BONHEUR Rosa - Autograph Letter Signed to Jeanne Mathilde Herbelin
Rosa BONHEUR (1822-1899)
Autograph Letter Signed (“R Bonheur”) to “Chere Madame” [identified in the text as the artist Jeanne Mathilde Herbelin], apologizing that she will not be able to accept her invitation, explaining that she must go to Thomery that morning.
2½ pages 8vo in French, n.p., n.d.
Trans: “I had hoped to visit you this evening to tell you in person how much I regret being unable to go tomorrow at your kind invitation, and tell you why, but I have just had a visit which prevented me from going out and now it is too late. Here is what prevents me from the genuine pleasure I would have had, tomorrow morning at 7 o’clock I have to be at the station in order to be at Thomery at 10 o’clock where I have a meeting with three people for some small affairs[.] if I had been able to put them off them in time, I would have done so with pleasure, but it was no longer possible and I am afraid I may not be back in time to be able to join your friends, in addition to which I will no doubt be tired. Believe me, dear Madame Herbelin that without that I would have been very happy to spend the evening with you.
I will ask you as a favour, or rather as a mark of friendship to allow me to reinvite myself for another time . . . in any case, the day after tomorrow, or sometime later I will call to thank you. . .”
Rosa Bonheur was one of the most esteemed women artists of the mid-nineteenth century, and her animal pictures proved hugely popular. Her talent, and the seriousness of her approach, led some to claim that she painted “like a man”, a tribute which is no doubt problematic for many of her twentieth century admirers, who view her as a feminist heroine.
Rosa Bonheur’s best-known painting, The Horse Fair, now in the Metropolitan Museum in New York, created a sensation when it was exhibited at the Salon in 1853. As a result, the jury decided that both Mlle. Bonheur and Mme. Herbelin, having obtained all the medals at the Salon, would have the distinction of having their work exhibited without requiring submission to the jury.
In 1860, Rosa Bonheur settled near the village of Thomery, where she built a large studio and was able to keep her many animals. Her popularity was such that Empress Eugenie twice visited her there. She lived there and in Nice with her partner Anna Klumpke, until her death.
The bottom half of the second leaf has been cut away, and the letter is slightly crumpled, but nevertheless in clear and legible condition.
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