Sunday, June 03, 2012

A Mystery

Where has that week gone?? I have become besotted by a mystery in the Geelong Gallery. Last Monday I attended a meeting for guides and one of the guides gave a small lecture about a marble statue entitled I am Alone attributed to Hortense Heuze Hazard 1871. The sculpture is rather lovely and the marble has a silvery sheen to it, and the work seems to be in the style of Canova, which was popular in the latter half of the nineteenth century.The inscription on the statue in Italian says:
Piancete al cante mio
voi che intendete amore
piancete al mio dolore
che sola aime son io.

However I can find little information on Hortense Heuze Hazard . And the historian in me loves nothing so much as a little mystery. The following is from a West Australian gossip columnist on 20 October 1887:

I hear on good authority that Madame Hortense Hazard, the American sculptress,painter and linguist, who lived in East Mel-bourne quite alone, and left her collection ofcuriosities to James Snare, a grocers assist-ant, was a French Countess in her own right.She married an American millionaire, andtook to champagne. They were divorced,and Madame Hazard came to Australia andlived on £500 a year sent her by her hus-band. Here is a case for the Temperancesocieties. Female drunkards are seldom in-teresting. I never met one who at all re-  sembled the delightful "Janet" of GeorgeEliot.  

Don't you love that- "took to champagne"- my kind of woman!

Next is an auction notice as follows:

Of the
Wonderful Collection
Which Critiques from the Roman, French, English,
and American Papers will be Published.
Relics from Memphis, Herculaneum, Pompeii, and
Catacombs at Rome.
By the
Old Masters.
GRAND OLD LINE ENGRAVINGS (Very Rare) An invaluable Lot of
Collection of Years.
Formerly Belonging to NAPOLEON.
Exquisite Venetian Mirrors.
SPLENDID DIAMONDS, Roman Pearls, &c.
GEMMELL, TUCKETT, and Co have received in-  
structions from Mr Snare, the executor of the  late Madame Hortense Hazard to DISPOSE of byAUCTION, on Tuesday and Wednesday, 25th and26th October, at 11 o'clock each day, at the
ATHENAEUM, COLLINS-STREET EAST,The whole of her splendid
As above  
Catalogues at rooms», price one shilling.
Some of the extracts from the Roman, French, andother papers will be given with the catalogue, andthe remainder, which are too voluminous to publish,
can be seen at the auctioneers' rooms.
The collection will be on view on and after Monday,    17th inst, at Madame H's late residence, 25 Hotham  street, East Melbourne, from 10 till 4. _

Notice what is in her collection of collectibles; Suites of china glass and china belonging to Napoleon, paintings by grand old masters, bed furniture belonging to Marie Antointette. How does a divorced Amercan sculptress get such belongings and then bring them to Australia in the 1880's??

Another mention appears in Around the World by Lydia Leavitt:
I have mentioned the aristocracy of birth, and will now mention the aristocracy
of brains. Charles Dickens has two sons residing in Melbourne. Ellen Terry
has a brother in Sydney. Miss Braddon's brother resides in Launceston. Last
night's Herald records the death of a remarkable woman, who had lived in
Melbourne about five years. A sketch of her life is worth recording, for is it not
true that the aristocracy of brains is much rarer than that of birth? In 1882
there arrived in Melbourne a most remarkable woman, who, though a celebrity in
Europe and America, lived quietly in Melbourne without attracting the smallest
public attention. Her name was Hortense Heuze Hazard, and it is safe to say
that a more brilliantly accomplished woman never visited the colonies. A
sculptress, held by many European authorities, when in Rome, to be the greatest
living ; an authoress, having written much, both in prose and verse; and a linguist
whose knowledge of languages extended to French, German, Italian, English and
Russian, all of which she spoke fluently, and with the literature of which she had
an intimate acquaintance. The lady left, among other works from her own chisel,
three beautiful pieces of statuary, which have been exhibited in Rome, England
and America, and pronounced by the critics to be beyond all praise. One of them
is emblematical of " Peace." Another work, which has been pronounced one of
the finest pieces of modern sculpture, is " I am Left Alone." A bereaved mother
is depicted with her two little children ; the elder is gazing up at her grief-stricken
countenance, as if to ask the cause of her woe, while the little brother, too young
to be anything but selfish, is regardless of his mother's emotion, playing with a
bird he has caught. The posturing of the figures is almost life-like. The marble
from which this was wrought was obtained from a quarry which has been
exhausted, and has the peculiarity of giving a silvery, metallic ring. Among her
rare and valuable possessions were some magnificent paintings, some veritable

I can find nothing further in Australian Archives nor indeed the Herald archives and it does not appear that the catalogue prepared by Gemmett ,Tuckett and Co auction house has survived in any way. I could not access the website of the Victorian Records Office to see who had arrived  by shipping in 1882.

So she is supposed to be an American Sculptress, writer and linguist- and it does appear she is mentioned in Pater Hastings Falks 1999 three volume Who Was Who in American Art- but I can find nothing on-line. Does anyone have access to this book?

I can find no further reference to Hortense Hazard except in a brief note in the holdings of the Rhode Island Historical Society to say that a Hortense de Huys  ( names are often spelled in different ways and I am making the presumption that the  Heuze in the inscription at the Geelong Gallery is probably the same as de Huys)was the first wife of one John N Hazard a member of a prominent New England family and that they had two children- but not the names of the children.

I can find no provenance for the statue and most of my google searches bring me back to Hortense  Beauharnais - the daughter of Empress Josphine or her cousin Emilie Beauharnais.

I can also find no information on James Snare and how he came to inherit Madame Hortense Hazard's collection ( and she is noted to be Madame suggesting she is french). I have been searching for 2 days and am thoroughly intrigued. Why did she divorce Hazard- or why did he divorce her, which is more likely as the children appear to have stayed in the United States? Did she use a nom-de-plume for her writing? How did she  have  items belonging to Marie Antoinette and Bonaparte in her collection? It is known that Canova was commissioned by Josephine to make statutory for her. And why come to Australia? If there was a Beauharnais connection it could have been Josephines's  commission of a book of her Australian plants in her garden at Malmaison executed by Redoute that aroused that interest.

Anyway it is like a good mystery novel but I really would like to find some answers!It has taken two days to find out this little  and  I am too intrigued to let it go!


niddetissus said...

Fascinating! I can't wait to read what you dig up! :)

quilter501 said...

what a fun novel you could write coming up with your own answers and who-done-it...

Hot Fudge said...

I can't tell you how much I enjoyed reading your compelling post. How frustrating - let's hope you have an Agatha Christie ending when you gather us all into the sitting room to reveal the answer to this puzzling story.

Linda said...

She loved champagne but left behind some awesome art. Great story! Wonder why she wanted to live in anonimity.

california payday loans said...

Im interested on how would it cost if ever appraised.

Anonymous said...

Apparently she lived in a state of perpetual drunkenness and changed her will in favour of much younger men.

A Bonaparte connection seems unlikely - Empress Josephine's daughter Hortense had a very well documented life and was Queen of the Netherlands some 75 years before Hortense Hazard's death.

Peter said...

Here is a more detailed article about her life in Melbourne:

There must be some of her statuary still extant around Melbourne, scattered after the sell-off of her estate. She did leave a couple of etchings (artists unknown) to Trinity College, Melbourne, in 1887, but the have yet to be identified.