The Aristocracy of Instagram

By: Jasanna Sevier

Rewind to the Middle Ages when the Aristocrats paid painters to capture their wealthy lifestyle to outdo their neighbors new painting. When the noble class battled to get the most expensive artworks and sculptures to call their own. Throwing large parties to show off their riches, hiding any indication of effects of the wars and conquerors plaguing countries throughout the decades. Now scroll down your Instagram timeline and notice the similarities. Our generations have turned to social media not only for the increased networking and information, but to also show status and class.


Lets look at the Hyacinthe Rigaud painting of Louis XIV from 1701. Louis XIV was a French ruler when France was the most powerful nation at the time. He, in turn, was arrogant, dominating, and believed his power came directly from God. Hyacinthe Rigaud was commissioned to make a large portrait for the king. This 9.5 foot tall painting was made in incredible detail to show how much higher up in power he is to the viewer.

Looking at the pose, it is almost completely replicated today on Instagram by women in heels before a night out. The way his fabric drapes so eloquently is seen on red carpets at awards shows.  He is centered and large in the frame making sure it is not mistaken what the focal point of the image should be. The painting is dripping bright golds and rich colors that is not even realistic, mirroring the filters and editing of photography today.

Image result for aristocracy still life paintings

The “food porn” craze of unrealistic, polished and beautiful foods on fancy countertops and tables reflect the past still lifes painted like this one by Jan Davidsz de Heem.Back then, artists crammed a bunch of exotic and expensive foods and utensils on draped surfaces for the owner’s houses. Today, people take photos of their meals for their Instagram followers to view, envious of their fortune.

Back around the 17th and 18th centuries, aristocracy arose at a time when wars were frequent. The richest families weren’t that affected by the climate but the rest of the countries were and those people were angry at their insensitivity. Today, it doesn’t seem to be that much of an issue because people can post unrelated pictures and topics all over their accounts, some being politically conscious posts, others not. People now have the technology to present their ideals in multiple areas and topics simultaneously.

The large painted canvases shrunk down to handheld screens over the last centuries but the images displayed aren’t that different. Although all people take glamorous selfies and food photography aren’t necessarily purposely attempting to emphasize their wealth, it is interesting to see how the act of displaying class has stayed with the times. There will always be a hidden desire to out-do the rest of your peers and it makes you wonder how it will



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