This beguiling portrait of a young woman in mourning is thought to be over one-hundred and fifty years old. The piece is an exceptional example of a traditional Victorian portrait in which the sitter honours the moral concept of 'momento mori', meaning "remember you will die". Re-popularised by Queen Victoria upon the death of her beloved husband, Prince Albert in 1861, it was not uncommon for portraits to depict sitters in various stages of mourning. Here, the young woman bears a small portrait on her brooch in addition to her dark clothing--a small yet poignant way to honour a lost loved one and remember one's own mortality.
A closer look at the stretcher bars of the painting, baring the stamp of ‘Reeves & Sons’, helped our restorer to deduce both the artist’s London location and the approximate timeframe in which the portrait was completed; roughly, the mid to late 19th century.
Having arrived at the gallery with multiple small tears, extensive moisture damage and a century’s worth of dirt and grime ingrained on its surface, this particular restoration required a number of treatments in order to turn back the clock and restore the painting to its former glory. These included a full-clean, patches to small tears, retouching, new stretcher bars and re-stretching of the canvas.