This delightful antique miniature portrait of the pretty young Comtesse di Folleville seated at her harp. Of watercolor on elephant ivory and enhanced with a silver gilt frame, the portrait depicts the young lady seated at her harp, dressed in a billowy pink gown, with hair fashionably powdered. The hallmarked frame is backed with the original silk, and the painting is signed lower right (appears to be the name Delaurent) and covered with glass. Dimensions: 3-1/2 x 2-1/2 inches.
For those who don't know, the Comtesse di Folleville is portrayed in Rossini's opera, The Barber of Seville, as flighty and fashion-obsessed. Condition is excellent.
Antique miniature paintings as an art form have been around for 450 years in Europe and about 250 years in America. Before the age of photography, beautifully painted portrait miniatures were commissioned by friends and families as remembrances of loved ones. They were carried as a reminder during travel, and were given on occasions such as births, engagements, weddings, and going off to war, and in memorial for those who had died. Portrait miniatures were carried around in the hand for private viewings, or in the nineteenth century were displayed on the wall or on a bureau for more public viewings. The connection between the subject and the viewer was usually intimate, so miniatures were the most personal form of portraiture.
In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, artists meticulously cross-hatched and stippled strokes of watercolor onto vellum backed by a playing card. In the eighteenth century, ivory became the medium upon which miniatures were painted. The ivory was painstakingly scraped, blotted, dried and scored to help the watercolor pigment, mixed with water or gum arabic---to adhere to the surface. Ivory's wonderful translucent quality enlivens the features of the sitter as no other medium can.
Portrait miniatures were not signed as a rule, and the artists who painted them also painted landscapes and larger sized portraits. But certain miniaturist painters are known and sought after, and sitters whose identity is known are especially desirable, such as this countess.
By the mid-nineteenth century with the advent of photography, the miniatureâ€™s popularity had waned.