A Tuscan-born artist who worked in both Florence and France, Félicie de Fauveau was a sculptor, political activist, and defier of early 19th century social norms. Following financial ruin, the Fauveau family left Tuscany and returned to France where Félicie was to become a high society sculptor. Under the court of the Bourbon Monarchy and, specifically, the salon of the Duchesse de Berry, Félicie was able to thrive in creating work with a neo-Gothic/neo-Renaissance type of style that frequently utilized Catholic iconography. Félicie was a staunch supporter of the Bourbon Monarchy, and was arrested as part of a royalist insurrection led by de Berry. Upon being released from prison in 1832 she entered a voluntary exile in Florence, remaining there for the rest of her life and creating sculpture in the troubadour style.
Félicie de Fauveau caught my eye in a handy book I picked up just a week ago, Art by Women in Florence: A Guide through Five Hundred Years. I would definitely recommend reading this. Costing €15 and worth every penny, the book includes images and concise explanations of the significance of the work and background on the artist. It’s small enough to carry around in a medium/small purse and includes a fold-out map showing the locations and titles of twenty notable pieces. I’ll definitely be using it throughout my stay in Florence. If you’d like to take a look or order a copy online, check it out here. I’ve also seen copies in various bookstores around the city, Paperback Exchange seems likely to have them (They also carry Invisible Women, which I’ve been eager to take a look at. Apparently another AWA piece).
One of the book’s entries is found in Santa Croce, a late 13th century Franciscan basilica (In which I give weekly tours through Ars et Fides, stop by and maybe I’ll be there to give you a free tour!). Santa Croce is a gorgeously austere Gothic structure and the largest Franciscan basilica in the world. It became Florence’s primary burial church in the 14th and 15th centuries, going through a redesign in the 16th that included the addition of monuments and tombs all along the walls as well as an unfortunate whitewashing of the frescoes in the nave. One of the monuments in the upper loggia of the cloister is de Fauveau’s Burial Monument for Louise Favreau, created in 1854. The piece was commissioned by Louise Favreau’s parents and was originally located inside the basilica in the Medici Chapel before being moved to the church’s subterranean former oratory della Compagnia della Maddalena. Unfortunately, de Fauveau’s monument was badly damaged by the 1966 flood of the Arno, which left Santa Croce sitting under 22 feet of water, mud, and debris.
The piece was cleaned after the flood, and finally placed in the cloister’s upper loggia where it now remains (Directly to the right of the exit from the basilica to the cloister, before you go down the stairs). De Fauveau’s work accumulated grime and became discolored over the next four decades, and has now been fully cleaned and restored by AWA (The Advancing Women Artists Foundation). AWA is the organization which created and published Art by Women in Florence, and is an American non-for-profit aiming to identify and restore works by women artists in Florence’s museum storage.
And this is a piece of incredible timing (For me at least!). AWA in collaboration with The Florentine (Florence’s English publishing house) and the Opera di Santa Croce (As well as with the patronage of the Comune di Firenze and the Polo Museale Fiorentino) will be hosting a lecture series titled, Félicie de Fauveau: the workshop of a French woman artist in nineteenth-century Florence. The series is free to attend and features several art historians discussing the influences upon de Fauveau’s work. I believe the series in only in Italian (Unfortunately for me), but it should still prove to be an interesting crowd and a great opportunity to check out the restored artwork.
For information on the event (And to see/download the event poster) check out the Florentine’s website.
Félicie de Fauveau: the workshop of a French woman artist in nineteenth-century Florence
Thursday, April 4, 2013 – 3.30pm-5.30pm – Santa Maria del Carmine’s Sala della Colonna
Friday, April 5, 2013 – 3.30pm-5.30pm – Santa Croce’s Sala della Colonna