Watercolor on ivory in a gold locket frame
Framed: 7.5 x 6.6 cm (2 15/16 x 2 5/8 in.); Unframed: 6.3 x 5.4 cm (2 1/2 x 2 1/8 in.)
The Edward B. Greene Collection 1953.322
Without DNA analysis it is impossible to know to whom the hair belonged, though the most likely candidate is Louis-Philippe himself.
Louis-Philippe (1773–1850, king of the French 1830–48) was the son of Louis-Philippe Joseph, duc d’Orléans, who was known as Philippe-Egalité during the French Revolution. The Orléans family was a branch of the House of Bourbon. This work was painted while Louis-Philippe was in exile and living in England from 1800 until 1815, when Napoleon abdicated. He finally succeeded Charles X as king of France in 1830. During the February Revolution of 1848, Louis-Philippe was again forced into exile in England where he died two years later.
Richard Cosway had painted Louis-Philippe (as well as his siblings and father) when the family was in England immediately following the outbreak of revolution in 1789. Louis-Philippe would have been thirty-one years old when this work was executed. He wears the Order of the Holy Spirit, a chivalric order of the French monarchy, which can be distinguished by its white dove surrounded by green flames at the center of a Maltese cross, with fleur-de-lis between the arms of the cross.
Instead of the brilliant turquoise and white cloud background traditionally associated with Cosway, this miniature has the more restrained, gray, hatched background that characterizes the artist’s later works. The surface of the work is much marred by an irreversible crystallization of the paint layer that further emphasizes the gray tones throughout. The form of the unmarked case is typically English, but the motif is French, which may indicate a French goldsmith imitating the English style. The motif resembles a swan composed of foliate scrolls. A lock of plaited brown hair is also enclosed under glass within the locket, facing the miniature.
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