7/20/2008

Portrait of the week - Lady with the Rose (Charlotte Louise Burckhardt)

This painting was done in 1882 by John Singer Sargent. The lady in question was Charlotte Louise Burckhardt who, along with the rest of her family, featured on many of Sargent’s paintings, while he was working in Paris. The painting was dedicated to Mrs. Burckhardt and exhibited at the Salon of 1882 with the title ‘Mlle ***’. Henry James, the author, considered it one of Sargent’s best.

When Charlotte sat, or more exactly stood, for this portrait she was about 20 years old, being born in 1862. It has been proposed that both the choice of colouring and the pose of the lady were inspired by the Spanish painter
Velázquez, whose work Sargent had seen a few years earlier. Having heard that it is easy to believe it when viewing the painting. The figure of the woman is impressive and the dark dress, of the latest cut of course, is very dramatic. It is somewhat in contrast with the more prosaic look in the woman’s face when showing the rose to the viewer.

Scholars studying Sargent suspects that the two had a love affair at the time of the painting. They did not end up together though; instead Charlotte married an Englishman called Alfred Roger Ackerley in 1889. She became ill just a couple of years later, probably from tuberculosis. She died in 1892, just 30 years old.


The painting was donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, by Mrs. Valerie B. Hadden in 1932. Valerie was Charlotte’s sister.

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