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Pearls, Coral, Royal Patronage and Cross-Dressing Page Boys

Submitted by afrocentric on Sun, 18/11/2018 - 01:40

Young Negress in Pierre Mignard's portrait of Louise Keroualle

Young Negress offering coral and pearls to the Duchess of Portsmouth

Something about Pierre Mignard's painting of Louise de Keroualle featuring the negro girl has never sat well with me.

To put it blankly, it seems that the painter didn't care much about expressing her femininity,with her hair so short, uncoiffed and not wearing earrings (for us Africans, girls have to wear earrings). Well the mystery seems to have been solved. It is really about the pearls and coral she profers to Louise de Keroualle.

Philippe and his wife Henrietta Anne (Charles II's sister) were both associated with coral in their paintings. Philippe is portrayed in a painting by Henri Gissee as a coral fisherman, shown below.

Philippe, Duke of Orleans portrayed as a coral fisherman, by Henri Gissee

Philippe, Duke of Orleans as a coral fisherman

The painting featuring Henrietta is one I came across a long time ago. I didn't understand its relevance to this topic, but haven't seen again since then, which for me is pretty unusual. It features the French royal family at some kind of banquet. Henriette is looking to her side with some coral in her hand. To be honest I can't be sure if the caption said it was her, but I feel certain it was her.

Now on to the clincher. It is Jean Nocret's painting of French royal family, titled Louis XIV and the royal family created in 1670

French Royal Family as Greek Deities with Louis XIV as Apollo, by Jean Nocret, 1670

French Royal Family as Greek Deities, by Jean Nocret 1670

On the left side is Henrietta Marie (Charles II's mother) offering pearls and coral to her nephew Philippe, who has his wife Henrietta of England standing behind him and his daughter Marie Louise at his knee.

The adults in this closeup are the persons whose patronage is expressed in the form of the girl proferring the coral and jewels to Louise Keroualle.

Close up of coral and pearl in Henrietta Maria's hand, French royal family (Jean Nocret, 1670)

Close up of coral and pearl in Henrietta Maria's hand

Surprisingly young Marie Louise's person may also expressed in the form of the girl, given that she was a young girl when Louise Keroualle was in the service of her mother Henrietta of England. There is also the matter of that surprising detail in the painting where she lies in state, the one by Sebastian Munoz. Was that an error, an act of vandalism, or could it (in the Afrocentric view) be that Philippe couldn't bear to her see in a form other than that in which he knew her ,her sudden and early death mirroring that of her mother Henrietta of England? The single strand of pearls around the girls neck mirrors an earlier painting of Marie Louise with her father in which she is framed in garland of roses held by an angel, also by Pierre Mignard.

Louise de Kerouaille, Duchess of Portsmouth, with young black girl, leaning on her lap offering her pearls and coral - by Pierre Mignard

Louise de Kerouaille, Duchess of Portsmouth, by Pierre Mignard

This post is not supposed to end on a sad note. The show must go on. On the matter of cross dressing princes, who is depicted in the painting below of Elizabeth Charlotte of Orleans? Most of the paintings of wifes, daughters and mistresses of these kings and dukes feature page boys rather than page girls. Shouldn't we consider the possibility that in this case we may be dealing with an unusual boy, a boy whose taste in clothing was so outrageous and flamboyant that he would put Liberace to shame? I read somewhere that he even rode into battle fully decked out, and refused to wear a helmet because it would ruin his coiffure.

If what he is wearing on his head is what I think it is, then he may have triggered a series of tiara competitions among his female descendants which has lasted to this very day.

 at Wedding

Fleur of Württemberg

I apologize for being such a hopeless romantic, but I can't resist reposting my favourite bridal photo.

Fleur of Württemberg, make up being touched up

retouching her make up

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