19th Century European Paintings Gallery Level 2, NGV International
Baronne Madeleine Deslandes (1866–1929) was an accomplished novelist who moved in literary and artistic circles in Paris. She was hostess of a busy salon that attracted many Symbolist artists, poets and composers, such as Gabriel Fauré, Jean Lorrain, Robert de Montesquiou, Jules Bois and Oscar Wilde. A firm enthusiast for the English Pre-Raphaelite style, and a particular advocate of Edward Burne-Jones’s art in France, the Baronne had lobbied the artist, a somewhat reluctant portraitist, to create her likeness during a visit she made to England in 1893. The Baronne perceived herself as something of a visionary, and Burne-Jones has made reference to this self-awareness by placing a laurel tree (a traditional emblem of prophecy) behind her, and a crystal ball on her lap. This may also account for the formal qualities of this work – the rather rigid pose of the sitter and her very serious, inwardly reflective and sensitive facial expression.