Keith Mallet, Lady with Blue Umbrella

Umbrellas – Shady Characters???

Umbrellas – Shady Characters?

No, not so much today!  –  More likely:

Art Objects – Objects in Art – Objects with Art – Artefacts

They were and they are:

decorative – beautiful – useful – protective – colourful – desirable

The Origins

The word umbrella comes from the Latin word umbra and means shadow.

Pixabay photo of a sunny beach.

Pixabay pictures

The first umbrellas were meant to protect from the sun. They basically originated in Asia around 3,500 to 4,000 years ago. Back then they consisted of just some palm leaves, as natural as the parasols in this great holiday destination. Wherever that is.

Of course, umbrellas became more sophisticated over time, turning into real art and artefacts as well.

The next step were paper and silk parasols.

Parasol Painting: Gupta Empire, India, ca. 320 AD

Parasol Painting: Gupta Empire, India, ca. 320 AD

Photo by courtesy of:

Umbrellas were difficult to make in the past – which made them expensive – and they turned more and more into signs of wealth. Also, they were mainly used by women and, accordingly, looked it. That hasn’t changed too much so far, has it?

Ancient Greece Parasol illustration, detail via world4eu[1]

Ancient Greece Parasol illustration, detail via world4eu[1]

Photo by courtesy of:

The picture above shows a parasol in ancient Greece. I am just wondering: Were those foldable or did they stay open all the time?


A Jump Ahead:  17th  to 19th Century

In Northern Europe umbrellas only appeared after the Middle Ages (roughly from 500-1500 AD). Again, they were for wealthy people. They didn’t even carry them themselves. Others had to do this for them. That could get a bit exhausting especially with the heavier materials.

  Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641), Marchesa Elena Grimaldi, 1623                Charles Le Brun (1619-1690), Pierre Seguier, chancelier de France (1655-1661)

Anthonis van Dyck (1599-1641)                          Charles Le Brun (1619-1690)

Marchesa Elena Grimaldi, 1623                Pierre Seguier, chancelier de France (1655-1661)  

Photos by courtesy of: (van Dyck) and…i/Le_Chancelier_Seguier (Le Brun)


And parasols for the not-quite-so-rich, sometimes with other uses for their umbrellas …

Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858), Gion in Snow, 1834

Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858), Gion in Snow, 1834

Photo by courtesy of:

   Carl Spitzweg (1808-1885), The Poor Poet, 1839           Claude Monet ( 1840-1926), The Beach at Trouville, 1870

             Carl Spitzweg (1808-1885)                              Claude Monet (1840-1926)

                    The Poor Poet, 1839                                The Beach at Trouville, 1870

Photos by courtesy of: and:


     August Macke (1887-1914), Hutladen (Hat Shop), 1914        Marc Chagall (1887-1985), Cow with Parasol, 1944

            August Macke (1887-1914)                               Marc Chagall (1887-1985)

              Hutladen (Hat Shop), 1914                              Cow with Parasol, 1944

Photos by courtesy of:  and:

In these last two pictures the colours are coming back and it gets better and better from here on.

The Wild Things of the 20th  and 21st Centuries

Luckily, umbrellas are not really expensive any more but just as beautiful. Although you can still get expensive ones should you be so inclined… No problem! (Spending money is good for the economy! Always! So go ahead!!!)

      Raffael (1483-1520), umbrella with angel detail: Sistine Madonna, 1512                        Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), Starry Night

          Raffael (1483-1520)                                        Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)

          Angel detail: Sistine Madonna, 1512                               Starry Night, 1889

Photos by courtesy of:  (for Raffael) and:  (for van Gogh)

The move from umbrellas in art to umbrellas with art makes for a nice change. Art all around us!

Cow Umbrella "Almrausch" ("Alpine Ecstasy")

Cow Umbrella “Almrausch” (“Alpine Ecstasy”)

Photo by courtesy of:

I couldn’t resist this lovely lady having a sun bath. She is up on the mountains in the Southern Alps or so, just wearing a bell around her neck. Does that make her a Southern Belle???

Although not fine art, it is a very fine umbrella.

Creative modern umbrella designs

Photo by courtesy of:

These individuals might be a bit more expensive …

Creative modern umbrella designs

Photo by courtesy of:

… than these pocket beauties. Or maybe not??? Are they for men only?

How about the male equivalent for the women? Now there’s an idea!!! I like my men pocket size. Men and cars, actually. So one fits into the other. One has to be practical, right?

So, what is it with umbrellas?

We have plenty of great looking raincoats, sun hats and whatnot today but I bet nearly everybody owns at least one umbrella. Men included, though they are usually a bit dull. To put it mildly. Black.

However, there are SOME exceptions. Have a look at these:

Genius, umbrella on the head

   Cat Character Umbrella             Umbrella with Electric Lights

 Cat character umbrella                                         Umbrella with lights

Photo electr. umbr. by courtesy of:

Other Ideas


Pixabay photo, Girl under a Mushroom

Pixabay photo: A fairy tale pic …

Umbrella-Dress, black

Reminds me very much of a bat. Now why’s that? But great idea anyway.

   Modern Palm Leaf Umbrella          Modern Umbrella Design, Slice of an Orange

Photos by courtesy of: and:

A modern version of a palm leaf umbrella and a fresh and fruity orange.

Daisy Design Umbrella                Bblue, green and pink hummingbird umbrella

       Daisy umbrella                                         Hummingbird umbrella

Photos by courtesy of:

  Tree Canopy Umbrella             Vegetable Umbrella

Tree canopy umbrella                                     Vegetable umbrella

Photos by courtesy of:

More botanical ideas! Daisies, gladioli, wheeping trees, salads: there is no end to colours and designs. Brilliant!

There are hand painted parasols with all sorts of designs including umbrellas with abstract paintings on them out there. See:  It is really well worth looking at them!!! Very entertaining!!


Yes, what is it with umbrellas? I can hardly stop looking at them. They are so unusual and beautiful.

Which one is the nicest? The most unusual? The most colourful? The most …?

Try and choose just one of them. It is close to impossible. Because they are so nice. That’s why people have them. Ah, and yes, they protect from rain. Nearly forgot that.

For more fantastic umbrella pictures:

or just visit my website for a browse:

4 thoughts on “Umbrellas – Shady Characters???

  1. Thanks for stopping by Art and Tulips. I love this post – I’ve loved umbrellas since I was a child and have had a wonderful collection of them. My current umbrella is a big one, black with butterflies. When I lived in a rainy city, I had a bright yellow umbrella and people would stop me and say it was like having the sun come out when they saw my umbrella. I’ll be back here.


  2. What an informative and well-written post with marvelous visuals. I love it! I thank you for liking my post and following my blog. I can see that we have much in common and look forward to reading more of your treasures!


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