Easter Sunday, in Rome

March 31, 2013 at 1:31 pm (diaries, entertainment, europe, history, people, places, research, travel) (, , , , , , , )

Reminiscing in April 1824, Augusta Smith (the daughter) writes to her cousin Lady Elizabeth Compton. Augusta was in Rome last Easter and Lady Elizabeth is resident in Italy this spring.

“9 o’clock in the evening! St. Peters is resplendent with its magnificent illuminations. Innumerable crowds are thronging all around; the Ponte St. Angelo is one mass of heads and the Tiber a sheet of waving fire reflected from the brilliant explosions of light bursting every moment from the top of that venerable castle amidst wreaths of dark blue smoke. Last year we formed a part of the multitude…”

Ah, I know only too well Augusta’s nostalgia, and slight melancholia. I, too, have memories – too distant and therefore sometimes painful to reflect upon. Augusta’s trip was a year-long adventure from summer 1822 through summer 1823. The Smith family (Mamma and her older children) had stayed the winter in Rome. As Emma wrote Aunt before the group trooped farther south,

“you can hardly imagine my dear Aunty that we could be so near to Rome without visiting it, which Charles wishes, to the full as much as we do & Mamma for our sakes has kindly consented to so do, & in order to accomplish it we must spend the winter months there, now do not my dear Aunt fancy that we are determined gadabouts but think what an event in our lives it will be to visit Rome  I really think you would be almost tempted to go there…”

Great Aunt Susannah Smith’s Roman winter certainly points up the “wild” times that were enjoyed by the inhabitants and visitors. Is it like that today? (I still await my first journey into Italy.)

From young Augusta’s wistful memories, to Great Aunt Smith’s experience of Easter, 1827:

“we went to See the Pope give the benediction to his people from the Centre window of St Peters – it is an imposing ceremony – the military were all drawn up horse & foot – the bands playing – drums beating – but as soon as his Holiness appear{ed} an awful Silence prevailed -& continued while the benediction & prayers were read – the crowd were on their knees & their hats were off – the Evening turned out so wet – that the illumination of St Peters – and the fire works at St Angelo were put off”

Viva, la Roma!

And, “Happy Easter”.

st_ peters illumined by oil lamps

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Pictures worth a 1000 words

January 22, 2012 at 12:00 pm (british royalty, diaries, history, jane austen, news, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

This picture isn’t worth only the proverbial “thousand words,” it was also worth a £1000 to the lucky purchaser at a November 2011 Bonhams auction. The sitter: Mamma Smith’s aunt, Susannah Mackworth Smith (wife of Thomas Smith of Bersted Lodge, Bognor).

Emma’s diaries mention a near-yearly visit to Bersted; though very little is said about the Aunt and Uncle found there… AH, joys and frustrations of working with primary materials. You wish people would ‘spill their guts’; instead they tempt you with teasing clues.

You can see the entire Susannah Smith miniature at Bonhams‘ website. If you search for Mackworth Praed you will also find her twin sister (Arabella, Countess of Mayo; a lady attached to the household of Queen Adelaide); and two of their brothers.

Susannah has not been my only *find* recently. Gosh! so many families purging themselves of ancestral miniatures… Don’t know which is more depressing: people selling their ancestors or all those portraits of “A Lady” or “A Gentleman” who could be someone in the Smith & Gosling family and friend tree!

{Hell, there even could be some Austens out there… going through life as unnamed Ladies and Gents.}

Another family member “found” and not yet discussed, although I posted her portrait a short bit ago, is Frances Anne Seymour — who married Spencer Smith. I actually have a photograph of Frances, granted – as photography was a later medium, taken when she was in her late 50s. Still so much FUN to compare the two, young “Bride” Frances and older “Matriarch” Frances. She, too, sold through Bonhams (in 2008). Note that on the website her middle name is spelled Ann; oh, spelling differences just kills me! {And Paula Byrne thinks she has problems with Austin… Try Jelfe/Jelph; Dickins/Dickens; Du Val/Duval; Susan/Susannah/Susanna; and a whole host of others… Never mind, just trying to find people named SMITH!}

Frances and Spencer were the parents of the trio of girls whose miniatures sold at auction I discussed in December. They sold through Christie’s. Mike E., who photographed the album into which Frances and her three daughters were “pasted,” was surprised yet happy that the girls had sold as one lot. May they remain together!

Emma Rutherford‘s Facebook page offers some fascinating reading about the world of miniatures and silhouettes. Let’s face it, for most of my people — even those who lived into older age and photography — these are the types of images that (might) survive. Emma has a new article out in Homes & Antiques Magazine; I’ve unearthed an earlier conversation on miniatures from the same magazine. Her February 2012 article is on silhouettes. Not sure how easy it is to find the magazine in the US. You can read more about Emma Rutherford at her website. Emma kindly alerted Two Teens readers to an article on the Byrne Jane Austen portrait.

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