Saturday, April 26, 2008

Monseigneur en visite: A Visit from his Grace

Jehan Georges Vibert (1840-1902)
Monseigneur en visite
A Visit from his Grace

oil on canvas
22 1/2 x 29 1/4 in. (57.8 x 74.9 cm.)
Private collection

'My dear aunt: At last - yesterday I had his Grace (Monseigneur) around for my private five o'clock. What a triumph for me! No longer shall I be the little scatterbrain, the frivolous little girl the world likes to think I am, since I have been found fit to receive such an honorable person.

For as you know, here in the provinces such a visit carries so much more importance - so much more, that it was even discussed and approved on high beforehand. I tried to do myself justice, for the sake of my name and family and for you, my dear aunt, who have been my mentor [...] I do not dare say that I succeeded as you would have with your experience, but I think that this first impression was not bad at all.

Then I had the unheard of luck the have the comtesse de B, whom you know by name, drop in a third of the way into the visit who served as my foil, my moral foil of course [...] She would not stop gesticulating, getting up, changing places, offering tea, offering cakes.

One would have thought she was in her own home, you have my word of honour! And what chatter!

His Reverence speaking of his missions, and she would get out all her old schoolbooks on theology, history and geography. She's a true atlas, that lady, the only difference being that Atlas supported the world and that the world could not possibly support her [...]

And her ridiculous questions! Picture a lady asking a dignified clergyman if, during his moments of solitude, he ever missed having conversation!

She elicited this response which, naturally, she did not understand: 'Never, madam! And today I shall return to them with greater enthusiasm than ever!'

J. G. Vibert, La Comédie en peinture, London and New York, 1902, vol. II, pp. 38-9

Vibert's narrative for the work is as follows: