Fun or Faux Pas: Family Portraits at Home

Perhaps I've been watching too much Downton Abbey, but I have portraits on the brain. But seeing as I don't (yet) live on a sprawling country estate, I have to ask: When is it OK to bring a portrait into your house? Is it better if it's a portrait of a stranger, or a relative? Is it OK to hang a portrait of yourself? Your child? Your dog?At some point in the 1970s, my grandma commissioned an oil painting of my mom in her late teens or early 20s. It's a good-looking painting with deep colors and not too much attention to photo-realism. For decades it hung over my grandparents' couch, where it matched the color scheme and complemented the d├ęcor, and nobody was going to look askance at someone hanging a portrait of his or her child.

But now the portrait is in my mom's house, which raises the question of where to put a portrait of yourself without looking totally narcissistic. It's currently hanging in an office in the back where visitors never see it, and my mom is slowly surrounding it with pastel drawings of everyone else in the family, so it doesn't get lonely.

Would you hang a portrait of yourself? How about one of a stranger? Or what about hanging a lot of portraits of strangers? With a little time at estate sales and on eBay and Etsy, you could gather your own frame cluster of portraits, just like your own mini Downton Abbey wall, except completely unrelated to you. Good idea or bad idea? I can't tell anymore. What would you do?

(Image: Elizabeth Licata)

50 Comments