The Long-Lost Painting

Two years ago, I was lucky enough to see an exhibit of John Everett Millais at the Tate Britain Museum. I didn’t know any of Millais’s work except for Ophelia. I enjoyed all the paintings and wanted to buy one of the books with all the paintings in it. Of course, that was way too expensive for a poor student, so I got postcards instead, which were ideal and made a pretty collage on my wall.

One of my favorite paintings was Hearts in Trumps. I believe that the description under the painting noted that Millais had based his painting off an early painting of a group of three women–I remembered that factoid but couldn’t remember what the original painting was and who painted it. I was sure, though, that the original was painted in the 18th century and was therefore of interest to me.

I’ve been looking casually for month, trying to find the painting. Today I hit upon gold: I found the painting. It’s The Ladies Waldegrave by Joshua Reynolds.  Instead of playing cards like in the Millais portrait, the ladies in this painting are sewing (they have their “work” in front of them).

What relevance does this have to the Affair of the Dimond Necklace? Well, nothing except that it is a beautiful painting from the time period in question. It shoes the laides’ hair, makeup, and clothing, and it shows them during their leisure time. Most women of the time spent hour upon hour sewing and embroidering. Ladies made fantastic works of art. Some women liked it, some did not, but almost every woman did it. Even the most elite ladies did fine needlework to pass the time.

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