Saturday, January 31, 2015

Madame de Guiche and her Daughter Appear at Night Before the Artist in Prison by Armand de Polignac

Now that's a title.  Grabbed me for a couple of reasons.  I came across this painting while looking for another.  Why everyone isn't fascinated by 18th century France is a mystery to me!  What more do you people want?!  There are thousands of intriguing angles to consider and characters to research.

I know the bare minimum about the artist, Armand de Polignac, but add him to the long list of people I want to learn about.  I pretty much only knew he was the duchesse de Polignac's son, and that he'd served the Bourbon monarchy after the Revolution.  I didn't know he was an artist until I stumbled on his painting, Madame de Guiche and her Daughter Appear at Night Before the Artist in Prison.  (Nor did I know that one of his son's fought on the side of the Confederacy during the American Civil War as stated on Wiki.  I wonder how that came about.)

Armand's mother, the duchesse de Polignac, was arguably Marie Antoinette's closest friend - not her most loyal friend, mind you.  That title goes to the princesse de Lamballe.  The duchesse and her family benefitted from Marie Antoinette's largesse to the point that it caused resentment among the courtiers and ultimately contributed to the unpopularity of the Queen and the eventual downfall of the entire monarchy.  That's a wild simplification, but true all the same.  The benefits of her friendship with the Queen were many and included that Yolande de Polignac was appointed the Governess to the Children of France, her husband was made a duc, then the First Equerry, etc., etc..  

Aglaé de Polinac

Because of the close friendship between Marie Antoinette and their mother, Armand and his siblings, including his only sister, Aglaé, were born at Versailles.  Aglaé's marriage to the duc de Guiche was made when she was (need I say, "only"?) twelve.  She was known as Guichette.  

Now to the point of this post...  The encapsulated version of his path:  Armand emigrated from France, with his family, at the beginning of the Revolution. He later returned to France, was implicated in a plot to kill Napoleon, thrown in the Temple Prison, in 1804.  His life was later spared after his wife threw herself at the feet Napoleon appealing for mercy for her husband. His sister, Aglaé, died in a house fire in Scotland, in 1803, the year before Armand was imprisoned in the Temple.

Did Aglaé, Madame de Guiche, as the title of his painting suggests, appear to her brother, Armand, at night, in his Temple prison cell?  

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