Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Ivory Relief of Mrs Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell (1810 - 1865) 1865c.

Jacques-Pierre-Theodore Blard 

Ivory Relief of Mrs Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell (1810 - 1865), Jacques-Pierre-Theodore Blard
19th Century
3 inches 76mm long
When Elizabeth Gaskell died in 1865 The Athenaeum described her as if not the most popular, with small question, the most powerful and finished female novelist of an epoch singularly rich in female novelists. Although posterity has weakened this judgement, the revolutionary social realism of her novels such as North and South and Wives and Daughters still finds an enthusiastic readership. To her contemporaries she was an often-shocking phenomenon, and her willingness to cast fallen women as protagonists in her novels - themes rehearsed, for example, in Mary Barton - was a novelty that offended and disturbed. This was to her purpose: after her marriage in 1832 to William Gaskell, a Unitarian clergyman, she was preoccupied by the conditions of the poor among whom her husband and she worked in Manchester. Her best known work at the time is her biography of Chalotte Bronte, which went almost at opnce into a third edition, a testament both to its popularity and to the editing required by law in the treatment of a subject so controversial and so recently dead.

The popularity of literary lionesses in the mid-nineteenth century may account for the existence of this ivory and the similar portrait of Mrs Browning (Historical Portraits q.v.). Not only was London in awe of these formidable and accomplished women, but it may also be that the more outrageous life of George Sand (1804 - 1876) had made women writers intriguing and fashionable figures. Blard worked in a number of media, including sculpting in bronze, but he came from the tradition of the Dieppois ivoiriers. The Blards form a dynasty, as Theodore was the son of Jacques-Nicolas Blard (born 1796) and the grandson of the craftsman known simply as Blard l'ancien.
Philip Mould Ltd, 18-19 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5LU.Copyright Philip Mould Ltd.