The Artist’s Wife

Philip Jean, 1781


This important and well-documented miniature by Philip Jean is an exquisite and tenderly rendered portrait of his new wife, Anne Madeleine. Perfectly poised in front of the curved harbour wall at St. Helier, she is elegantly attired in a lace-trimmed cornflower blue gown, her coiffured brown hair dressed with a ribbon and falling over her shoulder; in her left hand she symbolically holds a miniature portrait of her husband. The portrait was a celebration not just of the couple’s marriage but also of Jean’s new career as an portrait artist.

Born in St Helier in 1758, Anne Madeleine was the third child (and only daughter) of Jean Noël and his wife, Elizabeth Tanqueray. She was christened Anne Madeleine after one of her mother’s sisters who became her godmother. In March 1781 aged 22, Anne married Philippe Jean of neighbouring St Ouën. The couple settled locally and had two children: Roger born in October 1783 and Anne Marthe born in June 1787. Anne sadly died within a month of her daughter’s birth; her little daughter died the following year.

The portrait is signed and dated lower left ‘P. Jean / pinx / 1781’ and indistinctly inscribed lower right Æ / ?. It is set in a silver-gilt frame that is glazed on the reverse to show a further indistinct pencil inscription on the backing paper – ‘Aged 23 / P Jean pinxit / 1781’.

Philip (Philippe) Jean was born in 1755 and so was just 26 years old when he painted this accomplished portrait of his bride. He was to paint Anne again the following year (see Foskett, Miniatures, p.309). Jean took up painting following a brief career as a seaman. He first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1787. Following the untimely death of Anne, Jean re-married and went on to father four more children.

Item Ref. 6921

Size: 80 x 65mm + frame

Provenance: The Gordon Collection, Christie's 2007

Literature: Foskett, A Dictionary of British Miniature Painters, 1972 Vol.I, p.72; Vol.II, plate 186