(Mrs. Louis E. Raphael (Henriette Goldschmidt), John Singer Sargent, 1906, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Montgomery, Alabama)
Today we have the good fortune to gaze upon this lovely portrait of Henriette Goldschmidt.
It was painted by American artist, John Singer Sargent, around the year 1906.
There are obvious similarities between Walter McEwen's “A Woman of the Empire” and Henriette's image.
Both women are wearing highly fashionable gowns of their day.
Both are standing in front of large mirrored surfaces.
And both project images of quiet, refined elegance.
Yet there are defining differences as well.
Sargent has introduced large splashes of cool, silvery blues into his neutral palette
“A Woman of the Empire” is shown mostly in soft, subtle neutral tones.
In addition, McEwen's subject is not adorned with jewels of any kind.
Sargent's sitter, on the other hand, is glistening with white pearls and sparkling finger baubles.
Our woman of the empire stands with her back facing us, her viewers.
Henriette is looking straight at us although her body is positioned in a half turn.
Painter Sargent seems to have captured the essence of Henriette's personality.
By the way, he was known for having the ability to do just that!
We see a hint of a smile on Henriette's delicate face.
She fingers her pretty strand of pearls and gently grasps her silken wrap.
McEwen's model fingers the marble top of the pier table standing before her.
Henriette is shown leaning her right arm on the classically carved mantel of the fireplace.
Sargent has expertly represented Henriette's image in the mirror just as Walter McEwen did with his subject.
Both of these women present dual images to their viewers.
In each case, we see representations of their “real life” countenances.
And we are treated to images of their reflected glories as well.
Perhaps there is a message in that for each of us.
Beauty surrounds us on all sides.
But only if we take the time to truly see it.