French School, 18th-Century Portrait Of A Lady Holding A Posy

French School, 18th-Century Portrait Of A Lady Holding A Posy

A wonderfully charismatic 18th-century portrait of a lady holding a posy. She’s wearing a beautiful cerulean, almost teal, dress along with several items of jewellery.

Her necklace features an inverted cross, which could relate to the Cross of Saint Peter. This is traditionally a symbol adopted by the Christian church, which is interesting as, during the 18th-century, France was predominantly Catholic. Its origins relate to the fact that Peter the Apostle was crucified upside down as he felt unworthy to be crucified in the same manner as Jesus.

Alternatively, the cross could refer to the Petrine Cross, which is used in Catholicism to reflect that the Pope is the successor of Peter as Bishop of Rome. Either way, the sitter would have certainly been aware of the item’s religious connotations.

Her flowers are also likely to carry symbolic overtones and these need further research. During the latter part of the 18th-century, floriography (the language of flowers) was a popular topic of conversation. It was introduced in around 1720 and resulted in several books being written on the subject. The significance of every flower was meticulously described and ladies were keen to demonstrate their understanding by carefully curating their posies.

The portrait is housed within a carved 18th-century frame that’s possibly its original and a label on the reverse refers to Venables Fine Arts of Washington. There are also chalk marks relating to New York - probably an auction.

Medium: Oil on canvas laid on wood
Overall size: 31” x 38” / 78cm x 97cm
Year of creation: c. 1760
Provenance: England
Condition: The canvas has been restored at least once and is currently laid on wood. The paint has craquelure throughout with some flaking and losses in the lower left but it seems fairly stable. Frame with age-related wear and signs of old worm (which is what you expect to see in frames from this period).

Conservation & History

We care profoundly about our role as custodians and every piece in the collection has been assessed by our conservator. When required, we undertake professional restoration carefully using reversible techniques and adopt a light touch to retain the aged charm of each work. We also restore frames rather than replace them as many are original and selected by the artists themselves.

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