Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Black and Gold

In contrast to the charming Dalton miniature of Queen Louise-Marie, we have this rather grim portrait of her husband, King Leopold I. I like the contrast between the black and the gold. The portrait also aptly conveys Leopold's melancholy in later life, as described by Charlotte Brontë in her novel, Villette, inspired by her experiences in Belgium:
Well do I recall that King—a man of fifty, a little bowed, a little gray ; there was no face in all that assembly which resembled his. I had never read, never been told anything of his nature or his habits : and at first the strong hieroglyphics graven as with iron stylet on his brow, round his eyes, beside his mouth, puzzled and baffled instinct. Ere long, however, if I did not know, at least I felt, the meaning of those characters written without hand. There sat a silent sufferer—a nervous, melancholy man...
Some might say it was the foreign crown pressing the King's brows which bent them to that peculiar and painful fold; some might quote the effects of early bereavement. Something there might be of both these, but these as embittered by that darkest foe of humanity—constitutional melancholy.

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