L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i



Saturday, November 21, 2015

A member of the family - Rosalba Faure, a miniature by François Meuret


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?





24 comments:

  1. From hand to hand...what a fabulous account of where this tiny portrait has been! Love that it is at home with you and Gigi - so much appreciated.

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  2. What a lovely family heirloom to have!

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    1. And it certainly doesn't dull my elitist inclinations to know that there are almost ten Meurets in the Royal Collection, including two gorgeous full-length miniatures of Louis-Philippe and Marie Amélie by Meuret after portraits by my dear Winterhalter. Oh, yes, Elizabeth II and I have so much in common.... ; )

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  3. That's some waistline - must be where we Cooke girls got it....

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  4. What a treasure and it could not be in a home where it will be more loved and appreciated than with you and Gigi.

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  5. I am in the process of researching my family history and learned several months ago that my great great grandmother Eugenie (Jane) and her mother were owned by Rosalba Preval Faure during slavery. I would appreciate any additional information you may have regarding the period my ancestors lived with the Prevals/Faures. I am overjoyed to have accidentally run across your blog and profusely thank you! Claudette Carrida Jeffrey nola1934@att.net

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    1. Hello, Claudette. So wonderful to hear from you. We know very, very little about Rosalba and the Préval family; I pieced together what little I was able to find, some of it in French, which I read (poorly). But I did come across disturbing information about a Eugénie who'd been owned - awful to use that word! - by the Préval family. This is probably something you've already read:

      Eugénie Smith petitions for her freedom. Eugénie represents that she was born of a slave belonging to Galien Préval and was raised in Préval’s house. In 1830, she was taken to France by Préval’s daughter, Rosalba Faure, wife of Adolphe Faure, and another woman named Fillette Raynal. She remained for several years in France, where she traveled as a free person with a passport delivered to her by the Consul of the United States. She claims that, by virtue of her having been taken to and resided in a country where slavery is not tolerated, she is now a free person. She charges, however, that she has been “illegally & wrongfully” detained in slavery since her return to New Orleans by Préval and the two women. She therefore prays to be decreed free. She also prays for an order directing Préval and the two women to return her furniture and clothes. – 1844

      Is this the Eugenie you speak of? (Ironically, my wife Gigi's actual name is Eugenia; as I mentioned, it's Gigi who's Rosalba's descendant.)

      I'll email you and we can see if there's any other information we have to share with each other. Thank you again for commenting here. Sometimes the internet is really quite marvelous!

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  6. I have read this several times and it is so exciting!! Mom( Noni) knew what she was doing when she gave this to you and Gigi!! I'm so happy to read all that you have researched and the contact with Claudette Jeffries...to think we could very well be related is amazing ( I wish the part about
    Being owned were different ..but it's just so exciting to have had Claudette Jeffries see your blog and contact you! I friended her on Facebook too...she is so interesting ... Lucy has read two of them....and I awaiting mine to arrive!!
    I LOVE that you found all of this information and it's like a door opening ..who knows what else we may learn about Rosalba and other family!!
    I keep wanting to call mom... ( I do that all the time....want to call mom and tell her about something) And Dad would be absolutely involved and delighted with this.discovery!!!❤️❤️

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    1. I so loved reading this, Kathy! Yes, it's all so fascinating. And it just feels like such an amazingly - direct - connection with history. All of you have always so made me feel a part of the family, and now this - somehow - makes me feel like I'm - literally - a member of the family, I feel so attached to Rosalba and the Faures. And now... Claudette has, like you said, opened another door into this past. : )

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  7. What a wonderful and beautiful portrait miniature! I collect miniatures on ivory. You are very lucky to have one from the family. It's so nicely done and in it's original frame. The frame was most likely gold plated brass. If I were you I would take the miniature and glass out and try to clean a small portion of the frame with ammonia and toothbrush to see if the black will come off the frame.

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    1. Thank you, Andrew! If I find myself brave enough, I'll try what suggest with the frame. : )

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  8. Was Rosalba the daughter of Paul François Gallien de Préval ? I came upon this page when looking for infos on his life, particularly after he arrived in New Orleans : I found a trace of him as a 13 year-old in the archives I curate.

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    1. That is my understanding. We have her father as Paul François Gallien de Préval (1790, Saint Domingue - 1855, New Orleans), and her mother as Louise Laurence Duverger (1784 - 1810?) - though I'm unable to be certain of any of those dates or places. I'm very curious as to your interest and in the archives you curate, and in the reference to the 13 year old Paul François. As you no doubt have read above, Claudette Jeffrey is a descendant of a slave owned by the Préval family and has also been doing research. Our difficult history....

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  9. I first found mention of Paul François G. de P. and his older brother Charles François in a registry of the students of the botany lessons in the Museum national d'Histoire naturelle, Paris, for the year 1794. This is where I work, and I have made a hobby of identifying those students (several hundreds of them).
    The basis of my knowledge about the Préval brothers comes from this article : http://www.persee.fr/doc/annor_0003-4134_2007_num_57_1_1602 and a mail exchange with the author : they were born to a wealthy and well connected French family in Saint-Domingue, more precisely Petite Rivière de l'Artibonite; their mother's maiden name was Raynal ; the family moved to Santiago da Cuba when the revolutionary troubles came to Saint-Domingue ; the older brother Charles settled there while Paul François eventually came to New Orleans, after marrying Louise Laurence Duverger in Santiago da Cuba. There is a maybe third brother mentioned (confusingly named François Paul) which I believe was actually an uncle and had a military career in France.
    I found the baptism certificates for both brothers in French archives online, in 1778 for Charles and 1780 for Paul François. I also found mentions of Paul François Gallien Préval's properties in New Orleans here : http://www.hnoc.org/vcs/result-handlers/name2lots.php?party=4348. He also was some kind of magistrate there.
    And finally I came upon this lovely portrait of Rosalba.
    How wonderful that the small written traces of these people were kept by these various authorities, parish priests, notaries, surveys, law courts, to be published on the internet and reunited to paint a story not only about him but also about Eugenie Smith, the woman brave enough to sue her owner for her freedom.
    Knowing the exact date of death for Paul François would tie it up nicely for me.

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  10. I forgot to mention the story of Paul François' son Theodore, who was killed in a duel, but I assume you know about it, as the Stephen Faure who tells it here : http://www.insidenorthside.com/200-years-of-history-the-cabildo-in-new-orleans/ would be related to Gigi.
    Also some letters of François Paul Gallien Preval were published in newspapers, as cited here : http://tinyurl.com/z35pmmc

    And here is the record of Rosalba's mariage : http://tinyurl.com/jn4aw9a. There's only an index card, because all Paris civil records burned in 1870.

    All in all, they left quite a trail...

    Florence [dot] Tessier @ mnhn.fr

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    1. All this is fantastic! Thank you so much, Florence. I can't wait to follow all those links - so here I go! : )

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    2. Alright, then! I had already read the text of the first link, "Les Normands à Santiago de Cuba", struggling through with my poor French. (And I mis-typed Paul François' birth date as 1790; indeed I have it as 1780.) The link to Rosalba's marriage record didn't seem to match, not the correct names; I couldn't figure out the site to try to search for it on my own. And - no - I did not know about Theodore and the duel! (And we must contact Stephen Faure, the author, as it would seem he's a relative of my wife.) Doing the math, Theodore would have to have been born in late 1806 or 1807 - so he must have been Paul François and Louise Laurence Duverger's first child, Charles François, who was born in the autumn of 1807. Could it be that like his sister - Madeleine Isabelle Françoise Rosalba, but she went by the last of her names - Charles François went by another of his names? The texts refer to Theodore as Judge Gallien de Préval's son, and he couldn't have had another son born the same year....

      Thank you so much for the information. All so interesting. : )

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    3. I figured out how to find the marriage record after all - wonderful!

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  11. I am so happy to have pointed you towards Stephen Faure, and considering his interest in history, he will be thrilled to see the portrait of his great-great-great-grandmother ! I can't stop contemplating it, and showing it to everyone around me, it's really a beautiful portrait. I also struck me that Rosalba's name (White rose) seems an echo of the botanical lessons of young Paul François.
    We would need to see the baptism registry to be sure that Theodore is another name of the Charles François born in 1807, but you must be right about that.

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    1. This has been so exciting for my wife and me; I was so happy to be able to show her the marriage record of her great-great-etc.-grandparents. And, yes, we hope we can make contact with Stephen Faure. : )

      So, you came across Paul François and his brother as being students of botany in Paris in 1794? A very odd time to send two teenage boys to France, with the "Terror" still in progress. Do you have any other information about their time there?

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  12. Yes, the times were troubled, but I don't know since when they were in France, or if they were staying with friends or relatives (noble thus in danger) or in a boarding school (probably safer, though they were very desorganized or closed). They registered themselves as "students in the humanities" for those public botany lessons that had just reopened in the newly created Museum. I have no other information than their names (as Preval, they left out the "Gallien de" not much in fashion at the time), "student in the humanities" and their address in Paris rue Bordet.
    They didn't register the following year, and I do wonder if they kept an interest in botany. Charles did became a plantation owner, so I suppose some of it came handy.

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    1. So, so interesting. Thank you again!

      Oh, and I see that the rue Bordet became the rue Descartes in 1809 - so it wasn't too distant from where they had their botany lessons.)

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