The Art of Perfume Ads: Écusson by Jean d’Albert

Ecusson Ad.jpg

This advertisement for Écusson by Jean d’Albret (1947, now discontinued) set off an art historical spark in my memory.

The unknown artist who worked on this ad for Écusson (which translates as “shield”) was obviously inspired by Hans Holbein the Younger’s portrait of Jane Seymour, third wife of Henry the Eighth…


…and there she is. The original portrait dates to 1536-37. (Seymour died from complications after childbirth in October 1537.) Holbein emphasized Seymour’s likeness as well as her opulent gown and her various jeweled ornaments. This style of headdress, I’ve just learned, is known as a “gable hood.”

The Écusson advertisement gave its female figure a more conventionally attractive face, by 1950s standards, but it kept many details of Seymour’s gown, hood, and pendants (gold, rubies, pearls—fit for a Queen).


I’m certainly not an expert on sixteenth-century English portraits, but I’ve also just learned that Holbein’s portrait was the probable source for the so-called “Nidd Hall Portrait” of Anne Boleyn, Henry’s second wife, pictured above.

(Since most original portraits of Boleyn were destroyed upon the occasion of her execution for treason, new ones were created later on.)

I thought I’d include it since we’ve been having another revival of interest in Anne Boleyn since the publication of Hilary Mantel’s novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies (and the excellent television series starring Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell and Damian Lewis as Henry VIII).

For more posts in this series, click here.

Images: Écusson by Jean d’Albert advertisement (1956), via HPrints; Hans Holbein portrait of Jane Seymour (1536-37), via Wikimedia Commons; possible portrait of Anne Boleyn via Wikipedia.


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