A 19thC French School Oil on Canvas Portrait of an Elderly Lady in Mourning c.1870-80

Origin: French
Period: 2nd Empire
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1870-80
The Canvas: 22.75” high x 17.25” wide
In Frame: 26.25” high x 21.25” wide x 1.5” deep

The half-length portrait of an elderly French lady, being a widow in mourning, looking out to the viewer, painted in oils on canvas on a fern coloured ground, the sitter shown in a black gown with scarlet flowers and trim, a black lace bonnet and wearing two wedding rings, the work presented in its original gilt gesso moulded frame, and surviving from the third quarter of nineteenth century France in attic condition.

The picture remains in original though poor and unrestored condition with no over-painting or restoration and a good deal of craquelure and paint fleck loss to the surface; with marks and dirt to the surface remaining uncleaned; please refer to the photographs for a visual reference. It is loose on its stretcher. The original frame is very decorative with a good patina.

As with the ‘selfie’ today, portraits were also a chance for more self-conscious sitters to be depicted in the latest fashions. In the eighteenth century, the upper classes entered a new era of prosperity. No longer the preserve of royalty, commissioned portraits, of oneself or one’s ancestors, became a coveted symbol of wealth and status which continued even more so in the nineteenth century. The portraits took pride of place in the home, or were given to others as gifts.

The subdued palette here, the dress being largely in black; and the translucent quality of her face, all suggest mourning. She is wearing two wedding rings which also suggest that she has her former husbands on her right hand with her hands being shown prominently.

A poignant reminder of the way that loss of a loved one was once handled.