Anonymous, Woman with Flowers.
18th century, Material oil on canvas.
Villa La Pietra.
And now for an 18th century tale of love, separation and death! Gentle reader, this may upset your sensibilities, but the case of Gabrielle de Launay was brought to the High Court of Paris, and sparked a great public interest. I would love to hear what you think of this one.
The story begins in the mid 18th century, with the beautiful Gabrielle de Launay, daughter of M. de Launay. At just 18 years old, she was not only beautiful and elegant but also in love. She was betrothed to Captain Maurice de Serres, and the couple were very fond of each other. The wedding was to be a happy affair and just before all was to take place, Maurice de Serres was called away to India for duty.
Fearing that he would lose his beloved daughter, or worse, she would not survive the trip, M. de Launay postponed the marriage until the Captain's safe return to Paris. Both young lovers were devastated at her father's decision, and with tears and broken hearts, they parted.
Norry, Croquis de l'Église de St Roch, 1787.
Two long years passed before word was sent to Paris that Maurice de Serres had died while in India. Anxious that his daughter should marry, for she was now twenty years old, he arranged a match with a M. du Bourg. He was much older than Gabrielle (nearly 30 years) and a lawyer, who had both money and reputation.
Five years later, a man arrived in Paris, Captain Maurice de Serres, his death, as it turned out, had falsely been reported. Shortly after his arrive he passed the church of San Roch, where a grand funeral service was being held. He made inquiries as any curious party might, to discover the tragic funeral was for a young and beautiful lady, no older than 25.
Richard Wilson, Head of a man. Drawing.
Victoria and Albert Museum.
She has fallen ill and laid sick for two days before perishing. She was Madame du Bourg, née de Launay! After making more inquiries he discovered this Gabrielle was his very own, and she had fallen ill two days ago resulting in a sudden death. His heart sunk.
That night, the young captain, crazed with grief, approached the sexton of the cemetery. He offered a large amount of gold, if he would exhume the recently buried box, only so that he could see his love's features one last time. Unable to resist the bribe, the sexton agreed, and when they unearthed the coffin, they broke the locks to open it....