On 3/28/2022 7:36 PM, Mark Shaw wrote:
> Saw this one elseforum today. I dimly recall it from the Before
> Time, but my googlegroup-fu seems to be weak.
> Supposedly, when you sat for a portrait, there was a base fee and
> a surcharge per limb. And that's why some historical figures are
> pictured with an arm behind their back.
> Anyone else?
Not only that, but it has been attributed (incorrectly) as the basis for
the term "cost an arm and a leg".
"'It cost and arm and a leg' is one of those phrases that rank high in
the 'I know where that comes from' stories told at the local pub. In
this case the tale is that portrait painters used to charge more for
larger paintings and that a head and shoulders painting was the cheapest
option, followed in price by one which included arms and finally the top
of the range 'legs and all' portrait. As so often with popular
etymologies, there's no truth in that story. Painters certainly did
charge more for large pictures, but there's no evidence to suggest they
did so by limb count. In any case the phrase is much more recent than
the painting origin would suggest."