An Early 19thC Finely Carved & Painted Pine Figure of a Lady in Mourning c.1800-30

Origin: French
Period: Empire / Restauration
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1800-30
Height: 32”
Width: 10.5”
Depth: 10.5” (all at extremities)

The large and beautifully carved and painted timeworn figure of a lady in mourning wearing a shrouded cloak and gown, the hood covering her eyes with her hair flowing beneath, her hands holding a wreath of laurel leaves representing the circle of eternal life, the whole in the original beautiful silver green, with a rectangular cavity to the reverse and standing on an integral square base surviving from early nineteenth century France and an unknown cemetery.

The condition of the whole is pleasing with a good even spread of weathering commensurate with exposure to the elements giving her an evocative all round character and colour; we suspect she was part of a larger composition and would have been part sheltered in a niche setting. There are small chips and losses, with one section absent from the left arm; please view all of the photographs for a full visual reference. The cavity to the reverse would prove to be good place to hide secret or valuable possessions.

The quality to the carving here is high with the drapery in particular with a superb fluidity. It’s not that often at all that one sees period monuments available for sale, for obvious reasons. This monument would have been commemorating the death of a well-loved and socially important person in France at the time.

Indeed, anything draped tends to indicate mourning and the drape can also be an allusion to the 'veil' between this world and the next. The drape can also stand for the protective nature of God over the dead and their remains, until the Resurrection occurs.

The symbolism of wreaths has been used at funerals since at least the time of Ancient Greece, to represent a circle of eternal life. Evergreen wreaths were laid at the burial place of early Christian virgin martyrs in Europe, the evergreen representing the victory of the eternal spirit over death. In early modern europe, a wreath custom existed for the funerals of "young maidens". A young woman of the same age as the one being mourned would lead the funeral procession, carrying a wreath of white flowers to represent the purity of the deceased, and "that eternal crown of glory reserved for her in heaven".

A wonderfully poignant and mysterious piece and a powerful decorating element.