus might have worn.

Memento Flori headpiece by Sally-Ann Provan 2014

Beauty by Design is available to the public admission free at the Contemporary Gallery until 3rd May 2015. The Scottish National Portrait Gallery is located on 1 Queen Street, EH2 1JD and is open daily from 10am to 5pm (7pm on Thursday).

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