‘Hunger Games’ promo images borrow from classical portraiture

March 11, 2013

The latest “Hunger Games” publicity push speaks directly to a generation enamored with “selfies” and omnipresent sepia filters. Although the second film’s release is still more than six months away, a number of promotional images that depict the series’ characters as the subjects of Old Master-style portraits are already creating buzz on the Internet.

In February, an image of an antique chair upholstered in blue plush velvet appeared on the CapitolCouture Instagram feed. Last week, a picture of Elizabeth Banks as character Effie Trinket landed on the Capitol Couture site, which describes itself as the Capitol-sanctioned source for fashion and culture. (The name is a reference to the capitol city in the “Hunger Games” series.) Trinket is clad in a ruffled Alexander McQueen gown and giant pink frosted wig, sitting in the blue chair and looking off to the left.


Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket of “The Hunger Games” (courtesy of Lionsgate).

Other characters’ likenesses — styled, like Trinket’s, to resemble classical portraiture — trickled out through the week.

“[The ad campaign] raises a whole discussion about form and content.” says Post critic Anne Midgette. “In the case of these posters, the form is doing all of the work of making a statement about a familiar figure.”

Midgette says the ad campaign’s old-style portraiture may be intended to exalt its contemporary subject matter. “In this case, to elevate it to storybook status.”

Of course, celebrities have been portrayed in faux-classical portraits before. In 2011, the contest website Worth1000 ran a competition asking artists to depict famous paintings with celebrities as the subjects.

(Images courtesy of Worth1000.com)

Judith Martin, better known as Miss Manners, touched on the permanence and elevation of a painted portrait versus a photograph in an essay she wrote for The Post in April 2011 about sitting for the artist Victor Edelstein. Martin’s husband, Robert, who commissioned the painting for her 70th birthday, became an “art patron” in the process, Martin explains.

“The job description, he believed, required fussing about the face. Victor had portrayed me with a calm smile, rather than whooping with laughter at his jokes, which was a more common expression of mine during the sittings. Robert did not consider the look wicked enough.”

Edelstein found the perfect expression, and now the work is on display at the National Portrait Gallery in “Capital Portraits: Treasures From Washington Private Collections.”

“Finished and framed, it arrived in Washington. “I know that expression,” said our daughter. “It’s ‘Don’t think I don’t know what you’re up to — I haven’t missed a thing,’ ” Martin wrote.

But the ability of portraits to aggrandize can have a flip side, says Midgette. One recent example being the “very earnestly meant, realistic portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge, which was such a spectacular disaster.”

In her first impression of the duchess’ portrait, Midgette called it a “at once kitschy, clinically accurate and stunningly unflattering.”

Will Lionsgate get similar criticism for its uncharacteristically subdued Katniss or its off-puttingly suave Peeta? Or will the portraits just make the public more likely to pre-order movie tickets?

Share your critique of the “Hunger Games” portraits in the comments.

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Lynn Medford · March 11, 2013