Jean_marc_nattier_-_madame_anne_henriette_de_france

A Picture in the Room

A distinguished writer has said somewhere of the portrait of a beautiful female, with a noble countenance, that it seems as if an unhandsome action would be impossible in its presence.

Most men of any refinement of soul must have felt the truth and force of this sentiment. We have often thought that the picture of a beloved mother or devoted wife, hung up in the room where we spend our leisure hours, must certainly excite a mighty influence over the feelings and thoughts.

Cowper’s picture of his mother was a living presence, whose speaking countenance and beaming eye appealed, as no living mortal could, to his inmost soul, and stirred its profoundest depths.

But what is it that gives this power to the inanimate resemblance of departed ones? Their virtues, their moral graces and excellencies, as remembered by the affectionate survivor.

It may seem an odd thought, but we cannot help suggesting it to every female reader— to every sister, wife, and mother— that it is a worthy ambition for each of them to labor to be, both now and when dead, that picture in the house before which vice shall stand abashed, confounded, and in whose presence every virtuous and manly heart shall glow with every honorable and lofty sentiment, and be irresistibly urged to the love of goodness and truth.

Godey’s Lady’s Book— Louis Antoine Godey began publishing Godey’s Lady’s Book in 1830. He designed his monthly magazine specifically to attract the growing audience of literate American women. The magazine was intended to entertain, inform, and educate the women of America.

Image details: This painting belongs to a set of four portraits of the daughters of Louis XV of France, symbolizing the four elements (Mesdames de France). The paintings, ordered by Louis XV in 1749 to decorate the south wing of the Palace of Versailles, were executed by Nattier between 1750 and 1751.

All images included in blog posts are from either Accessible Archives collections or out of copyright public sources unless otherwise noted. Common sources include the Library of Congress, The Flickr Commons, Wikimedia Commons, and other public archives.

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