Reserved - 19th-Century French School Portrait Of A Female Saint At Prayer

Reserved - 19th-Century French School Portrait Of A Female Saint At Prayer

A fine 19th-century French school portrait of a female saint at prayer. She’s wearing a green robe and looking up to the heavens with a tender expression.

The portrait is unsigned but clearly by an academy-trained hand. The details are exquisite, particularly around the face, and it has a touch of chiaroscuro, which references much older works.

Oftentimes, portraits of this nature are copies of renaissance or baroque originals but we’re unable to find another version. It’s also interesting to note the unconventional look of the subject - she’s beautiful but not in a traditional way (e.g. how an old master would envisage a female saint).

So with this in mind, perhaps the creator has been influenced by the approach of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood who were working around the same time. The Pre-Raphaelites shrugged off the conservative conventions of the past and sought to bring real-life into their creations. Modern figures were juxtaposed with ancient symbolism.

Alternatively, could this be a commission by someone seeking to reference their religious views? For example, in the 17th-century, Catherine of Braganza (1638-1705) was depicted as Saint Catherine by Jacob Huysmans (1633-1696) to reference her devotion to Catholicism.

We may never know the true story but this only adds another layer of intrigue and mystery to this beautifully rendered painting.

Medium Oil on canvas
Overall size 
23” x 29” / 59cm x 73cm
Year of creation c. 1870
Provenance France
Very presentable. Canvas relined and stretchers replaced.

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