Pick of the week
A curiosity among Soame Jenyns’s online Japanese works was a 6in-high late-18th-century Edo Period export medallion decorated in gold hiramaki-e on a black-lacquer ground with a bust portrait. It was of a stern-looking lady in a wimple, labelled ‘Mademoiselle Legras’, and on the back was the information that she was the founder and first superior of a charity serving the sick poor and that she died in Paris in 1660.
This was St Louise de Marillac, born in 1591, the illegitimate daughter of an aristocrat, who married Antoine Legras, secretary to Queen Marie de Medicis. Widowed, she became a companion of St Vincent de Paul, with whom, in 1633, she founded the Daughters of Charity. It has continued to perform good works around the world, although there is an historic-abuse enquiry at its Scottish orphanages.
Louise was canonised in 1934 and a wax effigy containing her bones can be seen in the chapel of the Daughters’ motherhouse in the rue du Bac, Paris. Jenyns’s Oriental relic sold for £1,375.