Sunday, 4 March 2012

A Tale of Two Georgian Mourning Portrait Miniatures

'When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure'
- Author Unknown

These two historical portrait miniatures belonged to the Hechler Family of Strasbourg, with the original order label fixed on the backing dated 1810 for Fr Hechler. On one of the miniatures in neat cursive script (by none other than the child portrayed in the miniature) in French & loosely translates into the following; My mother had a whim of character which she displayed sometimes when we visited the cemetery together. I was little more than one year of age, she showed me the tomb and tried to make me understand that was where my father slept. Le Papa.

The wife of the deceased sits, pointing to the tomb of her husband clutching her young child to her, J F Hechler is inscribed on the tombstone with the elegant boughs of the weeping willow framing the scene around them. This particular miniature has been painstakingly created with the macerated hair of the deceased, quite often, these sepia pieces often included the hair of the deceased which (in my opinion) only adds to the sentiment of the miniature.

Le Papa

The second miniature is equally as beautiful, with the mourning widow inscribing a dedication on the trunk of the willow to her husband. Inscribed on the tomb, in German is: God clears the way for those with a clear conscience and loosely the translation of the inscription on the trunk is: Follow God.

The exquisite detail and sepia toning in these two miniatures is superb, the face of the bereaved woman resolute with grief, the poor bemused child clinging to the mother in reassurance. The provenance is quite rare (German) as generally most surviving pieces are English or French and even rarer that these are two pieces survived from the same family, a highly unusual example of hair mourning art, exquisite nonetheless.

During the Georgian Period, death was a constant and the medical knowledge at the time lacking (to say the least); pieces such as these miniatures served as a comfort & treasured keepsake, illustrative of their respect and adoration for their lost loved one, containing something of the essence of the person incorporating a lock of their hair, a precious item that could be kept close as a constant memory (Memento Mori (trans. Remember you must die) a constant symbol throughout Georgian period mourning jewellery & Art).

These two miniatures only emphasise my passion for the Georgian Period, they are beautiful examples of a time where loved ones were immortalised in treasured keepsakes. 

1 comment:

  1. These are beautiful pieces. What a magnificient way to remember/honour the dead. I am especially fond of the top one (mother and child at tomb).
    ~S. xo