There are very few surviving images of Sophie Dawes. And these are mostly from the latter half of her life, after she became Baronne de Feuchères and when she was perhaps no longer quite the beauty that first attracted the attention of the Duc de Condé in Regency London. It is almost certain, however, that she would have commissioned one or two formal, full-scale portraits by well-known and accomplished artists. But these were possibly destroyed after her death.
This is a great shame. One longs for a portrait to be unearthed from the accomplished hand of someone of the stature of Franz Winterhalter, who painted many of her contemporaries. But, as the novel makes clear, Baronne de Feuchères left behind many enemies. Among these were people in positions of considerable power and influence.
Miniature painting of Sophie Dawes as a young woman by François Hüet Villiers, 1812 (Musée Condé).
The Hunt at the Ponds painting shows Sophie Dawes, as La Baronne de Feucheres, mounted sidesaddle.
Baronne de Feuchere detail from the Hunt at the Pond picture.
A small watercolour sketch clearly based on the Ponds painting.
Baronne de Feucheres, Sophia Dawes, in riding habit - by Alexis Leon Louis Valbrun.
Sophia, Baronne de Feuchères in later life, by Emile Doumet.
Click on any of the thumbnail images above for a larger version.
The miniature of Sophie as a young woman by Haet-Villiers, 1812, housed in the Musée Condé, is a charming piece and a rare surviver. The landscape, entitled ‘The Hunt at the Ponds’ by Adolphe Ladurner, on the other hand, shows Sophie Dawes, Baronne de Feuchères in her prime. She is seen only from a distance, mounted sidesaddle at the conclusion of a stag hunt. (The unfortunate creature being pursued can be seen in the pond to the right). This was painted in 1829, just one year before the Prince de Conde’s death.
The portrait of Sophie by Alexis Leon Louis Valbrun in her riding habit with leg-o'-mutton sleeves is also from a period when Sophie was at the height of her powers. Even if it does verge a little on caricature, it is clearly a very deliberate study in self-confidence and prestige.
And finally, produced in 1830 shortly after the demise of the Prince de Conde, the painting by Aimée Brune-Pagès, shows Sophie clothed in mourning black with elaborate gold chain as sole adornment. A 'widow' of a kind, she appears in sorrowful and reflective mood. A little remorseful, too.