|This image is more than twice the size of the original.|
One of our most treasured possessions is this miniature left to us by G's grandmother, Noni. It was painted in France in the 1830s by François Meuret, one of the preeminent miniaturists of the period; he did much work for the royal family, was "painter to the King" (Louis Philippe), and was later made a knight of the Légion d'honneur. If my research is correct - and I do believe it is - this is a portrait of Rosalba Faure née Gallien de Préval. Of a prosperous New Orleans family of French descent, she traveled to France in 1830 and a year later married Adolphe François Faure. They had two sons together and she and her sons later spent time in both countries. Her husband, a soldier, died in Greece in 1854 and she married again the next year. Her second husband, a New Orleans cotton merchant, fought with the Confederates in the Civil War, then moved to France when his service ended. Rosalba, his wife, died in Paris in 1865. This painting was passed down in the Faure family, then by marriage to the Cooke family; G's mother was born a Cooke. If I haven't skipped any generations - and I don't believe I have - Rosalba is G's great-great-great-great-grandmother.
|The crack on the left is not usually nearly as noticeable as it is here; the light was hitting it in a way that accentuated it.|
I think she's lovely. And maybe I'm deluding myself, but I think she looks rather like G; the dark hair and large brown eyes, the strong brows, the pale coloring and small mouth. The miniature is three inches by four. Watercolor on ivory. The ivory has cracked in two places, sadly, which is a very common circumstance with miniatures on ivory; luckily, the cracking doesn't impinge upon the subject's beautiful portrait. The miniature came to us in an impressive - and heavy - painted brass (?) frame. There is documentation that frame and portrait have been together since the year of Rosalba's death.
When we received it, aside from the not-really-repairable cracking, I was distressed that the slightly domed glass that covered the portrait was very dirty and clouded - on the inside - and was greatly obscuring the image. I carefully removed the miniature from the frame, but found that the glass was attached to the card-backed ivory with old - original, I presume - paper tape. Most of the tape was crumbled off and the glass lifted away from the image in many places. But it look to be stuck to the image in others, and I wasn't fool enough to attempt to separate the two. I then tried to find a conservator to work on the piece but wasn't successful in doing so. So it just remained in its tarnished state with me not knowing what to do about it.
We packed it very carefully when we moved. And then a few days ago, more than a month after that move, I was holding the framed image up to a wall in the dining room, wondering - if we could ever find a way to get it refurbished - where we might want to hang it. While doing so, I thought I saw the glass move. And then, yes, it was obvious that the glass wasn't attached any longer; it apparently came loose on its own. For the first time, we're now able to see just how lovely the image is, to fully appreciate the quality of Meuret's work. I've since cleaned the glass and can now place the miniature back in the frame. With this unexpected "healing" of her portrait, beautiful Rosalba seems to have decided that she needs to have her impressive portrait properly on view once more, she's reminding us that she should be remembered and admired.
|I love the detail on her scarf; are the shiny circles woven into the silk, or are they embroidery? Or sequins?|